8 Do’s and Don’ts for Your First Conversation With a Passive Candidate

June 22, 2016

In a recent post, I offered 10 ideas on how to improve top of the funnel response rates. If you’ve tried these tips, you’ll discover better people are already applying to your jobs, responding to your emails and returning your calls.

Now, the challenge becomes using that intial conversation to turn those prospects into candidates. To do this, you only have 5-10 minutes to grab their attention during your call or meeting and convince them that you can offer a meaningful career opportunity. Here are some do’s and don't for making those 10 minutes count:

1. Don’t box check

Forget the skills and experiences. You’ve gotten the person to talk to you about a career opportunity, not a lateral transfer. To set the stage for this, give a short 30-second overview of your job, the challenges involved and impact on the company, customer or some important project.

2. Don’t negotiate nothing

Don’t ask about salary. And if the person asks, say if the job doesn’t offer a career move the pay won’t matter. Too many recruiters and candidates negotiate the pay, the location and the title before either party knows what the job is or if the person is any good.

3. Sell the discussion, not the job

Be clear from the beginning that the purpose of your call is to explore the possibility that your opening represents a true career move for the candidate. If it does, another discussion can be arranged to get into the specifics of the job and the candidate’s background.

4. Offer a 30% increase

To increase their interest, I often tell prospects that the definition of a career move is a minimum 30% non-monetary increase (see graphic). This consists of some combination of a bigger job, a job with more impact and visibility, a job doing more satisfying work and one that’s growing faster in terms of more upside potential.

5. Review the candidate’s profile before describing the job

Since you don’t know what the candidate would consider a career move, it’s better to first review the person’s LinkedIn profile without describing the job in other than broad outlines. This is called the discovery process. During your review look for areas of growth that your opening provides and suggest another call to get into more details.

6. Offer a chance to talk with the hiring manager

After my second more detailed conversation with a candidate, I often suggest an exploratory phone call with the hiring manager as the next step. Candidates appreciate this go-slower and learn-more process before becoming a serious candidate. The purpose of the call with the hiring manager is to share information and for the hiring manager to invite the person onsite for a formal interview if appropriate.

7. Don’t make strategic decisions using tactical information

Don’t rush the process. It takes hours spread over weeks for a passive candidate to fully appreciate the career merits of a new opportunity. Too often candidates, recruiters and hiring managers use short-term information to make long-term decisions short circuiting the entire information gathering process.  

8. Recruiting is not you selling the candidate, it’s getting the candidate to sell you

It’s easy to get an active candidate interested in your opening. Getting a top-performing passive candidate equally as excited is called recruiting. It starts with a go-slow process looking for a 30% non-monetary increase. Sometimes you can’t find it and sometimes you need to suggest a bigger job. However, if you do find it, you’ll quickly notice how interested the formerly passive candidate has just become.

It’s certainly appropriate for a passive candidate to opt-out of the recruiting process if the job does not offer a true career move. Unfortunately too many opt-out making short-term or superficial decisions with inadequate facts. Great recruiters know how to prevent this from happening. A good rule of thumb is to persist until both you and the person being recruited have all of the facts. The person ultimately hired will thank you for your tenacity. So will the hiring manager. 

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