12 High Touch Ways to Win Over Passive Candidates

November 15, 2017

No one disputes the idea that if you want to raise quality of hire, you need to hire more passive candidates. But hiring more passive candidates involves an entirely different process than hiring active candidates.

The most important step is having a job that represents a true career move. The second most important step is ensuring the prospect doesn’t opt out of the conversation too soon before learning if the job is a true career move. If you want to hire more passive candidates you need to master both of these concepts. Here’s how to get started.

How to succesfully recruit passive candidates

1. Instantly shift to a career-based discussion

Would you be open to explore a situation if it put you on a better long-term career trajectory?” is a much better question to ask than asking if the person is interested in considering your ill-defined, awesome job. Most passive candidates are willing to casually discuss potential career moves but few are willing to consider some short-term job change. 

2. Use permission marketing

 Don’t start pitching your job when the prospect agrees to a career discussion. A yes to the “open to explore” question means you have about 5-10 minutes to make your case that your job is worth another discussion. This is a permission marketing technique that’s essential for successfully recruiting passive candidates.

3. Go much slower

While many passive candidates are open to discussing better opportunities, it takes more time for them to fully appreciate the career potential of making the move. Unfortunately, too many recruiters try to push the process at a pace much faster than the prospect is willing to accept. As a result, the person opts out without fully appreciating the true career opportunity.  

4. Sell the next step, not the job

One way to slow down the process is to consider the first few calls as exploratory conversations used to share information. The first call is to get agreement from the prospect to be open to consider a career opportunity.

5. Define a career opportunity as a 30% non-monetary increase

Tell the person you define a career opportunity as a minimum 30% non-monetary increase consisting of job stretch, more satisfying work, more impact and a higher rate of growth. Tell the person you want to use the first few calls to figure this out.

6. Present a one-minute elevator pitch

Once the prospect agrees to a short exploratory chat say, “Great! Let me first give you a one-minute overview of the position and then I’d like to quickly review your LinkedIn profile to see if we can find the components of a 30% career move. If so, and if you’re interested, we can schedule another call when it’s more convenient. Worst case we can network for future opportunities.” Establishing this ground rule upfront sets the tone for the subsequent recruiting conversation.   

7. Put money in the parking lot

Don’t answer the, “What’s the compensation?” question. Instead, if the candidate wants to know the range say, “It doesn’t matter what the pay is if the job doesn’t represent a career move. Let’s first see if it’s a career move and then we’ll see if the pay fits.” If the job is a career move, the pay will be negotiable. It’s okay for the recruiter to ask about the person’s compensation after the LinkedIn profile review but not before.

8. You must know the job to find the 30%

If the recruiter doesn’t know the job as a series of performance objectives and upside potential it’s not possible to determine if the 30% non-monetary increase is even possible. Knowing the job is the tipping point in the entire passive candidate recruiting process.

9. Conduct the quick LinkedIn profile review

It takes about 10 minutes to determine if your job offers a potential career move. If it does, describe the components of the 30% non-monetary increase and arrange another call to validate it. In fact, try to find another 10% increase. You’ll use this to recruit the candidate.

10. Use the “Push Away” to get the prospect to sell you

As you conduct your profile review, look for gaps in the person’s background that could offer significant job stretch. Mention these gaps as concerns you have as a recruiter in moving the process forward. If the person finds the job compelling, he/she will try to convince you of his/her quality for the role. This is how you get a formerly passive candidate excited about your open opportunity. 

11. Get the hiring manager engaged early

As part of the early recruiting process it’s important to have the hiring manager talk with the prospect on an exploratory basis. If the call goes well have the hiring manager invite the person onsite. This ensures you’re on the right track and, as important, it forces the hiring manager to understand the important role he/she plays in recruiting top tier passive talent.

12. Connect and network

If the person is not a perfect fit, connect on LinkedIn and proactively network with the person. Start by asking who they’d recommend for the role and then search on their LinkedIn connections to find some ideal candidates to get referrals.

Using a high-touch process like the one described is essential for recruiting and hiring more passive candidates. The importance of this cannot be understated. It’s how you raise quality of hire that’s why you need to track your passive candidate conversion rates at every step in the funnel. 

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