The Importance of Pace When Recruiting Passive Candidates

Applicant control is one of the key competencies required for recruiting passive candidates. At a basic level this means the need to ensure your candidate understands the career merits of the position before opting out. Unfortunately, most passive candidates make superficial decisions about a potential career move when first contacted by a recruiter, using compensation, the company, job title, and location to determine initial interest. Recruiters are usually at fault here, creating the trap by positioning the job as a lateral transfer, rushing the process, and selling the job.

Applicant control is a series of techniques designed to ensure the candidate views your spot as a career move. Recruiters do this by asking the right questions at the right time, not taking “No” for an answer, and persisting until the prospect has the correct information to decide if the opportunity should be considered. A key aspect of this is recognizing that the pace of the discussion with a passive candidate is much slower than when dealing with active candidates.

Here are some key points to consider when making the shift to recruit passive candidates:

1. Switching jobs for a top-notch, fully-employed person is a long-term strategic career decision. This means they’ll go slower, require more information, and can’t be pushed too fast.

2. The decision to accept an offer will only be made if the new position offers more significant long-term upside in combination with short-term job stretch plus a reasonable compensation bump. Most company processes are designed to fill seats, offer lateral transfers, minimize comp, and hire people quickly. This won’t work for passive candidates.

3. It’s unlikely that your current opening will represent a perfect fit when contacting a passive candidate the first time. Therefore, calling and presenting your current opening is not how passive prospects should be approached. Instead you’ll need to engage in an exploratory discussion, find out the candidate’s current job situation, and then craft a job that represents a career opportunity. It’s hard to do this with traditional requisition-based recruiting, but going slow helps you figure out if what you have is even close. After meeting a top-notch person, companies are often more willing to modify their original requirements.

4. The hiring manager is critical to pacing. It takes a series of discussions with the recruiter and hiring manager to convert a prospect into a candidate, even without modifying the position. If hiring managers are unwilling to do this, or are unwilling to flex the requirements, you won’t be able to hire very many passive candidates.

5. Recruiters must implement a multi-step game plan that ensures that the person gets the needed information to move from casual interest to serious consideration.

Here’s a checklist you can use to begin implementing this type of pacing program:

  • Offer to engage into an exploratory career discussion.
  • Get the prospect to describe his/her background, providing only a vague description of the possible opportunity. It is important to be vague since the recruiter will need to reposition the job on the fly in order to ensure it represents a potential career opportunity.
  • During the first call, be in a position to instantly create a job that represents a career opportunity for the person. From this, obtain some level of candidate interest. You can do this by expanding or contracting the actual job, have multiple jobs in mind when contacting the person, and/or look for voids in the person’s background your job fills in.
  • Once the candidate expresses some level of interest, set up a time to have a more detailed discussion. Conduct the phone screen and use the push-and-pull to reinforce the career opportunity. A key step here is to get to the person to begin trying to convince you why he/she is qualified to continue the evaluation process.
  • Introduce the idea of a formal decision-making process covering all short and long-term career issues including growth, stretch, team, manager, culture, total rewards, family, etc.
  • Get the prospect to agree to an exploratory conversation with the hiring manager. If the prospect accepts, you’re half-way there in the conversion process.
  • Coach the hiring manager into shifting the conversation from an exploratory discussion into something worthy of serious consideration. Then, if the prospect is interested and qualified, the hiring manager needs to invite the prospect to an onsite meeting. This is a critical step, and if agreed-upon represents about 70-80% of the required shift from prospect to-candidate conversation.
  • The objective of the onsite interview is to assess the person, and complete the conversion to a serious finalist.
  • At the end of the onsite, use a formal process to assess interest covering all decision-making parameters. If the person agrees to come back and become a finalist in the process, you’ve successfully converted the person into a full-fledged and serious candidate. Collectively, this is what pacing and applicant control is all about. It’s known as the Performance-based Hiring certification process.
  • You’ll need to go slower with the sole purpose of increasing the number of great passive candidates you get into your recruiting funnel. This is a far different process than finding and hiring active candidates, and it takes more skill, effort, and resources. But it’s worth it if done right. Since passive candidates represent 82% of the market, it’s not only worth it, it’s essential.

 The Key Tipping Points for Recruiting Passive Candidates – aka “The 6Cs”

1. Compelling: You must be able to capture the candidate’s intrinsic motivator in your voicemail or email. If you don’t know this, don’t bother making the call.

2. Control: Make sure your opening questions require the prospect to tell you about him or herself before you tell the person about the job. This is the essence of applicant control, and if you drop the ball here, you’ll need to make 5-10X as many calls to get one sendout.

3. Career: During your first call you must be able to convert your open position into a career opportunity on the fly. That’s why it’s critical that the candidate tells you about himself before you tell him about your opening.

4. Connect: The best passive candidates are typically only one degree of separation from your current prospect. Tapping into these candidates’ connections is the best way to get high-quality referrals. Even better, they’ll call you back!

5. Conviction: Persistence is key. You must understand your job opening, why it offers a career opportunity, and you must not take “No” for an answer. If you’re not convinced that what you have to offer is great, neither will your candidate.

6. Close: You’ll never have enough money in the budget to pay the best prospects what they want. You can minimize the blow here by selling and closing on the career opportunity your position offers, not the compensation it pays. If you miss this critical “C” the others won’t matter.

The article has been prepared by Lou AdlerThe Adler Group Team