Recruiting Passive Job Seekers

With Ted Benson, Corralling Chaos LLC, and Donald Alexander, Gene Coda. Listen to the two-part series here.

One critical aspect of running a company is understanding how to improve its recruiting. A topic that has received much attention in recruiting is the process of finding and recruiting passive job seekers. Most recruiters find that challenging, particularly with talent in technical specialty areas, so today, we’re examining this in an attempt to demystify the process.

Who Is A Passive Job Seeker?

A passive job seeker is typically defined as someone who is employed, but who would consider superior or differentiated alternative job opportunities. This definition could also include those who are unemployed but selectively seeking new opportunities. In this second case, the implication is that the individual doesn’t need to work (is financially stable) but wants to work if a suitable opportunity emerges. In all cases, the individuals should be at least open to considering employment or changing employment and have marketable skill sets, which means that someone who is retired would not be described as a passive job seeker.

Why Are Employers Interested in Hiring Passive Job Seekers?

Employers seek out passive job seekers for several reasons. Firstly, they represent about 70% of the global workforce, so they make up the lion’s share of all workers. Also, since passive candidates are gainfully employed, they often have the specific skill sets that employers are seeking. Typically, passive candidates are exceptionally capable individuals and because of this are highly desirable as recruits.

Why Are Passive Candidates Hard to Attract?

Finding (and attracting) these candidates often poses an issue to recruiters. One way to think about the reason for this is to consider a gold mining operation. The gold isn’t just lying around on a trail. The miner has to find it first and even after doing so, they can’t just pick it up and head back home. To find these candidates, recruiters use the tools and knowledge at their disposal. Then, we have to use heavy machinery (or our resources) to ‘mine’ the talent.

When thinking about passive job seekers one must also consider the overall labor market. If several good areas have already been tapped for gold or have high levels of competition for quality talent, it would make it that much more difficult to find expert talent.

So why are passive job seekers so hard to find?

From a research point of view, the finding part is typically done using two basic methods, we’ll call them top-down and bottom-up research.

An example of bottom-up research would be to query a database for skill sets and backgrounds using keywords and to generate a list of prospective candidates from your results. On the other hand, an example of top-down research would be to gather a list of competitor companies and then query that list against the desired skill sets and background, generating a list of candidates from those results.

Both types of research are important to finding expert talent. For instance, when a recruiter makes a search query on LinkedIn, some experts may not have elaborated on their skills in their profile so a standard keyword search might miss that individual, as a possibility. On top of that, not all experts have LinkedIn profiles, and many profiles are outdated, so recruiters have to use top-down research to explore other avenues, such as trade associations.

In addition to core research, an existing network can be extremely useful in finding the right candidates. Internally, a company can use employee referral incentives to expand its network. Externally, executive search firms maintain large networks of existing contacts in the markets that we serve, many of which will help us with additional contacts and referrals.

“Experienced, successful people are busy and have little time to read ‘Help Wanted’ ads.” – GeneCoda®.

Although job board ads account for an increasing number of actual hires, the reality is that the ad has to get read, noticed, and acted upon, and most passive job seekers don’t review ads as frequently as those involved in an active search.

Most often, passive job seekers are hard to attract because they’re already in a role and presumably, comfortable with their work and focused on current tasks. There’s little motivation for them to actively seek out new opportunities, especially if they are comfortable with their current pay and pleased with their employers.

How Do I Attract Passive Job Seekers?

Now that we’ve detailed the reasons it’s often difficult to find and hire these candidates, you might be wondering how you can attract them. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) notes that HR professionals should;

    • Identify and strengthen the organization’s employment brand.
    • Assess current and projected staffing needs.
    • Source and engage passive job seekers.
    • Make their application processes easy and tailored to passive job seekers.
Here’s some more useful advice from GeneCoda® experts:

Use Different Communication Channels

One aspect of recruiting passive candidates is to use different communication channels more than once. Emails, LinkedIn, or other social media attempts, as well as calls, texts, or other methods, should be deployed as differentiated recruiting channels. It’s not unheard of for companies to drive mobile billboards into a competitor’s parking lot to advertise that they’re hiring.

Make Sure You’re Saying the Right Things – And Listening

In terms of overall outreach, what one should consider is if they got a great message across, in the right way, to the right people. It’s also imperative to ensure that you give them the chance to say, ‘Yes I’m interested in a discussion.’

Learn from Rejections

When a candidate rejects an offer, we try to understand why so we can see if there are common threads that might suggest course correction. Examples of reasons for rejection can include when a candidate considers the position a lateral move. They consider the compensation itself, and how it compares to any necessary changes in geography and travel, as well as a host of other factors.

Examine Your Offer

Executive search is both a science and an art. Part of the art involves the relocation of gainfully employed people to their competitors. To lure professionals from the competition a company needs a good image and a good brand. They also have to offer the prospective employees something that they are not getting today but which is important to them.

If the candidate has all of the skills or background required and has already done the exact type of work required, the candidate may not be getting anything better out of the new deal. In this case, employers must be prepared to pay top dollar, especially if the candidate’s skill set is uncommon.

Lou Adler, author of ‘Hire With Your Head’ is a seasoned recruiter and best-selling author. Lou feels that top passive candidates need about a 30% improvement to move from their current position to a new job. However, this improvement can come from different areas, such as an increase in compensation, an increase in job stretch, and an increase in long-term growth. For example, a salary increase of 5-10% may be acceptable if it can be shown that the job offers a 10-15% stretch coupled with 5-10% company or career growth. Therefore, it’s often best to look for stretch candidates or those that have the core competencies that you need but would benefit from the ability to stretch their skill set by accepting your job.

Hire an Expert

What a candidate doesn’t have today is not always evident to him or her, and it’s precisely why you need experienced search professionals making the pitch if you want to attract the largest possible pool of exceptional candidates and raise the bar on hiring for important positions.

As an example, I worked with a client in the field of regenerative medicine who has a great brand story. Still, recruiting people into a relatively immature industry has its particular challenges as candidates have to be more comfortable with risk. I needed to find a way to minimize the risk.

I did this by pointing out that the field of regenerative medicine’s expected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is around 20% annually for the next 5 years while the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry’s overall is in the single digits. Even if our client failed in clinical trials and goes out of business in the next two or three years, will the candidate be better off in terms of future job prospects?

Don’t we want to skate to where the puck is going to be rather than where it is today?

It’s important to incorporate overall knowledge of the market and integrate this knowledge to lure candidates from your competition. If you do this, you’ll likely find yourself interviewing a large number of outstanding candidates who can bring exceptional value to your company.

Final Tips for Recruiters

Here are two imperative tips for recruiters from our best experts on finding and attracting passive job seekers.

Make A Strategy

You should always make a search strategy before you begin the search. This should include brainstorming about where potential recruits would most likely be located, alternative search strings one might use, what conferences trade associations, or other groups that this person might be a part of, and then asking what publications or perhaps content they might read.

Be Clear on Benefits

Envision the ‘What’s in it for me?’ (WIIFM) aspects of the opportunity by putting yourself in the candidate’s shoes and asking why they would potentially make the move to your company. By improving your awareness of your offer and your target candidate’s wants, you’ll be sure to improve your success rate when recruiting passive candidates.

Understanding how to improve your recruiting is imperative to company growth, and we hope you’ve found this article useful. If you’re a life science employer interested in improving or widening your current pool of job candidates or are interested in hiring talent with specialty skills, feel free to contact us to see if we can help here.