HR Insights

Business strategies are only successful if people can effectively execute them. The same discipline that is applied to business processes needs to be applied to how companies manage their people. HR Remedy takes a pragmatic and practical approach to helping companies manage their human capital. Our goal is to drive business results and create value through an organization's employees.

The Key to Passive Recruiting: Finding Stars In a Large Talent Pool

January 7th, 2010

Author: Jessica Nelson, Managing Partner, HR Remedy, LLC

With more jobs available than top performers to fill them, companies are using a wide range of recruiting strategies to lure candidates. A recent survey conducted on behalf of revealed that 78 percent of responding employers were willing to recruit workers without experience in their particular field and provide the training needed to successfully perform in their jobs. In this scenario, finding the candidate that possesses the ability to learn and fit within your culture is key to your organizations success.

Passive recruiting isn’t new – most companies have used it to find executives by engaging third party contingent or retained search vendors to identify and qualify passive talent in key competitors. Today, particular consultative recruiting companies and some HR departments are now using this approach for lower level exempt and individual contributor positions, particularly ones where there may be a shortage of skilled talent.

In many industries, the current workforce is increasing in age. For example, the energy industry has a median age of 49 years old. How a company identifies and acquires the talent to replace the knowledge gap that is left behind when individuals retire or move on, is critical to move the organization forward.

As companies strive to bring new talent into an organization, both young and old, new methods of recruiting are making their way into many industries. Many of these new methods focus on creating an image on social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and networking sites (LinkedIn, Plaxo). Typically, they will discuss community activities, upcoming events and recent news. Some large organizations have even taken the step of redesigning the “careers” section of their website to show a potential employee what a day is like within their organization. One state website in particular, accomplished metrics in the first three months following its launch. The web site received over 47,000 visits.

A multi-faceted approach to recruiting that utilizes various methods of contact is certainly more effective than relying on traditional hiring practices that primarily target people actively looking for a new job. Limiting your talent pool to active candidates can actually increase your overall recruitment costs and put you far behind your competition in hiring top performers, especially if you are replacing a key executive or an open position that requires a unique skill set. As a result, an increasing number of companies are making passive recruiting an integral part of their recruiting strategy in hopes they will become active candidates able to fill future open positions.

Tips for hiring your next star performer

While not every organization has the resources to develop and successfully execute a social media strategy or redesign one section of their website, you can attract top talent in today’s extraordinarily competitive employment market. Below are some best practices to keep in mind to successfully recruit and hire both active and passive candidates:

  • Know the job specifics well and be able to state why an opportunity is unique. Well developed and accurate job descriptions are important to help communicate your specific needs. Opportunities must offer instant credibility for both the active and passive candidate and offer significant benefits with upside potential. Recruiters who know the integral details of a job can use this information to better sell a candidate on engaging in a discussion. The recruiter can then use the screening process to create an opportunity gap between a candidate’s current position and the new job.
  • Know how to sell the company’s value proposition. Recruiters and Hiring Managers must make a compelling first impression that persuades an outstanding candidate to consider your opportunity. This is especially true for companies that are often plagued by bad press and an unflattering public perception.
  • Keep the process flexible and fast. Hiring managers who are available to speak to or meet with a candidate, when he or she is most available, will demonstrate the company’s sincere interest in the person through their actions. Managers must also be timely (i.e., no longer than 48 hours) in their post interview feedback and hiring decisions or they could risk losing the candidate’s interest in the opportunity. Also, employers who ask people to jump through too many hoops during the interview process will likely find their much desired job candidates removing themselves from consideration in high numbers.
  • Prepare a very competitive offer. A good rule of thumb is that most content candidates will not consider a job change unless the compensation differential is at least 15 – 20 percent higher than their current compensation. When an organization tries to get a candidate for the lowest salary possible, it may offend the passive candidate and potentially damage your employment brand among the candidate’s peer network.
  • Develop a high touch hiring process. Frequent communication throughout the hiring process is key to keeping an outstanding candidate excited about an opportunity. Gaps in time that elapse between next steps can significantly increase the chance of a candidate withdrawing from the process or declining your offer. A bad hiring experience can result in significant damage to your employment brand in that candidate’s sphere of influence.
  • Make referrals a part of your culture – starting with your on-boarding process. Referral bonus incentives promoted to enthusiastic new employees, as well as your seasoned employees, can supercharge your talent pool on an ongoing basis. Hiring managers may worry that candidates who are actively looking for new positions may not be successful or stable in their careers and therefore are not suitable for critical positions. In actuality, many high caliber candidates who are happy in their current jobs periodically post their resumes confidentially to job board resume databases or directly apply to open positions posted on a desired employer’s website; therefore, companies need to take a multi-source approach to identifying a particular pool of talent. If not, they may miss out on the one person who yesterday was not looking but today is open to a new opportunity.
  • Consider passive recruiting to be a long-term investment strategy. Passive talent takes 3-5 times longer to develop into qualified candidates than active candidates who directly inquire about open positions. As such, companies should use this strategy to attract high quality future hires, not only to fill immediate needs. Having a dedicated resource or team to develop relationships with passive candidates in advance of an actual need can have a snowball effect on significantly reducing future hiring cycle time. This also reduces overall recruitment costs as your recruiter(s) and company become well networked among your targeted talent pool.

There are many ways to achieve these results. Some organizations will perform this type of recruiting with in-house resources and many organizations will hire an external firm to partner on certain roles and or disciplines. These firms often have a team of resources that work to fill roles rather than your typical contingent search firms. These resources would include functions such as researchers, recruiters and project managers. Utilizing researchers is a key aspect to finding passive candidates. This will allow the recruiting team to understand where the talent exists and will provide the ability to target and call into that particular passive candidates. Many of these organizations offer cost effective solutions to your recruiting needs.