Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

10 Tips For Successfully Recruiting Passive Candidates

By Mark Wilkinson | Jan 11, 2016 | Attracting Staff

woman looking out of the window sadly - into the rainAs we mentioned in a previous blog – January is one of the best times of the year to recruit.

The post-Christmas blues hit people hard and the ‘new year, new me’ attitude transfers to all areas of life, including the search for a great career.

There will be an huge rise in the number of active job seekers who’ve realised they’re not happy at work and that they want to start afresh.

It’s also a great time of year to recruit because ‘passive’ candidates (those who aren’t actively looking for a job) can be more easily persuaded to consider moving (they too, will be feeling the January blues).

Why approach “passive candidates?”

A passive candidate is someone who is not actively seeking employment – 75% of the population fall into this category (according to a 2015 LinkedIn study).

Now, you might wonder why on earth you’d want to approach people who don’t actually want a new job – surely, it’s a complete waste of time?

Not necessarily. There are numerous benefits to hiring passive candidates, including…

  • They are more exclusive. By definition, they won’t be interviewing (or even looking) for other positions.
  • They will be better/more relevant. You can target them more rigorously (you choose who to approach).
  • After accepting a job, they’ll be more committed. They’re clearly not desperate and willing to accept any old job; you’ll know they care and actually want to work for you.

In fact, Undercover Recruiter found that passive candidates are 120% more likely to want to make an impact at a new business, than active ones.

Interested in recruiting some passive candidates? Here’s how to do it…

Tip 1: Don’t be too sales-y.

cheesy salesman pointing fingers at the cameraPeople are understandably cynical about cold calls, social media messages and ‘spam’ so your first point of contact should be warm and friendly.

Always bear in mind that this candidate may not have even considered leaving their current job yet, so spouting out a load of information about the job role you’re advertising and/or your business won’t impress them… if anything, they’ll be confused and put out.

Instead, build a relationship and make the conversation about them (how great are they? Did you like their CV? Are their skills hard to find in the current market?).

This is a much softer approach than you would use for people you know are looking (and possibly even desperate) for a job.

Tip 2: But do be a little bit sales-y.

Like I said, most passive candidates will not even know that they want to look for a new job yet, so keep that in mind after an initial rejection.

Don’t take (one) no for an answer!

Offer to send them the details anyway (just in case) and make sure the ad is compelling, interesting and genuinely attractive to that particular recipient.

You never know; they might just need some time to come round to the idea.

(For some top tips on writing fantastic job adverts, click here.)

Tip 3: And definitely don’t spam!

cartoon of man with error on computer hitting his head against the wall.You don’t want to overdo it with a passive candidate; it could damage your entire company’s reputation.

I would personally recommend following up with a passive candidate (at the most) 3 times.

(You can still add them on LinkedIn and/or keep their details for future vacancies).

If your initial contact was via the telephone, stick to email for follow up. They really won’t want 4 calls from you!

Recruiter Pro Tip.

In general, I would recommend the following contact structure, which could be used via social media or email.

  • Contact 1: Phone call/ email/ social media… asking whether they are interested in seeking new employment (remembering tips 1 and 2).
  • Follow up 1: Include the job advert, just in case they change their mind.
  • Follow up 2: A reminder email; just in case they missed it.
  • Follow up 3: Wish them good luck in the future. At this point you could steer them towards other interesting publications you have to offer, like a blog, to keep them engaged in the future.

Keep all contact light and friendly and not too sales-y. Focus on why this would be a great opportunity for them (not just anyone).

Remember, these candidates may not be interested now, but they could be in the future and if you hound them, they’re guaranteed to remember and think badly of you.

Tip 4: Do your research.

The main reason that 61% of companies aren’t trying to attract passive candidates is because they don’t have time.

And I’m not going to lie, this approach will take you longer – so if you’re going to do it, do it right!

Make sure that the only people you take the time to ring, email and/or contact via social media are actually relevant, skilled, knowledgeable and personable.

Social media should reveal these things for you.

This information will help you to…

Tip 5: Get personal.

man on phone with computer upWhen you’ve done your research and found out as much as you can about a passive candidate, it’s time to personalise your message for them.

Whether via email, telephone or social media, you must consistently show off how much you know about them and what they do and why your vacancy is relevant to them.

Honestly, there’s nothing more annoying that a recruiter who contacts you about a job opportunity that isn’t even remotely relevant. It just looks unprofessional.

This old marketing trick has been proven much more successful that the broad-brush, spam-everyone approach and helps a candidate feel genuinely loved.

This also means that you should amend the job advert you send through to people – based on what they’re key motivators are.

Tip 6: Don’t assume money is everything.

It can be pretty difficult to work out a candidate’s motivators by merely viewing their online profiles, previous information you’ve received (things change) and/or information from a referrer.

And it’s highly unlikely that you’ll know how much that person is earning, which is why it’s important to focus your pitch and job ad on a variety of benefits rather than just money.

For example, progression is a very common motivator among ambitious professionals and could be a great way to get in with a candidate.

If you want to be particularly clever, you could check out Glassdoor for recent employee reviews of the candidate’s business to find out what pet peeves the rest of the workforce have and whether you can use it to sell your position.

Whatever you decide, as you get to know the candidate, try and suss out what is important to them and use this to appeal to them.

Tip 7: Create a “Talent Pipeline.”

lots of cartoon people lined up like candidatesA talent pipeline is an engaged network of relevant, skilled and often vetted professionals that you keep in regular touch with and that you can approach with any opportunities that crop up within your business.

Having your own talent pipeline is great because it can save you time (candidates are there, at the ready) money (if it’s good enough, you won’t need a recruitment consultant) and it’s also great for your brand (see below).

Even if you don’t have a vacancy right now, by constantly engaging with your network and giving them something worthwhile (like a helpful blog) they’ll grow to know and trust you and be more likely to apply or refer others for any vacancies that might crop up.

Who knows, you might even have some passive candidates in your network who are just waiting for a position to open at your place.

For more info on how to develop your pipeline, click here.

Tip 8: Use your current staff.

Your staff can also help you to source some great passive candidates; it’ll make your life a lot easier cold calling people, when you’re armed with a recognisable name.

And, it’s easier to persuade friends and family to look for a new job; especially when you know they’re not happy and you know exactly why they’re not happy.

What do you think would work better? Advice from a friendly face or a cold call from a recruiter?

Recruiter Pro Tip.

Asking current (trusted) staff to refer job candidates for a position is a great tactic because…

  • Your staff won’t recommend anyone unsuitable (hopefully). They won’t want to risk their own job and certainly won’t want to be embarrassed.
  • You’ll reach more people.
  • You’ll attract people who fit in better. Human beings tend to hang around with similar, likeminded people.
  • It will get your employees engaged! They’ll feel like they’re involved in the bigger-picture decisions at the company.

If you’re not currently doing this in your business, you should seriously reconsider.

For more advice on setting up a staff referral (incentive) scheme, check out this article from icims Inc.

Tip 9: Your brand is (really) important.

one rainbow umbrella among loads of black ones!67% of job candidates will check out your business’s social media profile – so what will they learn about you?

Negative things? If a passive candidate reads even just one bad review or comment about you (via your Glassdoor profile, social media or forums) then they could (and probably will be) be put off.

Nothing? Passive candidates are much more likely to be suspicious and choosy about companies they consider for employment – if they can’t find out anything about you or your brand, why would they take the risk?

Good things? You want your passive candidates to see you as an employer of choice; someone who they actually want to work for and who clearly treat their staff well.

You should make a real effort to post interesting content regularly on your website and social media to engage your candidates, but also to get your brand out there (the more shares you get, the more people will hear about you!)

Show off how happy your staff and clients are with photos and stories, give great advice via blogs and fact-sheets and show how well your company is doing with announcements and other PR.

Recruiter Pro Tip.

Make sure that the content you publish is…

  • Fairly inoffensive and uncontroversial. Let’s be honest, controversy does sell on the internet…but there’s a difference between engaging people and offending them. There IS such a thing as bad publicity (as these unlucky lot know well).
  • Interesting to your audience! It’s no good going on and on about something which YOU find interesting but everyone else finds incredibly boring. You can find an interesting twist for any subject matter.
  • Reflective of your true company values and culture – a sure-fire way to attract likeminded individuals.

The better, friendlier and more helpful your posts and feedback, the more attractive your company will appear.

Tip 10: Social media is your best friend.

The most helpful tool when you’re looking to seek out passive candidates is, of course, social media.

  • You can post vacancies directly onto LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google (or even Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat).
  • You can find out more about your candidates, their experience and their personal views.
  • You can engage with your talent pool.
  • You can use it to gain those referrals from your staff.

And, it doesn’t have to cost a thing (LinkedIn do offer a paid-for Recruiter platform service but it’s fairly expensive).

So – if you are hoping to start approaching passive job candidates this year, you must 100% get yourself (and your staff) active onto social media.

For more tips on how to use social media to your advantage click here.

The downsides.

We’ve discussed the plentiful advantages to approaching passive candidates in the current job market – but it’s also important to take into account the negatives.

Only you can know if it’s worth the hassle and effort.

Recruiter Pro Tip.

There are a few money and time-related considerations that should be addressed…

  • It takes a lot of time to build up followers, friends and connections via social media and then track down good candidates.
  • Finding passive candidates is all about building relationships; a quick in-your-face sales approach won’t work.
  • It could be more expensive; you might even need to hire someone to do it for you.
  • It takes more effort to coax a passive candidate to consider applying for a new job. Your approach, ad and process must be on point.
  • Passive candidates are much more likely to drop out (when they change their mind or their current company give them a counter-offer).
  • Passive candidates tend to ask for more from new employers because, why not? They’ve still got their old job to fall back on.

That may seem like a lot of downsides but at Coburg Banks, we think the positives outweigh the negatives and if you take things one step at a time, you’ll get there eventually.

Or you could just get someone (like us) to do it for you…

If you’d like more hints and tips on how to attract, interview and recruit superhero staff members for your business, click here to subscribe to this blog!

Good luck!

- Mark Wilkinson
Mark Wilkinson

Mark Wilkinson

Mark is one of the founders of Coburg Banks and heads up the permanent recruitment division of the business.  Every day he helps companies with their recruitment projects, sourcing the very best individuals for their vacancies.  He understands recruitment inside-out.

> More blog posts by Mark Wilkinson

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