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How to Prospect Passive Candidates When Hiring

In Hiring Strategy — by Dave Anderson

finding-passive-candidatesRecruiters generally put candidates into two camps – active and passive. Active candidates are the people who have an updated resume, look at job boards on a regular basis, and apply for a variety of roles. They’re likely unemployed or making an effort to move on from their current job.

Passive candidates, on the other hand, aren’t deliberately looking for a new job but may be open to a favorable opportunity. They’re likely already employed and content with where they’re at but could be willing to make a change if the circumstances are right.

If you’re hiring for a difficult-to-fill position, connecting with passive candidates could be the difference maker. Instead of posting your opening and hoping the right person happens to apply, you can find an ideal candidate and convince them you have an opportunity that can take their career to the next level.

However, finding passive candidates can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. In this article, we’ll provide a few tips that can help your company create a successful prospecting strategy.

Know who you’re looking for

You shouldn’t start reaching out to candidates until you know exactly what type of professional you’re looking for. That means you should first meet with the hiring manager and learn what their ideal hire looks like.

Start by creating a standard job profile. List the skills, years of experience, education, and other information that will make up the job description. Then go a layer deeper and learn what other qualities will impress the hiring manager. Are there any kind of projects a potential hire should have worked on in the past? What companies does their team aspire to be like? Learn what their dream hire is then get ready to go find that person.

Expand your search beyond LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the logical place to recruit passive candidates. You can use the search feature to zero-in on professionals in your area with the right skills, years of experience, education, and other qualifications. However, if you’re hiring for a competitive position, the qualified candidates you find on LinkedIn are likely getting contacted by other recruiters too. Here are few more sources worth exploring on your search for passive candidates:

  • Professional communities – Nearly every profession has online communities where people converse and share information. It’s easy to find smart and talented people on these sites but be aware that they’re located all around the world.
  • Social media – Twitter, in particular, is a great social network for finding professionals who are passionate about what they do. You can use tools like Followerwonk to search for people in your area with certain keywords in their bio.
  • Professional networking events – You can send the hiring manager or a recruiting team member to industry conferences or local events and find smart people to network with.
  • Job board databases – Most job boards also have databases made up of candidate resumes. While many have hundreds of thousands or even millions of resumes available, keep in mind that a lot of them are outdated.

Between LinkedIn and the sources listed above, you should be well on your way to finding ideal candidates to contact.

Target impressive companies

In the creating a job profile exercise, we recommended asking the hiring manager what companies impress them. You can capitalize on their answer by reaching out to the people who hold the right positions in those organizations.

A company’s LinkedIn page will direct you to a list of people who currently or previously worked there. From there, it will be easy to find the person with the right job title and pitch your opportunity to them.

Customize your outreach message

As we said earlier, many talented passive candidates are accustomed to getting a lot of messages from recruiters. That means you need to make yours stand out from all the rest.

It’s okay to use a template to save time but you should be prepared to tweak it for each candidate. You can catch their eye by referencing what about their background impresses you. That can mean mentioning past projects they’ve been involved with or how impressed you are by the work their company does.

It’s also a good idea to mention how you found them, especially if you interacted with them at an event or on social media. They’ll feel more compelled to respond if they already know you or someone else from your company.

Play the long game

If a candidate responds to your first message, that probably means you made a good pitch and they’re interested in the opportunity. But that won’t happen most time.

You’re likely going to need to follow up a few times. Just remember there is a fine line between being persistent and being annoying. If you don’t hear back after your first message, wait a week or so and check in again. After that, one more follow up is fine but you should probably leave it at that.

In other cases, a candidate will respond but tell you it’s not the right time for them to switch jobs. They may be happy with the ways things are going or have life events that would be complicated by making a career change. If they’re an impressive candidate, it can be worthwhile to check in again six months or so down the road and see if their circumstances have changed. It shows that you’re really interested in bringing them aboard and haven’t forgotten about them.

Image by Mar Newhall

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