How To Engage Passive Job-Seekers in the “Candidate Market”

A recent San Francisco Fed research report illustrated what those of us in the hiring and recruiting process have known for some time – jobs need to find talent in today’s “candidate market,” and not the other way around. Researchers behind the report uncovered that 75 percent of workers with new jobs over the last three months hadn’t actively applied for a job – meaning they were either poached or referred.

Again, this isn’t uncharted territory. Previous surveys have noted that 83 percent of recruiters believe candidates have the power in today’s market. Many of these candidates are currently employed elsewhere and the question is what can companies and recruiters do to attract them? Based on some of the unique data we’ve pulled on the more than 25,000 passive job-seekers on our platform that are being matched with hundreds of companies, while taking into account broader trends in the marketplace as well, here are some tips on engaging passive job-seekers on their turf.

Emulate Google with a “Hiring Brand”

Since we began tracking the top companies passive-job seekers aspired to be poached by back in August, Google has continuously been number one. It topped our monthly Poachable Top 40 in March once again and it wasn’t a huge surprise given the “hiring brand” that Google has created. This year also marked the fifth time it ranked as the best place to work by Fortune. Perhaps not coincidentally, putting people first drives the company’s hiring brand. Sure, Google has lavish perks, but Laszlo Bock, Google’s SVP of People Operations (note: no HR in his title) says these perks don’t attract or retain people. The biggest thing workers want is to work with other quality people – both professionally and personally. Secondly, they want to do meaningful work. Google has promoted these aspects of its workplace brand with its 20% of the time rule for working on side projects – even if that is out of 120%.

Clearly the tactic has worked for Google’s hiring brand, but there are some simple ways to start moving your hiring brand in the right direction. Given they’re not actively shopping for a job at your company, passive job-seekers will most likely stumble across your brand online, and increasingly through social media. That said your Website and social media accounts better be active and compelling. In addition, the hiring process that you communicate externally on your Website should look streamlined and not dated. In addition, enabling LinkedIn or other social log-ins for passive candidates to quickly look into current opportunities exudes a positive hiring culture.

Recruiting, Hiring Managers & Top Executives Most Connect and Excite

At Google, all potential employees talk with a hiring manager, potential colleagues, a hiring committee and finally Google CEO Larry page. In the candidate market other companies are beginning to follow suite. These companies understand that you need to bring in all your top salespeople to sell the candidate. One company that is realizing this is Tesla. One of the fastest risers on our Top 40 list in March (#11), the company has implemented a hiring strategy that attracts even the most talented passive job-seekers – Apple employees. To win these employees Tesla CEO Elon Musk has taken on the role as the company’s HR lead, managing the interview process and even taking time to simply talk about technology trends with prospective candidates.

Not everyone has a Elon Musk on staff, but all companies can spend money on getting well-trained recruiters and hiring managers into the best positions to sell candidates. These new people operations executives will need to spend a lot less time on critiquing a candidate and a lot more time partnering with senior executives on selling them.

Better & Quicker Offers Based on Demand

Last year, we pulled some data from 5,000 passive job-seekers and 200 companies, which found it was 30X harder to hire an engineer than a marketer at the current time. In fact, there was only 1 job opportunity for every 3 software developers passively job-seeking. On the other hand there were 93 marketers for every job opportunity. Recruiters need to know this type of role-based demand data when they look to fill positions. If you’re looking to land a senior level engineer you’re competing against countless offers that are currently on the table or already passed on by a prospect. If you don’t get the right offer in front of them quickly, you’re going to lose them.

All parts of the process have to be faster and offers increasingly need to be driven by this real-time data. On top of that, personalizing offers for each prospective candidate needs to happen to be on par with competitors that are in the market for the same hires.

Strike up Relationships in Mission-Interested Markets

For most companies, the best market to focus on hiring passive job-seekers is in their own backyard. After all, it’s easier for the job to come to them if they’re already there and they see the company’s brand on a daily basis (in media, conversations, etc.). While this differs a bit when you look at Fortune 500 companies, they still typically rank very highly with passive candidates in their home market. When we broke down data on where passive candidates in top hiring markets like Seattle, San Francisco and New York City would hop to, locally-based companies often scored highest. Amazon and Microsoft scored very highly in Seattle, Google and Apple topped the list in San Francisco, and in New York City Goldman Sachs and Spotify (U.S. headquarters based there) were ranked well.

That said, networking in secondary markets that are home to prospective candidates with shared skills, interests and missions can prove fruitful. Netflix for instance, isn’t based in New York City, but it ranked very highly for passive candidates there that are interested in the future intersection of media and technology. Uber, who rode the coattails of its black cars to brand recognition in the city that never sleeps, also ranked highly. Amazon, on the hand, ranked highly in San Francisco with passive candidates despite needing to compete with the plethora of technology companies in Silicon Valley.

Whether it's a home base or not recruiters need to understand that in-demand, passive candidates need to be approached differently than actively searching applicants. You need to strike up a relationship with them and it helps if you can do that in markets where folks are already receptive to your brand and company mission.

As retention becomes an even more important issue for companies fighting to keep this passive talent, this tactic, as well as the aforementioned, will become even more vital. 




The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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