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Targeting Passive CandidatesHow, Why and If Its BetterwithMaren Hogan,Red Branch Media

For as long as I've been in the recruiting space, the debate about passive versus active has raged on, and while the debate has shifted from gospel truth to debated maxim...many recruiters still feel deep down that passive candidates are the very best kind of candidate. But why? It's one of those industry "chicken and egg" scenarios and if you extrapolate it out a little bit it's sort of like saying that only those who are already married are worth dating. Does that make sense to you? Yeah me neither!2

69 percent of workers said that searching for new opportunities is part of their regular routine, whether they are employed or not, with 24 percent searching as frequently as once a week.3

That's not the whole story though. Passive candidates are already employed, so the thinking follows that they're good at their job and will make good employees at the next company. Someone who's been out of work for awhile, the old saw says, may not be such a great catch. It's as if they've been thrown back.4

The great recession threw much of that out the window. It was tough to assume that 10% of the population were all duds, especially as departments were slashed and companies tried to do a lot more work with a lot fewer people and lower budgets. At the same time, the job-hopping lifestyle reviled by everyone except contract recruiters started looking pretty good to creatives and technical pros alike, who were being downsized anyway.


Now as the country starts to pull out of the downturn, there is a bit of revelation among talent acquisition professionals as well. It is this, the difference between passive and active is ceasing to exist. In fact, For todays candidates, the job search process is constantly on, with 74 percent of workers either actively searching for a new job or open to a new opportunity (according to both Lou Adler who puts it closer to 69% and a recent CareerBuilder survey).


Say pactive with me. PACTIVE.So despite the side you used to or occupy now, it's clear that it doesn't really matter, because along with the shift in how we hold jobs and how open we are to new ones and how large the actual pool of "Pactive" TM jobseekers -- as recruiters and hiring managers, we need to know how to reach them.People look for jobs in three ways (when they're searching): Searching online, networking and job boards. We're not going to concern ourselves with job boards today, because we pretty much all know how to use those. BUT, the behaviors of the other two concern us greatly. Because our beloved "pactives" are sneaky. They're stealth. And they do lots of interesting things when they're getting ready to look for a new job (which of course allows us to candidates neatly back in their little passive and active boxes but we're not going to do that now-- first because we have all this new info and second, because it's so darned fun to say "pactive" ....TM).


Market your job like BMWSo how do you find a star? First, recognize that modern job seeking behavior is like consumer purchasing. A simpler way to put it is, you may want to market a job more like one would market a car, or a luxury handbag. It may sound trivial but taking a page from the marketing playbook cannot only help you identify and source entirely new pipelines of candidates but learn how to reach out to them more effectively. Or, market to them. The casual browsing mentality should help focus job marketing efforts for organizations.8

Pay attention to what theydont say.But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's find them first. Finding Pactives can be hard, because they're a little tough to identify. In today's socially connected world, very few potential candidates want to broadcast to the world that they might be open to another gig. So here's what they do instead:They get a little social. It's not a seismic social shit but lots of little indicators: a location change on Twitter, a change of photos on Facebook, a more substantial LinkedIn profile...all of these together give you a sense of when a candidate might be thinking a little more seriously about a move. Have they changed their profile to include broader industry terms as opposed to the current job-specific title? Do they suddenly live in Austin when last week it was San Francisco?


The proof is in the posting.They flaunt their skills. Networks like StackOverflow, GitHub and Quora allow professionals of all ilks to prove they know what they say they do on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. It's less about crowing the loudest and more about letting the cream rise to the top. Simply posting your work on one of these sites (or many more) doesn't mean you're looking (although 67% are... remember) but a flurry in activity and increase in participation usually does. Those are the people to keep your eyes on.10

What do you see? An opportunity?I'm not sure if you heard about it a couple of weeks ago but the entire staff of Radian6 was laid off by Salesforce. The reaction on social media was entirely different for marketers than it was for my sourcing and recruiting friends. Marketers said: "My heart goes out to you...fellow marketers at Radian6." Sourcers and Recruiters said: "Hey if you're looking for a great team, check these guys out!" Granted that's a highly public situation and most of those candidates are easily findable than your average java programmer in Ohio. However, research shows that a lot of employees (if they are not summarily dismissed right after a merger) will leave of their own accord, at very specific time intervals too. Usually there is a year long grace-period where everyone involved tries to get along (and wait for their stock to vest). After that, it's a steady drip of talent, until the acquiring company is left with the die-hards (which you couldn't recruit with a signing bonus the size of Texas). So keep your eyes out for IPOs, changes in leadership, and mergers and acquisitions. Oh! And if you're a great recruiter with your ear to the ground you'll know when a mid-level manager decides to leave that it may be time to look at the people directly under him or her.11

Social listening stationsObviously keeping track of all this stuff can be daunting, which is why I'm probably the only person in this space not to think that talent pipeline is a dirty word. There are lots of tools to help you, from RSS Alerts to Yahoo! Pipes and building a social listening station (google Chris Brogans post on it or a fantastic one from SM Examiner) and they're all free! Of course there are paid options as well. Many of you are familiar with LinkedIn, BullHorn Radar and tools like Entelo, the company sponsoring this webinar. They keep track of the various signals FOR you and even send you an email when a candidate on your watch list start displaying the above behaviors.12

I work different.So what do you DO with these candidates? This is the fun part, where decades (almost two! TYVM) of marketing experience come into play. We talked a bit earlier about marketing jobs like we market luxury purchases. This is key, even though it seems silly. The reason is that consumer behaviors are changing because of the shift online and further social advances, so as new generations come into the workforce, they are pursuing opportunities differently and working differently. Resist learning the new techniques, and find yourself with a drastically limited talent pool from which to choose.13

Sing to me.Okay so either you've done the research yourself or you're using one of the new smart tools to do it for you. You've committed to learning about the ways to reach out to these people. Here's what you need to know.What do they like? This is where your own research or that of a social search engine can come in very handy. Unlike job boards, with social sourcing you get a wealth of information about the KIND of person you're dealing with. You know where they hang out online, what sort of projects they're proudest of and how they interact with others. You might also gain information about likes and dislikes, awards they've won and similar people (a sourcer's dream!) When marketers get information like this, they use it to create a profile, but unless you're always recruiting for the same role, that may be overkill, instead use this to figure out what to talk about.


Just this once. Be different.Key point here: practically every single recruiter in the world uses the cold approach via email or inMail, they talk about the opportunity and blast it out to everyone. While that does allow you to reach more people, it resonates less with the RIGHT people. So use your information to create a shortlist and when you reach out, make the communique about THAT person. This speaks to marketing and human behavior in so many ways it's dead simple. 1) It's flattering. 2) It sets you apart from every other sourcer/recruiter contacting this immensely talent person -- that's why you're contacting them right? and 3) It gives them an idea of what they would look like in the position (that' selling 101 my friend). Mention their interests, past projects and employers and even awards they've won. Even if they aren't interested, your flattering and detailed offer will more readily be forwarded to similar candidates in their network because it makes them look good and now they like you and are inclined to help.15

They tailor their resume.Tailor your approach.How do they work? If you can see from their profile that they've stayed four years in every company then you may not want to contact them about a temporary role just yet. If they are what used to be called a job-hopper but you're looking to place someone in a very staid company with low turnover, you may again, w