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5 High Touch Techniques You Should Use to Recruit Passive Candidates

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Recruiters need to recognize they’re facing an existential threat when it comes to sourcing and hiring active candidates. On one level, automation is rapidly identifying candidates ready to look for jobs and matching them with the most appropriate opportunities. In addition, hiring manager do-it-yourself (DIY) models are now starting to appear. Both trends will accelerate and minimize the role of recruiters for anything other than administrative and transactional purposes.

However, these driverless and DIY trends will be less useful for attracting high quality passive candidates who are only interested in changing jobs for true career reasons. This is the reason I advise recruiters to shift their efforts to using a high touch consultative recruiting approach like Performance-based Hiring because it generates higher quality of hire and will give you better results.

Now, it’s hard to follow this method when you have 15-20 heads to recruit, which in my opinion is a clear indicator that a company is more interested in efficiency and cost metrics than quality of hire. But, The ROI of a great hire is more than 1000% when you consider the increased profitability generated over multiple years to the modest one-time marginal cost increase required to hire the person. However, it takes a visionary talent leader to make the case and skilled recruiters to deliver on the promise.

At LinkedIn’s Talent Connect 2016, I presented a high touch process for sourcing and recruiting top tier passive candidates. As part of this, I briefly mentioned the following five high touch recruiting skills as critical. Here are some more details:

1. Offer a 30% non-monetary increase

Early in a conversation with a passive candidate, I suggest the only reason the person should change jobs is if it offers a minimum non-monetary increase of 30% in comparison to his/her current job. The 30% is some combination of job stretch (a bigger job), more rapid growth, more impact and a more satisfying mix of work.

One recruiter at Talent Connect came up to me and thanked me for describing this approach in The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired. By using it he is now able to double the number of passive candidates who agree to engage in exploratory discussions.

2. Control the conversation

Too many top tier candidates opt-out of the conversation before they even know much about the job other than the title, location and the compensation. Worse, recruiters start pitching the job if the candidate is even slightly interested.

This is backwards. Instead, get the candidate to talk about his/her job first and what the person likes most and least. During this discovery process the recruiter needs to find details justifying a potential 30% non-monetary increase and present this as a reason for a more serious conversation.

3. Sell the discussion, not the job

Consultative recruiting is similar to solution selling. In this process, the sales rep conducts a discovery process uncovering client needs and proposing a customized solution. Recruiters need to use a similar process when contacting passive candidates.

The first step is an exploratory conversation without any pressure whatsoever. If the job represents a career move, another more serious discussion can then take place. It’s better to spend more time with fewer candidates rather than hoping a perfect candidate is magically found for some imperfect job.

4. No NOs!

Recruiters shouldn’t let candidates opt-out of the process until the person has full knowledge about the job. When a candidate says he/she is not interested or is happy at his/her current job or anything similar, it’s time for the recruiter to use rehearsed rebuttals for common candidate objectives. For example, when a candidate tells me she’s not looking I say that’s the best time to talk, since the only way she’d change jobs is if it was for a remarkable opportunity.

5. Get the candidate to sell you

Too many recruiters and hiring managers believe recruiting is selling the job using hyperbole and generic promises. This is a great way to overpay for someone who will underperform. As part of the discovery process, find a few areas where the job offers significant growth and express some concern that the job could be too big a stretch.

This type of subtle “push away” technique will often get a high potential passive candidate to try to convince you that he/she is qualified for the position. Making the candidate earn the job this way minimizes the chance the person will accept a counter-offer or be lured by a bigger salary somewhere else.

In the future, more people will be hired using a highly automated impersonal process requiring limited recruiter involvement. However, the best people will be hired using a consultative career management process designed to maximize quality of hire and candidate satisfaction. This high touch approach represents an alternative future and one all career-minded recruiters need to master.