Passive candidates – why best practice is the key to exclusivity (Part 1).

‘Passive candidates’ – It’s a phrase you hear all the time now. You could easily think we were awash with passive candidates in recruitment, and depending on your point of view you could say that we are.

In case you’ve missed a meeting or been in the depths of the Amazon, the reason that we’re getting all excited about them is two fold:

  1. The current shortage of talent.
  2. The resulting value in having a strong relationship with a highly skilled ‘potential’ candidate who wants to work exclusively with you when they are ready to make a move.

It’s exclusivity that’s the key point here, but achieving that can sometimes feel like a daunting task. However, the principles of achieving exclusivity are actually quite straightforward. Initial engagement will come down to your recruitment marketing strategy, but thereafter it all comes down to best practice.

trust 2

Best practice

While there are many things that have changed in recruitment over the last ten years, at its core best practice never has changed. The principles that will achieve your conversion of a passive candidate lie solely upon it. So what do we mean when we say ‘best practice’?

At this point I wanted to provide you with a link to a nice snappy article defining recruitment best practice, but my searches came up short. Everything I found fell more into the category of a hefty set of guidelines or rules. (If you know of one, feel free to share in the comments section).

So in lieu of that, let me attempt my own: Put the right person in the right place.

Obvious? Over simplification? Perhaps not. There are many that believe they do this but in reality they end up being way off the mark.

If you work backwards from this definition and keep it as the core of everything you do, you will naturally follow the principles of best practice. By default, you will adhere to the rules outlined in lengthy sets of guidelines.

This is simply because you will do exactly what is required to understand the precise needs of your candidate without prejudice.

Putting the candidate first

So how do you gain that understanding? Although we are talking about passive candidates, I believe everything you need to know is accessible within three core stages of interview best practice which served me well for over 12 years.

1 – Establishing their reasons for leaving their current role:

I found the same themes come up time and time again:  lack of development, no options for progression, strengths not fully utilised, imbalance of weakness areas being utilised in the role, cultural fit not right.

I found it was hardly ever about money. In fact if that was given as a principle reason it would set the alarm bells ringing (think counter offer and proceed with caution).

Although the same issues arise, the blend is specific to each individual. Investigate and understand that blend. Don’t make any assumptions.

2 – Understanding skills, ability, potential:

This is the big bit in the middle with lots of lovely open questions about their experience, achievements, strengths and weaknesses. Re the last two, candidates made to feel comfortable will largely volunteer more accurate information than those given an interrogation.

3 – Want to do and cultural fit:

Much of what you learn about reasons for leaving will give you insights here, but so will part 2. Again, make no assumptions. Listening is more important than ever but good questioning should help the candidate with consolidating their thoughts.

Back to our passive candidates.

So you’ve identified someone who could be a great candidate. If they are passive (didn’t apply to you or appear on a job board) then trying to undertake a full interview with them will kill the conversation before it’s started.

Those initial conversations are akin to a courtship. This is stage is a whole blog in itself, and I’d recommend reading this blog by Greg Savage for some great pointers.

What is key though, from the first conversation to the last, is gaining trust and understanding.

We’ll take a closer look at this in Part 2.

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