Receive daily articles & headlines each day in your inbox with your free ERE Daily Subscription.

Not logged in. [log in or register]

Opportunity Knocking: Super-Passive Candidates on the Decline

by Mar 5, 2014, 10:26 am ET

We recently completed our largest survey to date on job seeking (more than 18,000 professionals in 26 countries) to shed light on the workforce’s attitude toward job satisfaction, new opportunities, and career evaluation. We discovered that while 75 percent of professionals identify themselves as passive candidates, only 15 percent are “super passives,” or folks who are happily employed and unwilling to consider changing jobs. That’s down 25 percent from 2012.

Why the decline? One of the reasons is that social/professional networks and other online resources have increased transparency — giving professionals and recruiters immediate access to jobs and prospects. But other forces are at play as well: some economies are improving, causing companies to open reqs and gainfully employed professionals to weigh their options.

Regardless of the causes, super-passive candidates declining means opportunity is knocking for recruiters like you and me. Here are the most important things my team has done and is doing to capitalize on the growing pool of what I like to call “approachable candidates”:

  • Nurturing our pipeline. Recruitment has always been part sales and marketing. But the use of these techniques has become more pronounced. We’ve spent — and spend — a considerable amount of time defining and identifying talent pools, and then segmenting and engaging prospects in highly personalized and relevant manners. Engagement ranges from 1:1 dinners to meeting the team for coffee to targeted content based on the prospect’s background and professional interests. We’ve also created shared ownership with our execs and hiring managers to nurture relationships and convert prospects to hires.
  • Branding our company and jobs. How you’re perceived as an employer matters more than ever before. Respondents of our survey said it’s the most important factor in considering a new job. As you know, a strong talent brand reduces cost per hire by up to 50 percent and turnover by 28 percent (reduction in turnover is key now more than ever given that 75 percent of the workforce — even those who say they’re satisfied — are open to new job opportunities). We showcase LinkedIn’s talent brand in two key ways: by sharing various content online that showcases what it’s like to work at LinkedIn (like photos, videos, and employee testimonials) and empowering our employees to be brand advocates online and offline. For example, our employees’ LinkedIn profiles are heavily viewed by other members, and as a result, have a ton of reach. So we recently hosted the “Profile Optimization Project” to help all our recruiters optimize their profiles to showcase our talent brand. And at the end, we hosted an Oscar-themed event where we rewarded the best profile makeovers. It was a win-win for our TA organization and LinkedIn.
  • Engaging candidates on the go. Our industry continues to lag candidate appetite for mobile interaction. Only 13 percent of companies say they’ve adequately invested in mobile. If you aren’t mobile, best case scenario you’re missing a branding opportunity. A respondent from one of our recent surveys went as far as to say, “I have stopped applying if their mobile technology isn’t up to par. That alone tells you something about the company’s priorities and whether they are savvy.” Worst case you’ll lose your next great hire to a competitor who serves up a better experience on mobile device and responds to a candidate more quickly while out and about. To stay ahead of our competitors, we’ve invested heavily in mobile optimizing our career site, jobs, and recruiters.
  • Use your network to make warm introductions. Making a cold call or sending a cold email is cringe worthy — plain and simple. Warm introductions garner higher response rates, so my team always looks for a shared connection to introduce us to prospects.
  • Develop a stellar employee experience. And last but not least, partner with your HR counterparts to develop a stellar employee experience. If the talent brand your recruiting team is promoting is nothing but smoke and mirrors, word will get out. Sooner or later, that will make your job extremely difficult.

These tactics may not be new to you, but they bear repeating because they work. Thanks to the transparency afforded via online resources and social/professional networks, improving economies, and more and more jobs opening up, there’s a lot to be gained from professionals who are open to recruiters’ advances. But the onus is on recruiters to make the first move. The channels, tools, tactics, and technology exist. If you don’t embrace them, your competitors will.

 

Note: the previous version of this post said “That’s down 5 percent from 2012″ in the opening paragraph; it has been corrected to say 25 percent.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Richard Araujo

    “Branding our company and jobs. How you’re perceived as an employer matters more than ever before.”

    This is where most employers will fall down. They have had, or so they think, the pick of the litter for so long, and viewed employees as disposable commodities for even longer, that it’s highly unlikely they will be able to pivot to a retention/attraction model. They will continue to view an employment opportunity as ‘allowing’ someone to work at their company, and they should be ‘thankful’ to have a job, rather than a mutually beneficial arrangement between equals, each of which is capable of severing ties with the other.

    I just think there’s too much cultural baggage and momentum behind that attitude to see it change much in the coming years. Especially with the bulk of employers being small to medium sized businesses, you’re just not going to see a lot of progress in the area of employer branding. Hell, right now a buddy of mine in the industry is dealing with client who wants a software developer. Both he and the client know they pay around 25th percentile, They both know the candidate pool in their area is skewed toward finance, and the client has asked specifically to not have anyone with that background because one guy two years ago didn’t workout, and he came from a bank. They also both know that the company has a bad reputation, is known for consistently working salaried employees at 12 hour+ days, and has a mediocre to bad rating on Glassdoor. All above board, everyone knows it, and yet the client even after acknowledging all that still wants Top! Talent!

    In the branding of other products, like for example soft drinks, everyone knows generic cola is cheaper, and marketed differently, than Coke or Pepsi. Everyone knows it’s a similar if not identical product in most if not all ways, and no one is trying to convince anyone that Joey’s Store Brand Cola is as good as the majors. They are marketed differently, to different people, to maximize their niche in their industry. In employer branding though, every company approaches potential employees as if they are offering the premium employer product, all evidence to the contrary safely ignored. The BS to reality ratio isn’t in their favor, it’s marketing no one will trust until it starts getting a little closer to reality, or until employers actually start trying to live up to the brand they present themselves as.

  • Keith Halperin

    Well-said. IMHO, unless a company wishes to try and “fight above its weight class” i.e., attract people A LITTLE better than it would otherwise expect to reasonably get, employment branding is an unnecessary waste of resources which would be better spent going after the people it COULD reasonably expect to attract. However, I believe many Founders, CXOs, Sr. Execs, and Hiring Managers would rather waste the resources than get rid of their pathetic delusions of corporate and job grandeur (or even adequacy).

    -kh

  • Brendan Browne

    Thanks for the comments, Richard and Keith. Recruiters unwilling, or unable, to pivot to a retention/attraction model should consider this: the top thing candidates evaluate when considering a new job opportunity is whether or not the company is a great place to work (a.k.a, your talent brand). I think the biggest obstacle most companies face regarding talent brand is communication and collaboration between recruiting, HR, marketing and PR. To overcome that obstacle, we consciously focus on this cross-team collaboration at LinkedIn with representatives from all those functions. We defined a common objective, and meet regularly to measure our progress and discuss the separate strategies and tactics we can implement to achieve our goal. Sounds simple, but it’s highly effective, and worth considering for any company establishing or trying to strengthen its talent brand.

  • Richard Araujo

    “Recruiters unwilling, or unable, to pivot to a retention/attraction model should consider this: the top thing candidates evaluate when considering a new job opportunity is whether or not the company is a great place to work (a.k.a, your talent brand).”

    I agree. Especially so for younger candidates.

    “I think the biggest obstacle most companies face regarding talent brand is communication and collaboration between recruiting, HR, marketing and PR.”

    This is where I think you’re wrong. That may indeed be an obstacle for some, even many companies. However, I feel the primary issue that surpasses this is that most companies don’t have anything spectacular to sell. It’s quite possible one or two aspects of a company stand out and could offer a selling point, but in most cases the average company is just that: average. They are the Hondas and Hyundais of the employer world. Branding and marketing certainly could help them, but with so many competitors in the market I don’t think the impact will be major or even have a measurable ROI. It’s likely to pay off more for large companies who can see greater economies of scale and ROI due to their sheer size and the already large awareness of their brand in the general population.

    I think the issue is defining the target market. If you’re not offering Rolls Royce level employment you’re not going to get those candidates on a consistent basis even if you target them. If you were to draw out a bell curve and section off the top 90th percentile and try and target those candidates, you’re going to have consistent failure when your salaries, management, opportunities, and work-life balance all fall toward the middle of the curve on which you are rated as an employer. Running into Ferrari dealerships and demanding their top car and then only offering the price of a Honda Accord might occasionally get you results due to sheer persistence and nerve, but it’s not going to be consistent.

    “Sounds simple, but it’s highly effective, and worth considering for any company establishing or trying to strengthen its talent brand.”

    I would agree. Most companies aren’t even aware they have a brand as an employer, though. They simply assume people should be falling over themselves to work for them without objectively trying to measure their standing as an employer in their industry and geographic area, much less trying to improve it to attract people. You guys at LinkedIn are also on the uptrend. Everyone knows about you, you’re doing well, you’re the next big thing right now. You’re likely to see results from any strategy because people want to work for you. That’s hardly the case for Joe’s Window Treatment Company, who needs an Installation Manager, and whose only ‘brand’ is the opinion of the three guys they’ve already employed in the industry over the last two years, but who quit or got fired because the company owner didn’t like their choice of hairstyle, and demanded they work 18 hour days with no overtime.

    Also, when you take a snap shot of the economy at various times the top companies in year X aren’t the top companies in year X+2, X+5, X+10, etc. Industry positions switch over time. Will these strategies you’re using work, or even be feasible when say in ten years, you guys are the old dog on the block? Still big, still formidable, still not a bad employer at all, but with much more competition and other, newer alternative employers with later infrastructure, equipment, and employment practices? I’m not so sure about that.

  • Brendan Browne

    Appreciate the feedback, Richard. I completely agree – companies need to be realistic when targeting. But regardless of whether you recruit for Joe’s Window Treatment Company or Google, it’s clear prospects and candidates are evaluating your talent brand. So it’s beneficial for you to work with HR, marketing, PR, Hiring Managers and partners in the business to define what you want your talent brand to be, and showcase it by which ever means are most relevant to your target market. If you recruit for Joe’s Window Treatment, and you do a good job showcasing your talent brand, you may not hire Rolls Royce level candidates, but you’re surely going to have an easier time hiring more realistic Honda Accord level candidates, which last time I checked, are pretty darn reliable.

    Regarding the tactics I recommend in my byline, I’m not sure what the future holds (how our business evolve, how economies will change, how in demand skills will shift, etc.). These tactics are effective today. We’ll evaluate them as we go, and tweak them as needed.

  • Keith Halperin

    @ Brendan: I think you may be working with different stakeholders than those Rich and I normally do.
    1)“Recruiters unwilling, or unable, to pivot to a retention/attraction model should consider this: ..”
    Retention is bad for recruiters- as long as there’s money to pay us, it’s good for us when people are leaving the company. It’s a fool’s errand to fill a full cup, but there’s job security in trying to fill a sieve.
    2) ”…the top thing candidates evaluate when considering a new job is whether or not the company is a great place to work (aka, your talent brand).”
    I’d say that for an almost anyone NOT in the “Fab 5%” orsome other in-demand skillsets, the most important thing is whether or not they will be hired FT at a decent pay and with benefits.

    Re: “Talent brand”: I believe that for the vast majority of the ~14,000,000 business in the US, the term “talent brand” is at best aspirational and at worst useless/irrelevant. They’re ordinary, unspectacular firms who recognize they can successfully hire ordinary, unspectacular people to do what they need done. I think that there are a small number of firms who are realistic and say something like this: “We’ve calculated our Corporate Desirability Score (http://www.ere.net/2013/02/15/recruiting-supermodels-and-a-tool-to-help-you-do-it/ ) and we’re at 65%. Can you help us with our employee branding so we can get 70-75% people without too much pain?” However IMHO, many companies that are looking for help with EB are liked the deluded and arrogant fools Richard mentions. Far more effective than trying to create an elusive and nebulous “talent brand”- most companies would do much better recognizing their own limitations and proactively recruiting the people they CAN get as opposed to fruitlessly trying to attract those they think they deserve.

    Cheers,
    Keith

  • Richard Araujo

    “So it’s beneficial for you to work with HR, marketing, PR, Hiring Managers and partners in the business to define what you want your talent brand to be, and showcase it by which ever means are most relevant to your target market.” – Brendan

    I would agree, only taking issue with the fact that a lot of companies don’t even have such departments, much less partners in them you can work with. It’s a strategy better geared towards bigger companies with structure. For many, if not most companies, their ‘departments’ are one or two people who are already over tasked, and with no expertise in the subject. And the larger ones with that structure usually have issues that could subsume any advantage branding might give.

    “most companies would do much better recognizing their own limitations and proactively recruiting the people they CAN get as opposed to fruitlessly trying to attract those they think they deserve.” – Keith

    And they would benefit greatly from defining work to be done rather than people they think can do the work that’s needed. That forces the managers to truly define the role rather than looking for some ephemeral ‘chemistry’ or ‘fit’ that’s never really defined, and so no one can ever be held accountable to as a standard.

  • Gareth Cooper

    Enjoyed this discussion.

    If anything it is another small confirmation that the recruitment profession has a very limited theoretical foundation. There has to be a universally tried and tested base point upon which we can rely on to make recruiting decisions. If I choose A then it will consistently cause B. Lets establish science based causal relationships first. Will that come about following the mad rush for “big data” only time will tell.

    There is too much industry fragmentation, too many market fads and too many untested methods that recruiters seem to adopt in fear of getting left behind.

    We need to agree on some basic, fundamental scientific theory then figure out tried and trusted principles of recruiting and then get on with it.

    Does anyone know of any classic universally accepted recruitment based theories? I would like to read them if they exist.

  • Richard Araujo

    I have only one that, while not scientific, seems to have a high level of empirical support and predictive value: the more likely I am to mispronounce a candidate’s name, the more likely they are to answer the phone.

    For an informal framework to use, I like Adler’s performance based approach, with the associated 10 point rating system and cultural match rating. I think they’re useful because they’re easy to put in practice behind the scenes on your own with no buy in necessary. You can at least use them as your own benchmark, even if no one else is looking at them, to gauge your own performance. At a previous position we used the rating system and panel interview method he recommends, and I incorporated all of it into a nice sheet which turned it into a bull’s eye rating for each candidate. It was, incidentally, the smoothest hire we made at such a high level.

    After which, of course, everyone forgot about it and refused to use it again when I proposed it for other high level positions. Luckily on that one I worked one step removed from upper management with the HR manager running point, so it’s possible it didn’t go off that smoothly for him. However, the guy who was hired is still there and doing very well as I understand it. Results should speak for themselves, but they often don’t, at least to the people who are often in charge.

  • Gareth Cooper

    I have a lot of respect for Lou Adler. His methodology is simple to understand and practical for a wide range of situations. Does it apply to all recruitment situations? I do not know enough to answer that.

    A flood of recruitment subject matter experts has risen in the past decade simply offering answers that appear appealing and are appealing to some. In the words of Clayton Christensen “they take hard problems – ones that people can go through an entire life without ever resolving – and offer a quick fix.”

    We need a “Frederick Herzberg of recruitment” to evaluate the industry’s theoretical foundations and be brave enough to propose theoretical concepts that apply equally to us all which means testing the common assumptions that dominate the recruitment landscape. He did amazing research to shatter the common assumption that job satisfaction is one big continuous spectrum from extremely happy to extreme misery.

    I realize there is none of this happening right now but what would you say are the common assumptions that underlie recruitment decisions?

  • Richard Araujo

    “I have a lot of respect for Lou Adler. His methodology is simple to understand and practical for a wide range of situations. Does it apply to all recruitment situations? I do not know enough to answer that.”

    As with anything, I think the application success will depend on the person doing it.

    “[W]hat would you say are the common assumptions that underlie recruitment decisions?”

    Adler nailed two of them:

    1) A no decision needs less justification than a yes. No is assumed to be correct, yes is criticized to hell and back before approved.

    2) Hiring managers describe people, not work, when hiring.

    Some of my own:

    1) Errors are like compound interest, steps in a process are periods over which that ‘interest’ is calculated. The more steps in a process, the more opportunity for error will increase, the more likely it is that errors will occur. People try to correct short comings in a process by adding more steps, more people, more controls, the opposite should be the approach. In the case of recruiting it’s the “Another Set of Eyes” fallacy, usually meaning one or more additional interviews. Another set of eyes is not bad in itself, their input should be limited to their expertise and should not require another visit from the candidate, nor should they have any say in the hire itself. That should always fall on the hiring manager. The longer process is assumed to be more thorough and fool proof, it’s actually the opposite.

    2) Assumption of competence on the part of managers, specifically regarding hiring. Most managers were simply good at their job – presumably, leaving out the possibility that they were just good at kissing butt – and were then tapped to ‘manage’ a department. They have little to no training in how to actually manage people or projects, much less hire. Their competence is assumed, it shouldn’t be. Once more, the opposite should be the starting point; you should assume the hiring manager will ask irrelevant questions, propose a meandering and unweidly interview process, and sit around with his/her thumb up their ass rather than make a decision.

    3) The employer always assumes they have more to offer the candidate than the candidate offers them. The reality is each offers something to other which he values more than what he’s giving; voluntary trade is always based on reverse valuation. As long as the employer presumes a superior position they will come up short on talent. All candidates they’d hire offer something more valuable than the salary to the employer; that’s why they willingly pay for it. But the really talented people offer something very valuable, and they command more in return or you simply don’t get them. No one is “lucky to have a job,” without the flipside being true as well: employers are lucky to have good people.

    4) I take credit for this phrase: Branding Gap. It needs to be closed for a successful employer branding effort. The Branding Gap is the difference between the employer brand as promoted by the company and as it’s actually perceived in the market. You could use any framework out there like Keith’s corporate desirability thingee to measure it, but it’s real, and it’s a major issue.

    5) Salary Taboo. Salary is one of the most important things at issue and no one wants to bring it up. Employers and candidates have to do this ridiculous dance around the issue, everyone needs get the hell over it. The labor market is one of the most mature out there, prices should be open and honest, and in the end they are, people just don’t talk about it. Employers need to do surveys and assess where they stand. That doesn’t mean they have to offer a ‘living wage’, but they do need to assess where they stand in their market. If you’re located in one of the most expensive places to live on the planet and are offering salaries that would barely pass muster in Butt Wipe, Wyoming, you need to understand that it will affect your hiring efforts.

  • Keith Halperin

    @ Gareth:
    I am very interested in working with people to develop what I call Generally Accepted Recruiting Practices (GARPs) based on tried and true evidence, and not anecdotal claims. While I think there is a great deal in recruiting which isn’t definitely answerable, ISTM that we should try to answer all we can.

    I have a theory as to why something like this wasn’t developed DECADES ago: there’s too much money to be made and too many reputations to be upheld by doing things the current wrong way.

    @ Richard: Thanks again.

    Cheers,
    Keith “Wants to Work with Like-minded Others to Develop GARPS” Halperin

  • Richard Araujo

    “I have a theory as to why something like this wasn’t developed DECADES ago: there’s too much money to be made and too many reputations to be upheld by doing things the current wrong way.”

    That, and the fact that everyone thinks they can do it, do it right, and doesn’t question their underlying premises. Hell, I know a company owner, of the ilk I mention here often, who still writes job ads as if they were newspaper ads, like he’s paying for column space, using abbreviations no one could decode. The ads came out looking like demented anagrams. And then of course he would demand they be run with, “No editing whatsoever!” And then whatever poor bastard was handy at the time would literally, and for quite a good amount of time, get screamed at because this guy would read the ad that he wrote and that he demanded no one edit, and decide he didn’t like it.

    He thought he was a fine manager and could “recruit anyone he wanted,” of course. I recall one instance where he wanted to take out a magazine ad for a job he wanted filled in a week and the magazine had something like a 2 month lead time for advertising. This was, of course, my fault, for not knowing about the position in advance, even though he just thought of it that day and no one knew about it but him.

    I guess I put more emphasis on Stupidity in your GAFIS concept.