How to Build a Slate of Passive Candidates in 72 hours

Apr 20, 2012

A few weeks ago on these pages, I suggested that the ERE Expo wasn’t as progressive as it could be in bringing the most important trends to its recruiting audience. My concern was lack of focus on these areas:

  1. Limited (if any) discussion on the development of talent strategies, when the supply of top people is less than the demand. Everyone seemed more enamored with learning about ways to weed out the weak rather than attract, recruit, and hire the best.
  2. Too much on sourcing and not enough about recruiting and closing.
  3. Little on how to engage hiring managers fully in the process. This is odd since they make the decision on who to look for and who to hire.
  4. No emphasis on the unspoken 83% of the labor market who will not respond to your posting or apply online, regardless of how cool your Facebook page is. Of course, these are the passive candidates.

So in my own small way, I’ll use this opportunity to address the last three points above, by introducing “The Golden Rule of Passive Candidate Recruiting.” Using a high-tech, high-touch approach I believe it is now possible for a talented recruiter to build a slate 3-4 of top-notch passive candidates in as little as 72 hours from taking the assignment. As you’ll see, to pull it off, it requires the active engagement of hiring managers combined with reasonable sourcing skills, in combination with great recruiting, counseling, and closing skills.

Implementing the Golden Rule of Passive Candidate Recruiting

There are about 20 things involved in the process of meeting the 72-hour target. Following are the most important.

  1. Don’t use job descriptions. During the intake meeting with the hiring manager, define success as a series of 5-6 critical performance objectives. Then ask managers if they’d meet someone who had achieved comparable objectives, but doesn’t meet all of the experience requirements listed on the job description. This is a critical step, and you’ll never make the 72 hour goal if you use job descriptions. The trade-off: you won’t compromise on performance or potential, just on absolute skills and experience. (Here’s a more detailed article on how to prepare these performance-based job descriptions.)
  2. Find the “ideal candidate.” During the intake meeting find someone on LinkedIn who is a high achiever or identify a fast-tracker inside your company. Fast-trackers always have less experience than their peers, so this is important. Then ask the manager if he/she would be open to meeting someone like this who is clearly a high performer, but with less experience listed on the job description.
  3. Use LinkedIn Recruiter to clone the “ideal candidate.” LinkedIn offers two easy ways to develop a prospect list of 20 or so people in less than 30 minutes. One is the “similar profiles” button to the right of the person’s name, and the other is on the right-hand side, titled “Viewers of this profile also viewed …” In less than one hour after the intake meeting you should be able to identify 15-20 possible prospects.
  4. Prepare creative and career-oriented job branded messages. Messages including voicemails, emails, and postings. The key to all of these is to lead with the employee value proposition and highlight the 2-3 big performance objectives. Tie these to the company strategy and vision. This is job branding and will attract a stronger group of candidates. Even passive candidates will check out the posting after initial contact, so this is important. Here’s an example of a this type of career-oriented posting.
  5. Ask the “yes” question to establish applicant control. Ask prospects if they’d be open to discussing a possible career move. Then, don’t describe the job; instead, ask them questions about their LinkedIn profile. Getting candidates to talk first is part of applicant control and essential for meeting the 72-hour goal.
  6. Convert your job into a career move. During the initial screen, look for gaps between the performance objectives of the job and the person’s experiences. Use these gaps to establish your opening as one worthy of continued discussion. For example, if your job offers a faster growth rate, more visibility, and some stretch, you’ll be able to use this as reasons for the candidate to move forward in the process.
  7. Connect, re-search, and Cherry Pick. Make sure you connect with everyone on LinkedIn during the preliminary call. If the person is not appropriate for your job, you’ll then be able to search their connections. Call the person back and ask about specific people who might be better suited for your opening.
  8. Follow the 80/20 networking rule. If a person is not appropriate for your opening, you must get 2-3 warm referrals via Cherry Picking. This is the critical to meeting the 72-hour objective. Warm referrals call you back, and since they’re already pre-qualified, you’ll find strong prospects quickly. Here’s more on how to Cherry Pick and network on LinkedIn.
  9. Search on achiever terms. One way to find great prospects quickly is to search on things your ideal candidate has done that would indicate the person is in the top-half of the top-half — e.g., B+ or better talent. This would include terms like award, patent, whitepaper, fellowship, scholarship, work-study, honor, and the specific names of honorary societies, leadership titles, and awards, among others.
  10. Find nodes. Find people who have worked with your ideal candidate, like project managers, customers, vendors, and professional associates. For example, partners in CPA firms know high-achieving accountants who have left their firms, and Agile Scrum managers know great Ruby developers. Connecting with nodes allows you to quickly Cherry Pick their connections as a means to quickly get your 2-3 high quality referrals per call target.
  11. PERP your ERP to create a Virtual Talent Community (VTC). Proactively get your employees to connect with their best former co-workers. Then when you search and Cherry Pick their connections you’ll have more than enough great people within hours after taking the assignment. These top-notch first- and second-degree connections represent a VTC and are far more valuable than a pool of random followers or a stack of resumes.
  12. Be SWK and an SME. Passive prospects will always check out your profile before calling you back. So make sure it’s clear you’re Someone Worth Knowing and a Subject Matter Expert. This is how you leverage your online identify and get even more referrals.

Since everyone will soon have instant access to the same people, active candidate recruiting will become even more problematic with quality of hiring becoming even more random. Since 83% of the fully-employed members on LinkedIn classify themselves as passive, this is where the future action will be, and recruiters who can implement the Golden Rule of Passive Candidate Recruiting will be in high demand. Expect the 72-hour Golden Rule to become the new normal, and those recruiters who can implement it become the new rock stars.

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