The 6 Cs of Passive Candidate Recruiting Plus 1

Aug 4, 2011

As Malcolm Gladwell points out is his bestseller The Tipping Point, little things can make a big difference. The same is true when it comes to finding, recruiting, and hiring passive candidates. One big thing recruiters can do is tame their hiring manager clients. Taming your hiring managers is an essential first step if you want to recruit passive candidates.

As was pointed out in a major study we did last year with LinkedIn, 82% of LinkedIn’s fully employed members characterize themselves as passive candidates. While they’d be open to talk with a recruiter, they are not interested in a lateral transfer, applying through your ATS, or working for a company that doesn’t know how to hire and develop talent. To find and hire these people, especially the best of the group, recruiters need to not only tame their hiring managers, but also employ the 6 Cs for recruiting passive candidates. These represents the key tipping points involved in any passive candidate search effort.

Over many (many) years, I’ve worked on search assignments with more than 500 different hiring managers on positions ranging from staff accountants and senior engineers to functional VPs, COOs, and CEOs of all stripes and sizes. From these experiences I’ve discovered a bunch of challenges that need to be addressed before you start looking for candidates.

Collectively they represent reasons why you must tame your hiring managers as part of any search assignment — at least if you want to fill the position with some top-notch in a reasonable period of time. Here are some basic rules for taming your hiring managers. (More)

Basic Rules for Taming Hiring Managers

  1. Make sure the manager understands real job needs. Ask the hiring manager what the person must accomplish over the course of the first year that would indicate why the person is a top performer. I refer to this list of performance objectives as performance profiles. The idea behind this: if the person can demonstrate they’ve done comparable work, they obviously have the requisite skills.
  2. Make sure the hiring manager “owns” the employee value proposition. Before you start hunting, make sure you ask the hiring manager why a top person with a lot of upside potential would want your job. Forget the apple pie and motherhood. This EVP must be specific and related to the actual job. As you’ll see below, this forms the core of the candidate’s intrinsic motivator for looking.
  3. Insist that the hiring manager be open to talking with candidates on an exploratory basis. The best people are looking for career moves, not lateral transfers. Passive candidates aren’t even looking. By giving these prospects a chance to talk with a hiring manager on a peer-to-peer level to see if your opening represents a possible career move, you’ll add a lot of strong candidates into the top of your funnel.

Of course there are more taming rules aside from these, but this is a good start. As you’ll discover though, they’re not enough. In this case — especially if you want to find and hire the best passive candidates — the 6 Cs come into play. Here’s a quick take on what they are and why they’re critical.

The Key Tipping Points for Recruiting Passive Candidates — a.k.a. “The 6Cs”

  1. Compelling: you must be able to capture the candidate’s intrinsic motivator in your job posting, voice mail, or email. It’s what will get your hot prospect to pay attention to the message. For a staff engineer it might be pushing the envelope on a new technology. For an executive it might be a chance to turn around a troubled business. For a flight nurse it’s probably something related to the daily rush involved in helping save someone’s life.
  2. Control: make sure your opening questions requires the prospect to tell you about him or herself before you tell the person about the job. The things that a candidate asks about when first contacted by a recruiter (pay, title, company, location) are not the same when deciding which offer to take (opportunity, growth, challenge). Control allows the recruiter to position the conversation at the beginning to ensure that the best prospects don’t opt out for the wrong reasons.
  3. Career: during your first call you must be able to convert your open position into a career opportunity on the fly. If the candidate describes her job in some detail first (see point two above), the recruiter will have the opportunity to determine if your current opening offers the candidate a true career move. Part of this could be adjusting the scope of the job up or down to better meet the candidate’s career needs.
  4. Connect: Even if your prospect isn’t perfect, he or she is probably only one degree of separation from someone who is. Once you decide the person isn’t ideal, start networking. One way is to connect on LinkedIn and start looking at the person’s connections and ask about specific people. Get their qualifications and then start calling.
  5. Conviction: Persistence is key. You must understand your job opening, and why it offers a career opportunity — and you must not take “no” for an answer. If you’re not convinced of what you have to offer is great, neither will your candidate.
  6. Close: You’ll never have enough money in the budget to pay the best prospects what they want. You can minimize the blow here by selling and closing on the career opportunity your position offers, not the compensation it pays. If you miss this critical “C” the others won’t matter.

Whether the candidate is passive or not, if you want to hire top-notch talent you’ll need to employ the 6Cs on every assignment. They’re all critical tipping points in your hunt for the best people around. The biggest tipping point of them all though, is to make sure you’ve tamed your hiring manager client. Without this person onboard and committed to hire the best, all of your good efforts will have little payoff.

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