Candidate Sharing: A Peace Offering in the War for Talent

Join any serious discussion with talent acquisition professionals these days, and the conversation inevitably turns to out-of-the-box ideas to hire new talent.

Case in point: At a conference earlier this year I had a conversation with recruiters from different companies who told me they shared candidates when they did not have immediate positions available for these job seekers. While these friendly competitors figured out how to accomplish this on an informal level, the idea of sharing candidates with other companies usually runs contrary to our instincts to safeguard talent.

Uncharted Territory, Worthy of Exploring

Can the idea of candidate-sharing partnerships offer enough benefits for weary recruiters to overcome their protective impulses? To find the answers, I turned to a few of my forward-thinking industry colleagues who are already well-travelled in this relatively untapped space.

Hilary Wagner, director of global talent acquisition for enterprise system integrator, AST, routinely shares talented candidates with recruiters in her network as long as she doesn’t have the right role available for them. Says Wagner: “It creates goodwill in the marketplace and people tend to pay it forward. While it might not make sense when you know you may have something for them in the coming months, if someone is unemployed and really needs work, and I can’t speed up the process on my end, I’ll gladly send them to recruiters who may be able to move faster.”

Allied Global Services, a full-service recruitment firm, refers candidates to other staffing firms in its network as long as they are not direct competitors. “It not only makes sense for the candidate but also makes sense for us in building trusted relationships where everyone wins,” says Jason Trachsel, the firm’s CEO. “As a staffing firm, this can work well for you and the ROI will come back to you exponentially.”

Chad Lilly, senior director of recruiting for Maestro Health, an employee health and benefits company, agrees — provided the opportunity is cleared up front with the candidate. “While this kind of process puts internal recruiters in a unique position to help, if you don’t have approval from the candidate, it can jeopardize the candidate’s current role because you don’t know who knows others in the industry,” he says.

While there are no hard-and-fast rules for this kind of candidate sharing, there are a few best practices that can help recruiters reap the benefits and minimize the risk.   

Garner Support for the New Approach 

As with any untested idea, convince your stakeholders of the value. Trachsel suggests starting with education — the “why” for everyone involved — so it becomes a natural part of the workflow when appropriate.

Perhaps do a test run in parallel to your existing and proven TA practices, carefully demonstrating the expected timeline and dollar investments as well as success metrics. Further your case by having the idea vetted by your legal team and a like-minded hiring manager by your side.

Beyond the C-suite, getting your colleagues excited about the idea is key to winning internal support. “If service and a spirit of helping others is a part of your overall brand and corporate DNA, this unique approach should fit into internal processes,” says Lilly.

Find Local Companies With Similar Values

A key challenge to a successful candidate-sharing program is finding partners with similar values and recruiting processes. Just as a job candidate checks out potential employers, study online reviews to assess how your prospective partner is viewed among job seekers.

Beyond networking at local or regional HR associations to source partners, Wagner recommends working with Stella, a candidate-sharing network. “The moment we let a candidate know they didn’t get the job, they receive a link to Stella,” she explains. “They then have access to top jobs from great companies who sent their candidates to the Stella network as well.”

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Treat your sharing partnership like any other talent acquisition investment and set rules of engagement. “Upfront and honest communication about expectations are critical when this initially begins,” says Trachsel. “Just as candidates trust us with their careers, we need to have that same or higher level of trust that we are sharing them with someone who will also provide a great experience.”

Protect Candidate Loyalty

According to my colleagues, sharing candidates doesn’t jeopardize loyalty. “People remember if recruiters go out of their way to do something they did not have to do,” says Trachsel. “This approach has paid us back in many ways including the bottom line. Candidates come back to us with new experiences and offer referrals that we might have never spoken with or had access to otherwise.”

Wagner explains it this way: “If I have a great candidate and take that extra step for them, they know I’m truly here to help. Not only that, but once that person has found their next role, chances are they’ll be sending you their contacts.”

On the flip side, if recruiters do not explain what they are doing, candidates may feel like they are being passed off. Adds Lilly, “It’s important for internal recruiters to close the loop with candidates and keep them in the know — introductions and connections with another company need to be transparent and honest.”

If you’re worried about negative candidate reactions, consider a test-optimize-scale approach. Start with a department, skill set, or subsection of the broader talent you typically recruit for, and use it to gauge the candidate’s perception of the approach.

Ask Permission

While it can be as simple as checking a box in the application process, asking for permission to share a candidate’s information is a must. Having this conversation also helps you understand the candidates’ situation so you can put their interests first. “While this process opens new doors for candidates, internal recruiters need to first understand what is motivating the candidate to leave the current position as well as his or her overall career ambitions,” says Lilly.

Adds Wagner, “I always ask top candidates I can’t immediately hire whether they’d like me to share their resume with my network if I see anything appropriate. To date, no one has ever said no.”

ClearEdge Marketing’s senior vice president, staffing, and tech industry veteran, Michelle Krier provides insight and direction to ClearEdge clients on talent acquisition, strategic marketing, sales enablement, customer engagement, and brand growth. She is passionate about working closely with clients to help their recruiting, sales, marketing, and HR operations teams work together and achieve success. Prior to joining ClearEdge Marketing in 2011, she served as director of marketing & social media at Cielo Talent (formerly Pinstripe), communications manager at AECOM, and marketing manager at Compuware. She is also a past president of the American Marketing Association, Milwaukee chapter. She is a frequent speaker at organizations such as TechAlliance, Society for Human Resources Managemen, and the Human Resources Management Association of Chicago. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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