Opportunity Knocking: Super-Passive Candidates on the Decline

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.

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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.

Brendan Browne is LinkedIn's director of global talent acquisition. He has been recruiting for 15 years working in markets across the globe. Previously, he was the head of HR at Deem, and held senior recruiting roles at Microsoft, Northwestern Mutual, and Sapient. He graduated from Villanova University with a BA in Spanish Communications.

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