Sourcing and Recruiting Passive Candidates

By Holly Demoro

I was recently chatting with some HR professionals regarding the age-old question over whether active or passive candidates are better recruits. In my opinion, the recruiters preferring passive won the debate. Their argument was simply a matter of control. Sourcing for passive candidates puts the recruiter in the driver’s seat as they look for candidates with specific experience and/or skill sets.

Obviously there were other reasons why recruiters prefer passive candidates, but this was the most compelling (and the idea that prompted this post). When one realizes the value of recruiting passive candidates, the question becomes how to find the best passive candidates with the least time investment. Applying most sourcing methods, recruiters are rummaging through resumes on major job boards or spending hours searching LinkedIn.  These methods are great, but not necessarily efficient when resumes are old or potential candidates do not reply.

What’s the best way to find the strongest passive candidates, you ask? That is a great question with a very simple answer… compile and then source from your own talent pool of ‘warm’ candidates.

So, how does one compile and source their ‘own’ pool of warm candidates beyond searching LinkedIn contacts?

To answer this, let’s start by defining warm candidates. A warm candidate is, at the very least, aware of your company’s employment brand.  It is pretty obvious that the most efficient use of your time will be to focus on the warm candidates rather than pursuing those who are just not interested. You must keep in mind, LinkedIn contacts are not necessarily warm passive candidates by this definition.

Keeping your talent pool warm is a little like dating. Your talent pool is your ‘little black book’. But, just because a person is in the little black book, it is not a guarantee that they will remember you. To keep candidates warm, you must stay in contact with them. Drop them a line every once in a while and show them the best of your employment brand through some old fashion marketing nurture campaigns. Basically, ‘date’ them.

The next step is to compile a talent pool full of warm candidates. How does one accomplish that? First, consider all the candidates that are already in your ATS. Perhaps, they were not a good match in the past, but maybe as time has gone by their skills or education have advanced. These candidates have expressed interest in the past and therefore they are warm candidates.

Do you have an Talent Community?

In addition to what you already have in your ATS, you absolutely must open the door wide to new talent.  To do this, your company’s career page should encourage potential candidates to submit their information even when jobs matching the candidate’s skills are not currently available.  Next, consider all those people you meet at job fairs, networking, and career development events. Even if you don’t have openings that match their skills right now, you will eventually. Any time you meet someone that seems to possess talents, skills, or experience that may eventually be useful to you, take the opportunity to talk up your employment brand (without being too much like an overly aggressive recruiter) and ask to exchange contact information, just in case.

To further develop your talent pool, encourage current employees to recommend friends or former colleagues based on talents. Make sure that current employees understand that you are interested in more than just who is currently looking for a job – you want traits, talent, and passion vs. simple availability. For example, ask employees, “who do you know that that has great project management or communication skills?” That will get the employee thinking more broadly.

In short, there is a lot you can do to compile and source from your own pool of warm talent. The most important factors are simply this:  First, allow interested parties to send their resume or contact information to you – even when you are not actively recruiting their particular skill/experience. Finally, when the warm candidates start coming in – keep them warm by recommending opportunities or simply showcasing your brand. The biggest mistake a sourcing pro can make is to let talent slip through their fingers because they are not thinking in terms of future recruiting needs.