How 'Candidate Care' Can Help You Land Talent, Even When They Aren’t Ready to Move


Making a job change is an incredibly big decision for candidates. It’s personal, emotional, and sometimes anxiety inducing. Additionally, sometimes the best candidates for your opening aren’t actively on the job market or ready to make a move.

Good recruiters recognize this and exceptional ones help job seekers, even reluctant ones, navigate this process and partner with them every step of the way to their next career opportunity. I like to refer to this process as “candidate care.”

Building a trusting relationship will result in a more honest conversation with the candidate. That, in turn, will leave you with a better understanding of their career history, where they have thrived, where they have struggled, and what they want to do next in their career, all of which will help as you evaluate whether the opportunity you have is a strong fit for both the candidate and your company.

Over the course of my career, I have honed a few candidate care techniques that have helped me differentiate myself as a recruiter, build stronger relationships with candidates, and identify the best talent for my organization. Below is a story that shows how a little candidate care can turn “not interested” into “offer accepted.”

Step 1: Be patient and play the long game

One of the worst things we can do as recruiters is rush a candidate who isn’t ready. In the summer of 2020, I helped hire someone for a leadership role in technical operations. One of his references turned out to be an ideal candidate for an open role we had in program strategy.

After a successful reference conversation, I casually approached the reference about his interest in a role in our organization. He said he definitely wasn’t thinking about leaving his current organization and I backed off.

Step 2: Communication is key — check in, share news, and move at a pace that works for your candidate

I made a mental note — accompanied with a calendar reminder — to keep tabs on this individual and check in from time to time.

Over the coming weeks I noticed that the person started engaging with our LinkedIn company posts, updates, and news. I decided to follow up with him to check in to see if he was ready to start exploring new opportunities. He told me he was open to discussion but that he wasn’t yet prepared to leave his current organization.

I used our next conversation to provide some updates on how our newly launched company was evolving. I also learned a bit more about what motivates this person professionally.

Step 3: Make sure your interview team includes people to whom your go-to candidate wants to talk

Instead of moving him through our typical interview process, I talked to the candidate about who the people are in our organization that he would want to meet with — to learn more about the company, the scope of the role, our business model, and our people.

When it comes to interviewing, I’m a firm believer that it’s a two-way street. Candidates need to get to know a company as much as a company needs to get to know them. You can’t force the fit and, when you do, it almost always leads to an unhappy ending. The candidate and I had a conversation about our organizational structure, and then we jointly decided on who the key people were for him to speak with.

The flexibility we offered him meant a lot to the candidate and led to an even more cross-functional interview team.

Step 4: Arm your candidate with background on your company and on the members of your interview panel 

Prior to my candidate’s first interview, I sent him an email with the latest company news, podcasts, and videos so that he could continue to learn more about us. I told him who would be on the interview team, giving him their names and titles so he could check each of them out on LinkedIn. I also shared some helpful interview tips and even gave him contact information to use in the case of the dreaded technology fail.

Putting this kind of useful information in his hands and removing a number of potential stress points allowed him to focus on the interview and make his strongest case for being hired.

Step 5: Be willing to shake things up by trying something different

I sent the candidate a thank-you email for taking the time to meet with our team, rather than waiting for the candidate to send us a note. This simple 180 makes a big difference in the candidate experience.

So, what was the outcome? All the patience, careful work, and customized candidate care allowed this person to see that this was an opportunity he couldn’t turn down. He joined us early in 2021.

From start to end, the courtship and hiring took about six months. This initially reluctant candidate has been an amazing hire, and he came to us through a process of which I am incredibly proud.

Final thoughts

In a competitive hiring market, high-touch candidate care is a key difference maker, particularly if a candidate has multiple offers or is not quite sure they are ready to leave their current employer.

The absolute keys?

  1. Be patient with a candidate who needs a little extra time or information to decide whether to pursue a career with your company. This allows for a trusting relationship between the candidate and the recruiter, and ultimately builds the candidate’s confidence in your organization.
  2. Take the extra time and steps needed to really get to know a candidate.
  3. Use a more tailored approach to hiring that may include a customized interview team and targeted company updates that resonate with the candidate’s specific interests.

Try implementing some of these tips in your next search and then get ready to reap the benefits of your enviable candidate care approach.

* Photo by Nicola Fioravanti on Unsplash

Posted in: Assessing Soft Skills, Controlling Bias, Current Articles

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