When creating a talent acquisition strategy it’s important to note that about 20-25% of those in the workforce are always actively looking for another job. This is the group companies need to target to fill open jobs as rapidly as possible. There’s another 20-25% who are always proactively passive. Don’t even attempt to contact these people unless you’ve worked with the person before. Given this, it’s obvious the candidates you’ll want to hire for your most important roles are in the other 50-60%. While this is the ideal talent market, these people won’t respond to your emails or calls unless you become an expert at passive candidate recruiting. This involves a number of critical skills, in particular:

  • Recruiters must know the job, the hiring manager, the company and the industry before talking to any strong candidate or to get a referral.
  • Recruiters and hiring managers need to understand the difference between a job and career.
  • Sourcers and recruiters must be able to get passive candidates to return their messages.
  • Who ever talks the person first must be able to overcome all forms of objections once on the phone.

If recruiters are not able to do all of these things smoothly and confidently, they will fail. This recruiter competency model will allow talent leaders to rank their sourcing and recruiting teams on these critical measures to determine if they are attracting the strongest candidates possible.

Here’s how to begin recruiting these outstanding people.

At a recent super recruiter training course covering these topics, I started by asking attendees to describe some of the objections they have heard from passive candidates. Here were the most common:

  1. Don’t every call me again!
  2. I’m happy where I am.
  3. What’s the compensation?
  4. I’m not interested in leaving.
  5. I don’t like (pick one: the title, the compensation, the company, the location).
  6. I only want to work from home. I’ll never go into the office again.
  7. I just accepted another position.
  8. I’m involved in a critical project I must complete.
  9. I don’t talk to recruiters.
  10. You’re the 10th person to call this week and I’m not interested.

Overcoming objections is neither the beginning or the end of recruiting an outstanding passive candidate, but it is a critical tipping point. Here’s what we covered during the course to address these critical objections.

1. Don’t sell the job – sell the conversation.

By definition, passive candidates are not looking for another job, so stop selling them something they don’t want. Instead ask them if they’d be open to have an exploratory career conversation about if one of your current or future opportunities represents a good career move.

2. Don’t ask questions that can be answered by a ‘no.’

It’s hard to say no to, “Would you be open to exploring a senior financial management position if it were superior to what you’re doing today?” It’s easy to say no to, “Would you like to discuss an amazing cost analyst position at our Oshkosh plant?”

3. Remove the hustle by focusing on the future.

Try this: “We’re now doing our workforce planning for next year and a few senior positions are being created. Would you be open to chatting for a few minutes to see if one represented a strategic career opportunity?” Adding a delay into your opening is a great conversation starter.

4. Use referrals to turn strangers into semi-acquaintances.

Conversations with people you’ve worked with in the past tend to be informal, open and exploratory. Cold calls are stiff, narrow and perfunctory. Mentioning a referrer’s name is the best way to have a natural conversation.

5. Use an attention-getting mechanism.

When a prospect says she’s “not interested” before knowing anything about the job, say “That’s exactly why we should talk.” Neither comment makes much sense so this is a great way to reset expectations.

6. Use the parking lot.

When someone asks, “What’s the compensation?” say, “If the job doesn’t represent a career move, it doesn’t matter what we pay you. Let’s first see if the job is a career move, and if so, we can then determine if the pay is appropriate.”

7. Shift the focus to career strategy, not tactics.

I said this when a candidate almost took a job for all of the wrong reasons: “You’ve just made a long-term career decision using short-term information.” The person realized a big pay increase in a dying industry was career suicide.

8. Reframe the risk in changing jobs.

Try this with a candidate who’s not interested or quite happy: “Time is your most valuable asset. Whatever you do in the next 2-3 years will affect the next 5-10. Sometimes there’s a bigger risk in staying in the same role rather than changing.”

9. Become someone worth knowing.

It’s hard for a candidate to say no to, “I focus exclusively on placing top people in (types of positions). If the current opportunity isn’t a good career move, we can at least network until something more appropriate develops.” People want to work with people who can help their career growth.

10. Anticipate the concern in order to neutralize it.

Hiding a problem is ill-advised. Something like, “While our Glassdoor.com rating has taken a nosedive, the current role involves turning things around,” will at least get the conversation started.

Recruiting a passive candidate always starts with an exploratory conversation. They never start by trying to hustle someone into an open job you’re desperate to fill. Overcoming the barriers to these conversations requires a different mindset. With this different mindset you actually might find a bunch of people you talk with who find the job you’re desperate to fill a great career move. Of course, you need to be a super recruiter in order to turn these conversations into serious candidates.