How to Hire Passive Job Seekers — and Why You Should

By May 19, 2017 at 10:01pm

In today’s competitive hiring environment, finding professionals who have the skills and experience you need is difficult. And the latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that this may remain the status quo for the foreseeable future. Companies are still in hiring mode, and unemployment is low. In this post, I offer strategies managers can use to expand their candidate pool and increase their chances of landing top talent by targeting passive job seekers. 

April marked the 79th consecutive month of job gains in the U.S. After weaker-than-expected results in March, job growth rebounded strong in April as employers added 211,000 new positions. 

Updated figures for February and March show that 6,000 fewer jobs were added than originally reported by the BLS. The economy has gained 738,000 jobs in 2017 and more than 2.2 million new positions over the past 12 months.

The jobs report also shows that the national unemployment rate dropped to 4.4 percent, which is near a 10-year low. The unemployment rate for college-degreed workers who are 25 or older — the most sought-after workers — was just 2.4 percent.

Here are some additional insights from the April jobs report:

  • The professional and business services sector had another strong month, with job gains of 39,000. Over the past 12 months, 612,000 jobs have been added in this sector.
  • Healthcare added 20,000 jobs in April, in line with the growth shown during the first quarter of 2017.
  • Financial activities added 19,000 jobs. This sector has added 173,000 jobs over the past year.

Why you should target passive job seekers

As the April jobs report shows, the labor market is still very tight. Sitting back and waiting for candidates to apply to your job postings is not an effective way to staff your urgent openings. That’s a reactive approach to hiring. You need to be proactive instead.

Being proactive includes targeting passive job seekers. These are professionals who aren’t sending out resumes but would be open to switching roles if an enticing opportunity came along. Passive job seekers aren’t responding to job ads. They aren’t even looking at job ads. So reactive recruitment efforts simply won’t reach them. 

But passive job seekers represent some of the most promising candidates available. They often have in-demand skills and, through their current roles, are continuing to build new ones. So if you want to give yourself the best shot at finding the right fit for your opening, passive job seekers need to be part of your hiring equation.

How to connect with passive job seekers

You can’t hope to identify and potentially recruit passive job seekers if you are, to put it bluntly, passive. You need to take the initiative by identifying and contacting passive job seekers yourself. Here are strategies that can help you do just that:

Build your brand

You want passive job seekers to think of your organization as a place they’d love to be once they’re ready to pursue a job change. So start building your brand as an employer of choice. 

There are several ways to do so. Post photos of happy employees on your firm’s social media accounts. Run an ad in an industry publication that mentions your company’s recent appearance on a “best place to work” list. Attend job fairs, professional association meetings and even charity events so your firm becomes a recognized name in your local market. 

I’ll be honest: It takes time. There’s no way to build your brand quickly. But if you begin the process now, eventually your organization can become a target destination for workers looking for something new.

Use social as a source

Social media can be a nice starting point for spotting passive job candidates. LinkedIn offers paid tools that allow you to search profiles based on various criteria to find people with the qualifications you seek. And you can send messages to people you’re not connected to in order to start building a relationship. 

Keep in mind, though, that, in most cases, it takes both time and trust to convert a cold contact into a potential hire. The people you reach out to may be unaware of your company and not consider it a possible destination for them. More importantly, it may require a good deal of convincing for target candidates to understand why they should leave a stable role for a new opportunity they know little about.

Work with a recruiter

Working with a recruiter can make the process of identifying passive job seekers much easier. The best recruiters have cultivated a rich pipeline of passive job seekers through their networking efforts and by placing professionals in jobs and keeping those connections alive over years, even decades. In fact, many job seekers work with recruiters specifically to hear about interesting employment opportunities without having to launch an actual job search. 

In addition, recruiters understand what certain candidates desire in a new job and what it would take for them to switch roles. A good recruiter can quickly identify passive job seekers who would seriously consider your opportunity and help position your role so it appeals to these professionals.

Be prepared for a counteroffer

One of the toughest parts of recruiting passive candidates can be sealing the deal. After all, to land these already-employed professionals, you have to convince them to leave a job that they are more or less happy in. And, of course, the person’s current employer isn’t going to be happy to hear a valued employee is about to walk out the door.

If you do make a job offer to a passive job seeker, be prepared that the person’s employer will make a counteroffer in an attempt to keep the employee on board. This is another circumstance where a recruiter can be helpful. Since recruiters have expertise at negotiating job offers, they can highlight the benefits of the position you’re offering so the candidate feels confident moving forward with you.

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