Sourcing passive candidates is more about networking than cold calling
We're into the fourth week of our eight-week program on becoming a top 10% recruiter.
By now, you should have taken the
online recruiter diagnostic to benchmark your current performance. You
might want to take it again to see how much you've improved so far. Here's the link to our
2006 survey. This is one you'll want to take.
Participants will learn where they stand among their peers in both
performance and compensation.
Last week, ideas were presented as to what you needed to do to
find more strong, active candidates. The key: Be different. Ads must
have an engaging title and a compelling employee-value proposition.
Ads that are just like everyone else's or can't be found are
non-starters. If you want to hire top people, your ads must offer
career opportunities, not just another job. These ads are just as
important if you want to attract and hire top passive candidates.
These top people will read your online posting to see if the job
you're offering is worth evaluating. So, if it isn't anything
special, the great recruiting and sourcing techniques described
below will prove valueless.
Let's get real. I'm leading a search right now for a Fortune 500
group vice president of marketing for a consumer products company.
Without working too hard, I found 65 possible passive candidates on
ZoomInfo, 27 on LinkedIn, and another 30 using a few Internet
data-mining techniques Shally Steckerl taught me. It will take me
approximately 31 hours (at 15 minutes each, on average) to call
these 122 people and then recruit and qualify those I connect with.
If history is any guide, 15-20 of these people will have been worth
calling (meaning the person is a good person who is either very
interested or knows someone who could be very interested), and from
these, one to two people will wind up as candidates I'll present to
my client. This is a lot of work for such meager results.
On the other hand, if I call the best 20 candidates from all of
the lists based on their titles and companies, get 75% to call me
back, and get two or three prequalified referrals from each one, I
can do this work in less than a day. Better yet, if I'm really good
at getting these referrals, I should wind up with four or five very
interested and highly qualified candidates. It will take another two
days to process these referrals. So, in 75% of the time, I'm able to
get more than three times as many top candidates. This is a 400%
increase in productivity! And, that's the secret to hiring more
passive candidates: Be great at getting highly qualified referrals.
You can prove this for yourself. Start tracking these metrics:
number of cold calls per day, percentage of returned calls, number
of people open to considering your opportunity, and the number of
good referrals per call. Now, track the same metrics for these
referrals. If you prequalify the referrals, you'll discover that
working the referred list is three to five times more
productive than working the cold list.
I've written about leaving voice mails and networking
in previous ERE articles. Here are some highlights and other ideas you can use
to improve your performance in recruiting passive candidates.
You must know the job. You can't be a good
salesperson unless you know the product you're representing. This
is just as important for recruiters. The best recruiters know
their jobs, sometimes even better than their clients.
Reread Part 2in this
series for more on how to prepare performance profiles that
describe what the person taking the job must do to be successful,
not the skills the person must have. Knowing the job gives the
recruiter the confidence to make the cold call to passive
candidates and be able to quickly screen the person. Knowing the
job is also the prerequisite to converting the cold recruiting
call into a networking call.
Recruit first and network second. You'll get
more returned calls and better referrals if you recruit the person
directly and screen the person before describing the job. People
will be more willing to give you names if they consider you to be
a professional who knows real job needs and can conduct a solid
interview by asking meaningful questions. People like to talk
about themselves. So, to get more referrals, you need to let the
person talk about himself, and then if he is not a perfect fit,
Don't lose your leverage. You must get the
candidate to talk first. When you ask the person if he would be
open to explore a situation if it were clearly superior, don't
tell the person about the job when he says "yes." Instead, conduct
a quick phone screen. You have leverage when the person says "yes"
to your offer, but if the job is beneath the person, you lose this
leverage and the chance to get referrals.
Create an opportunity gap to determine fit.
When interviewing, first conduct a work history review and then
ask about one or two major accomplishments. Dig deep. Look for
areas in which the job you're representing offers job stretch.
Consider the size of the budget, the team, the challenges, the
impact that could be made, and the importance of the job. If the
job offers enough stretch, it should be easy to recruit the
person. If the stretch is too much or not enough, you'll have to
switch the call into a networking call. Top people need at least
15-20% job stretch and growth before they'll consider moving.
We'll discuss in detail how to determine this in next week's
article, but the principle here is that to increase your odds of
recruiting a top person, the candidate must internalize and own
the gap between her current job and the one you're representing.
You don't do this by selling and talking; you do this by asking
meaningful questions that entice the candidate into telling you
why she's a good fit.
Gracefully say "no." To get names, you must
offer proof that the person is not qualified. If the gap is too
great, say that you're impressed with the person, but she would
need another few years before being considered for this type of
position. Then, provide some specific examples, like the budget is
double, the team is bigger, the project is more complex, or
something you gleaned from your phone screen and knowledge of the
job. If the job isn't big enough, just say the job seems too much
like a lateral move, or it doesn't offer enough stretch.
Ask for the names of people at prior
companies. If you've developed a professional
relationship and engaged with the person for at least 10 minutes
as described above, you're now ready to get some referrals.
Recruiters who don't get many referrals usually mess up steps 1
through 5, so review this if that's the case. The best way to get
names is to first give a short, compelling summary of the job and
then just ask for specific titles and names of outstanding
performers at prior companies. Use questions like these to start
the discussion: Who was your best boss, who would you like to work
with again, who would you like to hire if you could, who would you
refer for your employee referral program, and who is the best
person you know who won't move? Even ask for names of people who
aren't looking, but who might know some other top people who also
aren't looking. Say that your objective is to build an outstanding
network of top people, not just to find a candidate for your open
Prequalify everyone. Once you get a few
names, find out why the person is considered a top employee. Ask
about awards or recognition received, if the person has been
promoted, what the person's track record is like, and something
about her experience or academic background that makes the person
unique. In the future, you'll only network with these top people.
You know you're at maximum efficiency if you limit your calls to
prequalified top people who are either potential candidates
themselves or know a potential candidate personally. This is what
you should strive for.
Recruiting top passive candidates is less about getting their
names and more about knowing the job, getting the candidate to talk
first, conducting an in-depth phone screen, and then getting
referrals. Cold calling people you don't know doesn't take courage;
it takes confidence that you know what you're doing, and knowledge
that you have a great job to offer.
Collectively, this all starts when you took the assignment. There
are no shortcuts or magic bullets here. If you're making lots of
fruitless phone calls, getting few returned calls, getting even
fewer top referrals, and getting frustrated with your lack of
progress, the solution is right on this page. It's not about cold
calling, it's about networking.