P.A.S.S.I.V.E. Recruiting – Part 2: Approach

by Steven Allard
Many ways different goals

Last week I began with a contrast between recruiting active and passive candidates as well as thoughts on building out your top of the funnel pipeline. This week we will dig into the meat and potatoes of P.A.S.S.I.V.E. – your recruiting Approach.


You may only get one bite at the apple. If that is the case, you must have a plan BEFORE you make initial contact. The method of initial contact may vary from candidate to candidate, so know why you are choosing one method over the other.

I look at approaching a single passive candidate as being very similar to the process used when doing Employement Branding and the subset of that, Recruitment Marketing. It is just done on a more focused scale. You should look at each role/level/geography and create related personas. Once you have your personas established, you can then begin your recruitment strategy and messaging.

Have a story board laid out for how you are going to incrementally get your engagement message across. Consider this, most people would like to work for Google today, but how would you have crafted a story to recruit for Google in October 1998. Back when they were a relative unknown and when the likes of AOL, Yahoo, and Earthlink seemed to have already figured it out and were well known. Ok so I am dating myself with that example. That means you must do your homework.

Know your candidates

Each recruiter should have a “Hot Sheet” that contains candidates with the background, attitude, aptitude, and potential skills you typically recruit. These are people with whom you speak with regularly and have built/maintained relationships. You should know for each person on your hot sheet the top three things they would be looking for in a new position along with future compensation expectation. Note: In many states you are legally not allowed to inquire as to their current salary. Those notes should be tracked, constantly updated, and used for mesaging.

For those people you intend to approach in the future, you should work to move beyond being seen as just the “recruiter on the other end of the phone”. Really try to get to know what makes them tick. The stronger the relationship, the more open and honest candidates will be with you and the more willing they will be to taking your call.

If done correctly, as we get new opportunities, we will have a solid pool of people with whom we have established relationships we can approach and or network with. People on your hot sheet should be contacted at least once a month.

Don’t be afraid to ask your candidates to help you understand what they do and how you can best highlight their skills to your managers or potential clients. This demonstrates your desire to understand them and to help them. No one cares what you know until they know how much you care. What you cannot do is start pitching a role until you have an idea of what might be important to THEM. You may be pitching the wrong thing.

Find something in common

Dig your well before you’re thirsty (also a good book by Harvey MacKay)- we get a significant shot of credibility if we can be introduced through someone viewed as a Center of Influence. The way to get a Center of Influence to help you is to demonstrate your relevance and help them before you need them. Share interesting articles. Push them leads. Demonstrate your mutual interest in a particular industry, skill, and hobby. You have to give before you get. Look them up on social media. What commonalities can you find? Poeple like people who are like them. Make notes and incorporaqte thes things into your approach. It has to be genuine! People will see right through a mendacious attempt to force commonality.

Have a reason why you called them specifically.

People like to feel important as an individual. The candidate should feel special that you called them. Don’t let them wonder why you called. They should feel you did your research on them and are not just blasting everyone on LinkedIn with your position’s buzz words. They should feel this is an individual call to them and not a generic message or call that could apply to anyone. What did you see in them that makes you feel they would benefit from learning about your role and company/client? What compelled you to specifically call them?

Business meeting at the spectrum HQ in Boston

Know your client

You must know the selling points of working for your company or client. You should have a list of clear and concise “selling points” which cover a wide range of potential candidate motivators. People also tend to avoid risk, so you need talking points which convey stability and desirability such as:

  • Talking points about why people go and stay at your company/client
  • Growth plans/projections
  • Planned new product launch/upgrades
  • Why they are doing better than their competition
  • Notable contracts won
  • Hiring plans
  • Earnings
  • Mutual contacts at the company
  • Recent press releases which support selling points
  • Notable projects they will work on
  • Social engagement
  • Noteworthy benefits (free commuter pass/paid parking/unlimited vacation)
  • Learning/growth opportunities

Just as with candidates, we must work to build relationships with key stakeholders and influential people within your company/client. These key leaders can be indispensable in the recruiting process and can be leveraged to help engage significant “A” players. We talk to a lot of people during the day. Show your relevance and share interesting industry trends or observations with these key individuals. Know who your company/client’s competitors are and read news articles that relate to their (your company or your client’s) world. RSS feeds, Google alerts, and press releases can be set up on most search sites that will feed you information about your client’s industry, competitors, and trends. You can forward relevant articles to demonstrate you are aware of what is happening in their world and care about them as a partner. Be creative in your approaches to differentiate yourself from the typical “body shop” agency or recruiter. The better your relationship with key leaders and hiring managers, the more they will be willing to take time to help you help them.

Know your position

You have to understand what “business function” the role you are recruiting for plays in the organization and why it is important. You must be able to convey a compelling reason why this role would be attractive to someone. What will they be able to drive, impact or learn? The “action words” you use are very important. By understanding how your position plays in the bigger picture for the company and the candidate, you can ask a broader range of questions that will increase your value to your candidate. You have to be able to describe the position in a story.

Don’t read just read the job description:

  • What will they get to drive or influence?
  • What impact to the company does this role offer?
  • What hot technologies will they get to learn and or use
  • Talk about problems they will get the opportunity to help solve
  • What notable or influential thought leaders will they interact with?
  • Talk about how this role can and advance their career
  • How does all of this tie into their motivation to explore a new role?
  • What problems with this new role solve for them personally?
  • How does this role make the world a better place?
  • In short, what will they want to add to their resume that is notable?

Know your skills

Do your homework and know what the skills you are recruiting for do. If you don’t know what an application engineer does and how it is different from a software engineer, do your research. The more you know about the skills you are recruiting for the more apt you will be to know what the tradeoffs may be. What skills are interchangeable? What skills are absolute musts? What skills are easy to learn?

Search Google for associations/ user groups that may have useful information about a skill or technology. Wikipedia is an excellent source for easy to follow explanations of technology. The more the candidate thinks you know, the more apt they will be to trust you can help them. At the same time DO NOT BE AFRAID TO ASK! They are the experts in their field just as we are the experts in ours. The more they see you being interested in them and what they do, the more they think you can help them, the more willing they will be to help you help them. Seeing a common thread here? The more people think you care about them and want to learn about them, the more willing they will be to work with you.

Add value to them personally. What industry, market, tech knowledge can you share with them to make them feel like you understand that space?

Plan your calls

You might fear that scripts will stop you from thinking creatively and speaking in a conversational tone. Think of scripts more as a road map to guide you and help you stay focused. Writing a voicemail script crystallizes your thinking to clarify the key points you want to convey. Professional actors use scripts so they can put more energy into their voices and body language and not worry about how to craft a line. Advertising pros emphasize keywords to spark prospects’ emotions and make them respond. So why not scripts for recruiting calls? Once you are happy with your script and practiced enough, you can distill it down to key bullets.

Spectrum employee working in the backoffice

Timing your calls

Your goal is to get people on the phone and have a conversation. Even in our text and email world, I don’t know of anyone who ever recruited and hired any candidate from just text and email. Eventually, you are going to have a conversation. There are best days and times to maximize that possibility.

  • Day of the week – Let’s think about our normal week. Monday we are hitting it hard trying to catch up from the weekend and planning out the week. For me Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are my prime productive days. I have planned my work and now I am working my plan. It is when I am most engaged and focused on driving results. I have found many people are running on the same hamster wheel workweek schedule as I am. I have found, at least for me, Tuesday and Wednesday have been my best passive recruiting days. Tuesday, for people who are in roles that are not as rewarding as they would like, are thinking “why didn’t they update and post that resume over the weekend”. Wednesday they are in the middle of the hornet’s nest and would welcome the chance to do something “better” however, they may define better. Thursday is similar to Wednesday, but the eye begins to shift toward the weekend and they see relief in sight. Fridays they are trying to finish everything up so they can focus on and enjoy the weekend.
  • Now we have to look at the best times of day to call – Again, lets think about a typical workday for people. Now I acknowledge this may vary widely based on role, seniority, leadership duties, and geography. I will just use myself as an example and hopefully, you will understand the concept I am conveying. I am usually in and at my desk be 7:15-7:30. I am usually the only person in the office. This is my time to review emails from the night before, review my plan for the day, and finish setting up my day. This is “my” time. The important thing – I am at my desk and no one else is around, so I could probably speak freely. From 8-11:55am I am working my plan, in meetings, recruiting calls, client calls, etc. Around 12:05, I am back at my desk trying to get caught up on what I missed while working my plan AND planning my lunch! Again, at my desk. 12:55 I am back at my desk getting ready for my afternoon. Yup, I am at my desk. Between 1-5pm do not even bother calling – I am not around. Most likely meeting a candidate for a late lunch when they can speak freely. Around 5:30 I am back at my desk trying to get caught up again and still busy. Around 6pm things are starting to slow down and I am starting to plan my tomorrow. There are fewer people in the office and I could speak more freely. Guess what, I AM BACK AT MY DESK (At my desk = AT MY PHONE!). I may also welcome the distraction and could always have a follow-up call on the way home if you caught my attention. Moral of the story, know when your candidates are at their desks if you are going to call.
  • Keep voicemail messages short and simple. If you have to leave a message, keep it concise, 30 – 45 seconds. When you leave a voice mail message to a candidate, the objective is NOT to recite a novel or cover every talking point about your opportunity. No one – absolutely no one – wants to listen to your infomercial. You’re a stranger. If you give all the details in a message, there is no reason to call you back. If you already told them everything, they think they need to make a decision on your role. In a voicemail, your goal is to create interest and intrigue. The average person speaks 150 words per minute. A 30-second voicemail message is about 75 words. Think about your voicemail script. Time it out by leaving yourself a voicemail and adjust as needed. It should convey a sense of urgency and a call to action for them. A small simple action that starts building momentum.

Your goal shouldn’t be leaving powerful, engaging, thought-provoking voicemails. It’s about breaking through to these elusive people to engage with them in a conversation. Your message should include why it is beneficial for them. In other words, create a message that generates interest and intrigue; something that teases the senses and makes the person want to learn a little more. In effect, you want a call to action message that compells the person to want to call you back.

Phew, that was a long ramble. Hopefully you gained some insight into planning and timing your Approach. Next week we will discuss what to do once you have a short list of people who are willing to listen to more about your role. If you missed the first installment you can find it here.

Picture credits for this article:
80051759Rawpixel.com – stock.adobe.com
309195351fizkes – stock.adobe.com
293294634kai – stock.adobe.com

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