The Passive Candidate Playbook
Andrew Henry | March 3, 2022
If you’re a CEO or a hiring manager today, finding a way to attract talent is top of mind. Since the onset of The Great Resignation, how to attract top talent has been a key focal point for leaders and recruitment teams—especially when it comes to executive search.
This candidate-driven market will only accelerate in 2022, leaving investors, executives, and search teams on the hunt for high-performing leaders. Anyone responsible for hiring likely has passive candidates near the top of their wish lists, but these valuable workplace resources can prove difficult to tap if you don’t know the terrain. That is because passive candidates often make the strongest hires but are notoriously difficult to identify and attract. Below, we share insights on how to attract these ideal additions onto your team, even in the current hiring climate.
Passive Candidate Attributes
By definition, a passive candidate is someone who is not actively looking for another job. So, what exactly makes a passive candidate a strong hire? For starters, they tend to be perfectly content in their current roles. They aren’t actively searching for new roles, so they have likely built strong ties to their organizations and have proven to be valuable assets to their teams.
A passive candidate is more likely to be focused on relationships, company culture, and long-term economic sustainability of their current company, which significantly impacts how they assess and vet new opportunities. Passive candidates oftentimes represent a preferred type of candidate because they are inherently positive. If you can entice them to consider your organization, a passive candidate will quickly become a highly motivated and committed candidate because they are solely running towards your opportunity and not away from one another.
Accessing the Passive Candidate
By nature, passive candidates are more difficult to identify and attract to a new opportunity. Since they aren’t actively seeking employment elsewhere, you can assume they are content in the growth trajectory, financial opportunity, and overall upside of their current situation. That’s why passive candidates require a deliberate and focused approach to get their attention. By following the steps below, CEOs and hiring managers give themselves a much better shot at attracting these employable yet elusive candidates to their organizations, even in today’s hyper-competitive market.
Utilize Your Network
Try to identify trusted sources from within your existing network before you start looking. For executive search firms, we often start with outreach to past placements, other executives, previous references or sources, and other similar people in our network. Private equity firms should likewise consider executives within their portfolio as prime sources. By tapping into your existing network, you can work with reputable company leadership, investors, and search partners to identify individuals most suitable for a current opportunity.
Remember that people are more likely to answer calls from those within their network, which can be used to your advantage to connect with passive candidates. Unlike candidates who are actively searching for their next roles, passive candidates may often remain unresponsive to traditional outreach. By utilizing relationships, search partners can increase access to these candidates.
Keep in mind that locating a passive candidate doesn’t mean you can put your network aside and move on. Passive candidates are often less forthcoming with references, so utilize any backchannel sources including search partners, investors or other indirect references to get a better read on your prospect. Contacting these behind-the-scenes champions can often be the “secret sauce” in recruiting and vetting the ideal passive candidate.
Tell a Great Story
To find talent that doesn’t actively want to be found, you need go beyond a great job description and tell a compelling story about your organization. You must relate the experience of your people, culture, and reputation to get the attention of candidates who may otherwise be content with their current position.
We’ve established that passive candidates are drawn to an opportunity and not away from one, so with that in mind, you must position your open role as a compelling growth opportunity. Whether it is an investor with a strong track record or a leadership team with proven industry success, culture and reputation should be a top focus in the passive candidate recruiting processes.
The pandemic has led many people to reevaluate their careers, and the evaluation process has placed culture and people at the top of the priority list. If you focus on culture instead of the cold, hard requirements of a given role, you can draw even the most passive candidates towards your opportunity. You can effectively delve beyond function and responsibility and find your ideal cultural fit.
Likewise, the reputation of a standout private equity firm or investor should be top of mind. If you’ve built a strong track record, use it as early in the recruiting process as possible. An investor’s good standing can heavily impact a passive candidate’s willingness to engage in a process. These candidates generally feel like they’re already the protagonist of a great story. It’s up to you to tell them a better one.
Identify Your Closers
The final tip is a bit of an intangible one, but it’s important, nonetheless. Passive candidates have a lot to lose by leaving their current role or company. Even a seemingly irresistible position can leave a candidate feeling tentative about making a change if the opportunity is not positioned with passion and authority. To a talent base that’s largely risk averse, any new opportunity has to look like a home run.
To that end, you need to know who your closers are within the recruiting process whether they come from the board room, the C-suite, or your investors. The ideal closer will be someone able to communicate with candidates in a differentiated and powerful way. The power of their persuasiveness could be derived from the individual’s stature or the ease and conviction with which they can share the vision of the company and connect that story back to the position. Personal stories from someone already involved in the organization can compel a passive candidate past the threshold, taking them from cold feet to hot pursuit. Take each opportunity on a case-by-case basis and identify who in your orbit can best relate to the specific candidate, ensuring you’re presenting an opportunity in the most compelling way.
The Quest Continues
Remember that with so much demand in the marketplace right now, culture is often the main differentiator between roles. A high-performing candidate who is generally content has plenty of time to peruse multiple additional roles that probably look a lot like yours on the surface. Be sure to put yourself in a position to prevail. Tap into your networks, use the gravitational pull of culture, and put your best closers on the job to make sure the top talent on the market will want to walk through your doors, figuratively speaking.
Accessing passive candidates requires a proven strategy, even in the best of times. Reach out to JM Search today to ensure you don’t miss out on top talent.
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