Aggressive Approaches Win Passive Recruits
Human Capital Management:
What the C-Suite Needs to Know About Benefits
By David Creelman
A manager’s success depends on the quality of the people he or she hires. While the traditional hiring process usually works smoothly, managers are right to wonder if the most talented professionals are not sitting at home reading job ads, but currently out in the workforce.
Seeking out passive candidates — people who are not actively in the job market — takes more skill, time and effort than traditional recruiting. Most recruiting departments are not set up to do this kind of work, and most line managers do not understand their role in attracting passive candidates. But securing such talent is not impossible. All it takes is a little creative thinking.
How Recruiters Find Passive Candidates
Sodexo, a leading global food and facilities management company based in Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, hires 5,700 managers and executives every year. With this volume of hiring, Sodexo relies on traditional methods for most hires, but it also has the ability to seek passive candidates for critical or hard-to-fill jobs.
Sodexo’s strategy includes attending conferences, obtaining membership lists, doing deep Web searches and studying competitors. It develops lists of prospects and makes contact with them regularly to naturally forge relationships. It’s an ongoing process of developing a talent pipeline, rather than a reactive move made when a vacancy occurs.
Says Sherie Valderrama, senior director of the talent acquisition group at Sodexo: “Recruiting passive candidates is a longer-term investment of our time. Since they are not actively seeking opportunities, they tend to be relatively happy in their jobs and need time to build a sense of comfort with you.”
Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, Md., is the largest defense contractor in the world and needs a large number of specialized technical and scientific experts. Like Sodexo, it uses a multitude of tactics to find passive candidates.
“Recruiting passive candidates is a longer-term investment of our time. Since they
are not actively seeking opportunities, they tend to be relatively happy
in their jobs and need time to build a sense of comfort with you.”
- Sherie Valderrama, Senior Director of Talent Acquisition, Sodexo
“We mine the Web in a wide variety of
ways for people with critical skill sets,” says
Teri Matzkin, manager of strategic sourcing
and military relations. “We use social networking
tools.We deploy soft-sell banner ads
on targeted Web sites.We keep in touch with
people who applied to Lockheed Martin in
the past.We don’t just rely on one approach.”
Establishing contact and keeping in touch with prospects is also a very deliberate process. Regular outreach is required to maintain contact with each person. Appropriate technology can support this process, such as AIRS SourcePoint, a customer relationship management tool.
“Our goal is for Lockheed Martin to be the prospect’s first thought when he or she entertains the notion of changing jobs,” Matzkin says.
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Most hiring managers do not understand
that simply urging recruiters to be more
aggressive is not enough. Managers themselves
play a crucial role in each stage of
finding and attracting passive candidates.
The recruiter’s nightmare? After enticing a fantastic passive candidate to an interview, the hiring manager opens with, “What makes you think you’re good enough to work here?”
When it comes to passive candidates, the hiring manager should be in the sales business, not the purchasing business.
Selling a job means coming up with a good value proposition. John Chaisson, a faculty member at the Atlanta-based Thought Leader Institute, points out that managers need to recognize the kind of work that appeals to top performers.
“Nothing repels a top candidate like a job description,” Chaisson says. “You have to have a wonderful opportunity to sell, not a position to fill.”
Lou Adler, chief executive of hiring consultancy The Adler Group, recommends asking an alternate question: “Why would a great person who already has a good job want to work here?”He adds, “Of the recruiters and managers themselves, ‘What are the real projects they will tackle on day one?’ It’s not enough to assure candidates it’s a great company with great opportunities. You need to be specific.” Strong candidates are not interested in lateral moves. Hiring managers have to look for capability and potential, not just qualifications. Otherwise, passive recruiting simply won’t work.
“Nothing repels a top candidate like a job description. You have
to have a wonderful opportunity to sell, not a position to fill.”
- John Chaisson, Faculty Member, Thought Leader Institute
Of course, before you get to pitch a great
job, you have to find someone to pitch it to
— and once again, managers play an
“At Lockheed Martin, our Strategic Sourcing Group actively enlists managers attending conferences to speak with prospects,” says Matzkin.
Sodexo also partners with managers. “We rely on managers’ knowledge and contacts,” Valderrama says. “It is not uncommon for our senior vice presidents to be actively engaged in identifying prospects, and we always need to get line managers involved in follow-up calls.”
Making the Leap
“Traditional methods will get you average people,” Adler says. “Let’s be realistic: If you want the top 10%, you need to do something different.”
Managers and recruiters should go that extra mile to get top people. How to do it isn’t a mystery, but it does require a commitment. Managers should ask for training in passive recruiting, and they need to insist that money be invested in the recruiting function. Overall, recruiting has to be a process that the whole company takes seriously.
Clearly, this is something that Sodexo understands. According to Valderrama, “Our CEO invited the talent acquisition leadership team to his executive retreat. We spent an entire day with him and his market presidents talking about how to build a culture in which everyone is a recruiter and brainstorming ways to get the best talent.”
Now that’s a commitment—and the path to getting superior talent.
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