A recent survey we conducted with LinkedIn clearly indicated the 83% of their fully employed members classified themselves as passive candidates. It seems to me that if you’re not an expert at recruiting this 83%, you’re missing the 800-pound gorilla.

To help here, I’m in the process of consolidating and summarizing all of the articles, webcasts, and recordings I’ve prepared in the past few years on passive candidate recruiting into some type of eBook format. Some of the stuff actually works, so this could be a pretty good handbook on how to use Performance-based Hiring to find, recruit, assess, and hire passive candidates. To get started I figured I’d put the Table of Contents together with a short description. This is shown below.

You might find it useful as you compare this to your company’s approach to passive candidate recruiting.

Lou’s Rules for Finding, Recruiting, and Hiring Passive Candidates

  1. Review your hiring process workflow. The process used to find, recruit, assess, and hire passive candidates is fundamentally different than the one used for active candidates. Make sure you’re using the right one.
  2. Engage your hiring manager. If your hiring manager is not totally committed to hiring outstanding people, don’t bother with recruiting passive candidates. You won’t hire any, so don’t waste your energy. Post an ad instead, and hope for the best.
  3. Convert jobs into career opportunities. There is not one top passive candidate on the planet who is interested in a lateral transfer, so stop using job descriptions that list skills, duties, responsibilities, and competencies for recruiting or advertising purposes. Instead, define the big challenges of the job and the impact the person can make. We call these performance profiles.
  4. Only use compelling ads and emails. Passive candidates will always check out the job posting once they decide to find out more. That’s why the job posting itself must address the career-oriented mentality of the passive candidate. Here’s an example of a position we recently posted on LinkedIn that meets all of the requisite standards. Notice how skills are presented.
  5. Develop a workforce plan for all critical positions. It’s difficult enough to find, recruit, and hire passive candidates. It’s worse if you don’t have enough time to do it right. You should know today whom you need to hire over the next 3-6 months for every critical position in your company.
  6. Prepare a sequenced sourcing plan. Before you begin looking, you need a plan outlining all of the likely sourcing channels sequenced to maximize quality of hire in the shortest time to fill and at the lowest cost. Start with a supply vs. demand analysis by geography in combination with a compensation analysis for top performers.
  7. Create an ideal candidate persona. Define your target prospect from all perspectives including demographics, 360° connections, career and personal needs, decision criteria, job-hunting status, and the most likely companies to source from. If you don’t know who you’re looking for, you’ll waste a lot of time in all the wrong places.
  8. PERP your ERP and create a VTC. Get your employees to proactively connect (the P in PERP) with all of the best people they’ve ever worked with in the past. Then when you start asking for employee referrals (the ERP) for a specific position you’ll already have the best lined up. Collectively, this network represents a Virtual Talent Community (VTC).
  9. Only call people who are qualified and who will call you back. Getting pre-qualified referrals is the key to passive candidate recruiting. Getting someone credible, like a co-worker, to tell you about a great person with whom they’ve worked in the past is like gold. For one thing, they’ll call you back. For another, you already know they are perfectly qualified.
  10. Network, network, network following the 80/20 rule. Great recruiters don’t see LinkedIn simply as a list of 140mm+ people. To them it’s a one-degree connection to every top person in the world. That’s why getting 2-3 pre-qualified people on every call is essential. Then spend 80% of your time only calling these pre-qualified referrals, and get 2-3 more people on each of these subsequent calls.
  11. Bridge the gap on first contact. Whenever you call a passive prospect the person will always ask about “Day 1” criteria (salary, location, title, company) to see if it’s worth discussing. Yet when the person accepts an offer the “Year 1 and Beyond” criteria (career growth, team, cultural fit, total rewards, work/life balance, team) trounces the Day 1 stuff. Bridging this gap in the first five minutes is the key to successful passive candidate recruiting.
  12. Maintain applicant control from first contact until the start date. You need to ensure full disclosure, but too often passive prospects opt-out too early for all the wrong reasons. Candidates need to see your job as a true career opportunity, and one that they have to fight to get. You achieve this through applicant control: staying the buyer, not the seller.
  13. Formalize the final candidate decision-making process at the beginning. After you bridge the gap on first contact, the prospect must recognize that the process you suggest he/she uses to compare and select opportunities should be based on three sets of criteria: Day 1, Year 1, and Beyond. We’ll walk you through the form we use in our training, if you’re interested.
  14. Don’t take “No” for an answer. Persistence is the hallmark of the passive candidate recruiter. No matter what you do, the best candidates will always have concerns and objections. The key: uncover the concern, validate it, and then address it. Sometimes you’ll lose for the right reasons. Losing for the wrong reasons is a shame.
  15. Close on career opportunity, not compensation. Use the assessment to look for differences between what you need accomplished in comparison to what the person has achieved. The gap represents the career growth opportunity for the person. As long as this gap is big enough, compensation will become secondary.
  16. It’s not over until it’s over. Don’t stop recruiting just because the candidate has accepted your offer. The person will get a counteroffer or an offer from someone who just discovered your great passive candidate is looking. Get the hiring manager and the hiring team involved during this time between the acceptance and start date. Idea: review the performance profile and get the person to start planning out the big projects.

From beginning to end, the process for finding, recruiting, and hiring passive candidates is fundamentally different from the one used for active candidates. If hiring great people is important to your company’s success, the process used to recruit passive candidates should become your company’s default method, not the exception. Imagine the difference this would make.

This will be my shortest, and my last article for ERE. At least for 2011. Regardless of the timing and its length, it may very well be my most important article this year, at least if you want to hire top people who are not overtly looking for another job. It consists of a few pithy ideas you need to embrace if you want to be successful recruiting passive candidates.

Adler’s Holiday Missives 2011 on How to Recruit Passive Candidates

Bridge the Gap on First Contact. Recognize that for passive candidates “Criteria to Engage” is different that the “Criteria to Accept” an offer. On first contact passive candidates decide to engage based on “Day 1” criteria. This includes the job title, the company, the location, and the compensation. However, when deciding to accept an offer, top passive candidates use “Year 1 and Beyond” criteria. This includes the career opportunity, the importance of the work, the hiring manager and team, the compensation and total rewards package, work/life balance, and the company mission and culture. Being able to bridge this gap on first contact is the difference between hiring great people and wasting your time.

Recruiting Workflow Active vs. Passive: the recruiting process to source and hire active candidates is fundamentally different than what’s required to hire passive candidates. Passive candidates go slower, take more time to decide to become a candidate, and won’t follow traditional approaches. Most companies use a “surplus of candidates” model to design their workflow. If you want to hire top-notch passive candidates in any volume, you must use a “talent scarcity” model –otherwise your efforts are wasted. (Here’s a link to some upcoming webcasts that gets into this in more depth.)

Job Descriptions vs. Performance Profiles. Unless you have a big employer brand, passive candidates will only consider career moves even to engage in a short exploratory conversation. So if you tell the person about the job before you know anything about the candidate, you’ve lost the opportunity to recruit the person, make the job bigger, or get referrals. Since traditional job descriptions describe lateral transfers, they must be banished as part of a talent scarcity talent acquisition approach, and never, ever discussed in the first 30 minutes of the conversation. Here’s how to do this.

Consider the Pace — It’s Much Slower! For top people, especially passive candidates, the decision to change jobs is a strategic decision based on more “Year 1 and Beyond” criteria rather than “Day 1.” As shown in the graphic, this takes extra time. To pull this off recruiters must use consultative selling every step of way, fashioning a career move for the candidate as part of the process. Unfortunately, too many recruiters use a transactional sales approach trying to fill reqs by offering lateral transfers with a salary bump — all Day 1 stuff. Note: when dealing with passive candidates, for a recruiter being “results-oriented” needs to be more about advancing the process along the path and hiring top talent vs. getting positions filled quickly. (Also note: this is where a common competency like being “results-oriented” can have a totally different meaning on-the-job and typically results in the wrong type of recruiter being hired.)

Applicant Control. This is one of our core recruiter competencies described in our Corporate Recruiter Competency Model. The keys: stay the buyer, get the candidate to sell you, and you determine if you’re interested in the candidate before the candidate has a chance to say no. You must maintain applicant control to ensure the candidate makes a “Year 1 and Beyond” career decision. Here’s how to establish and maintain applicant control.

Don’t call anyone who won’t call you back, or isn’t qualified. For the newbie recruiter, LinkedIn is a database of 140mm+ names. For a seasoned headhunter it’s a one-degree connection to every top person on the planet. If you know how to network, you’ll be able to find out about every one of your connections’ connections and pre-qualify each one before calling. Then only call the best. They’ll call you back, too, if you mention how they got their name. Done properly, you should be able to generate a short list of qualified candidates in a few days. Here’s more on how to do this.

If you’re interested in improving your passive candidate recruiting game, start by reengineering your processes from a scarcity of talent perspective. Part of this is hiring recruiters who use a consultative approach to recruiting vs. a transactional sales approach. We’re hosting a number of webcasts in 2012 describing this difference. After you attend them, try out the ideas. You’ll discover they work. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, “when you come to a fork in the road, take it, otherwise it’s déjà vu all over again.”

Of late I’ve been making the contention that the strategies and tactics used to recruit active candidates is fundamentally different than the ones used for passive candidates. Until this foundational difference is resolved, companies will never be able to hire enough top talent to meet their needs, unless they have a big employer brand to hide their process inefficiencies.

Employer brands, however, have limited shelf lives in maturing markets. As an example, just compare Google today and its continuing series of product blunders to the Microsoft of 10-15 years ago. When a company’s business strategy changes due to changing market conditions, its talent acquisition strategies must immediately follow suit.

Quickly, here’s what I believe are at the root cause of most companies’ hiring challenges:

  1. The company’s talent acquisition and development strategy is out of alignment with its business strategy and operating plans.
  2. Lack of understanding of how the actual customer, in this case the passive candidate, decides to engage with a company and eventually accept an offer. Since there is a disproportionate percentage of top people in the passive pool, this is a critical shortcoming.
  3. The workflow and recruiting methods to find and hire passive candidates is fundamentally different than for active candidates. Unfortunately, most companies try to mishmash the two together, and wonder why neither one works too well.
  4. Overreliance on a big employer brand that hides process inefficiencies and narrows the selection criteria based on past hires rather than current and future business conditions.
  5. The decision-making process to hire or not hire someone is flawed, and does not fully address the fundamental reasons why top people underperform. Typically these involve style problems with the hiring manager, lack of clarification around total job needs including available resources, and a superficial assessment of cultural and environmental fit.

Aligning Talent Acquisition Strategies, Plans, and Processes

Addressing the lack-of-alignment problem starts by examining each factor involved in the process. Start with these core components to see how well-aligned your company is. As you read through the descriptions, you’ll quickly see how lack of alignment on any of these factors creates inefficiency, lost opportunity, and problems with attracting, hiring, and retaining the best. One example will highlight problems causes by lack of alignment: a passive-candidate program to target world-class design innovators will fall short if the compensation is based on group averages instead of best in class. I’m sure you’ll see similar problems at your company as you read the list.

Business Strategy. The long-term business plan combined with current operating plans needs to drive every aspect of a company’s talent acquisition program. When the business strategy changes, everything else has to change in domino-like fashion, including the talent acquisition strategy. Since talent acquisition is so critical, if it doesn’t flex quickly with changes in a company’s business strategy, it becomes the tail wagging the dog.

Talent Acquisition Strategy. This needs to support the business strategy with emphasis on ensuring that the best people are put into critical roles. A quality-of-hire target for each job category should further refine this, with specific targets for all managerial, professional, staff, and rank-in-file positions. If you’re a recruiter and don’t know this for your assignments, either you’re not working the hot jobs, or your recruiting department is out of sync with the business it’s supporting.

Workforce Planning. A workforce plan allows a company to develop internal mobility and succession planning programs, and from this, determine external needs by class of jobs. Different sourcing programs are then developed depending on candidate demand vs. local supply, and whether candidates are active or passive. A workforce plan is the first step involved in turning a talent acquisition strategy into a operating plan, so if you don’t have one, you’re missing an important connecting link.

Sourcing Strategy by Job Category. A passive candidate sourcing program is far different than one designed for active candidates. Active is generally higher volume and based on a “find-and-apply” model. A passive candidate program is more targeted, including focused messages, and a multi-step “career discovery and matching process” before the candidate agrees to be a candidate.

Active and Passive Candidate Recruiting Workflow. This is a huge tipping point, and even if the planning and strategy development is appropriate, it often falls apart at the execution level. The key is to have at least two different workflow branches. The passive candidate branch would focus more on the prospect’s needs, involve a formal means to “bridge the gap” at first contact to ensure candidates never opt-out without full information, include pre-interview exploratory conversations with the hiring manager, and a career-based closing and negotiating process.

Of course, there are still a bunch of other HR/recruiting issues that need to be included as part of this talent acquisition program, but these are the big ones (here’s a link to the full list). Doing the up-front talent strategy and planning and then executing against this plan is why doing this right is important. Surprisingly, many companies react to changes in hiring needs rather than plan for them. This is equivalent to putting the cart before the horse, doing the doing before the thinking, or firing before aiming.

While most companies complain they can’t find enough top talent, the root cause is more likely a lack of alignment with the company’s business strategy and talent acquisition programs. If you don’t have enough recruiters, if hiring managers aren’t held accountable, if compensation determines who gets hired, if your ATS establishes your workflow, or if some corporate lawyer says you have to write a boring ad, you are experiencing the problem first hand. Collectively all of these practices and processes are built upon a surplus-of-candidates mentality. The idea behind this approach is to attract as many unqualified people as you can, and hope that a good person falls through the cracks.

Alternatively, you could build your talent programs on a scarcity-of-talent model. In this approach, the needs of the best people determine the workflow, not a DBA. To get a sense of a talent-centric approach, consider how some of your recent best hires made it through the maze. As you review what happened, don’t be surprised that someone “modified” your company’s basic processes to meet the person’s needs. Commonsense would then suggest that you make the talent-centric approach the default rather than the exception. This is a great way to start aligning your talent acquisition programs to meet your company’s business strategy.

You can’t recruit and hire passive candidates using the same workflow nor the same recruiters used for active candidates.

We conducted an in-depth survey with LinkedIn last year that indicated that 82% of their fully-employed members were unlikely to even consider switching jobs unless directly contacted by a recruiter or through an employee they’ve worked with closely in the past. This increased slightly to 83% in this year’s survey. This is shown on the graph, with the dark blue line representing the satisfaction level of those surveyed (4,550 fully-employed LinkedIn members) comparing their job seeking status and job requirements over time.

From a strategy standpoint, the idea is to find candidates either the moment they actively enter the job market, or before. But to do this, you need a different process for sourcing and recruiting the 83% who are not actively looking than used for those who are. This is what is meant by an “Early-bird Sourcing Strategy.”

The surveys also highlighted the fact that most companies spend most of their recruiting resources targeting the 17% who are actively looking. Making matters more challenging, while most passive candidates are open to a discussion with a recruiter, they would only consider a significant career move to switch jobs.

Over the next several weeks I’ll be hosting a few webcasts describing how to develop this type of early-bird sourcing program. Part of this will describe some of the workflow process changes required to support the strategy, and the specific competencies a recruiter needs to possess in order to implement it. These changes are not insignificant.

Here a just a few of the big ones:

Some Big Workflow Changes Required to Support a Passive Candidate Early-bird Sourcing Strategy

  1. Elimination of traditional skills-and-experience-laden job descriptions for recruiting advertising purposes. To be effective, voice mails, emails and job postings need to emphasize the long-term value proposition of the job plus some of types of projects the person will be working on.
  2. Implementation of a “sequence of steps” recruiting model including a career discovery process vs. a transactional (“find and apply”) hiring process. This represents the heart of the workflow changes required and why different recruiting skills are essential. Passive candidates evaluate job changes using a hybrid of long- and short-term criteria. Collecting this information often takes multiple meetings and discussions with the hiring manager. This is fundamentally different than active candidates who have an economic need driving their decision-making.
  3. Development of virtual talent communities driven by proactive In-Out employee referral programs. An In-Out auto-matching referral program is a relatively new concept. The idea is to automatically connect a newly opened job with the company’s employees’ pre-qualified first-degree connections. The purpose of this is to push compelling career messages (an outbound process) to people who are not looking. Typical talent communities are comprised of active candidates who have signed-up (inbound) to follow the company.

 Highlights of a Recruiter Competency Model for Passive Candidates

Recruiting passive candidates requires more talented and tenacious recruiters. We’ve developed a complete, multi-factor passive candidate recruiter competency model with a detailed ranking score to help recruiting leaders assess their teams. Email me if you’d like a sample version of the full recruiter competency model, but following are the essential factors (a warning to recruiting leaders: do not allow your recruiters to contact passive candidates unless they possess these skills):

  1. Partners with Hiring Manager: recruiters don’t have much credibility with a top person who’s not looking, if they don’t know the hiring manager extremely well. More important, if the recruiter and hiring manager are not both working in tandem, it’s impossible to move top people through the sequence of discovery steps mentioned above.
  2. Someone Worth Knowing and Subject Matter Expert: recruiters must know the company strategy, the company’s basic financial strength, the industry and where the company stands, the competition and why the company is better positioned, and all of the associated compensation and benefit issues. When a recruiter contacts a person who’s not looking — especially the best ones — these prospects are deciding not only if the career opportunity is worth pursuing, but also if the recruiter is credible.
  3. Develops and Implements Customized Sourcing and Networking Programs: as shown in the graphic above, those who aren’t looking need to be contacted directly either via email, through networking, or employee referral. Getting the names of these people is easy. However, getting on the phone and developing deep networks of highly qualified prospects is the difference between having a list of names and some great prospects open to talking with a hiring manager.
  4. Understands Real Job Needs and Associated Career Opportunity: passive candidates will always want to know a few things about the job just to determine if it’s worth a serious discussion. Recruiters must be able to present this on multiple levels, including the job’s importance, some of the key projects and tasks involved, the impact of these on the company’s business plans, and why it represents a career move for the right person. Most recruiters drop the ball here, and not only lose a potentially strong candidate, but also a great networking opportunity.
  5. Accurately Assesses Competency, Motivation, and Fit: recruiting passive candidates involves not only thorough job knowledge, but also the ability to assess the prospect’s ability and motivation to do this work. A key part of this is determining cultural, job, and managerial fit. Since these candidates aren’t looking, good assessment skills allows the recruiter to compare actual job requirements to the candidate’s background, and credibly demonstrate why the job represents a career move.
  6. Recruits, Advises, Negotiates, and Closes Top Prospects: Persuading top prospects who are not looking, getting them to engage in a series of career discussions, pushing the process along, and then closing the deal on equitable terms is what recruiting passive candidates is all about. Collectively this is represented by the 6Cs of Passive Candidate Recruiting. Very few of these overlap with the skills required to find and recruit active candidates.

Unless you have a big employer brand, it’s impossible to attract the 83% of fully-employed professionals who aren’t looking using the same sourcing and recruiting techniques used for the 17% who are. These are two different worlds, and while most recruiting leaders recognize the difference, I find it puzzling that only a few are willing to do anything about it.

If you weren’t at LinkedIn’s Talent Connect last week in Las Vegas (Oct 17-19, 2011) you missed the recruiting event of the year. Since most of the work I do is with SMBs (small to medium size business), I was asked to lead a program on how to create a big brand without the big name. As part of this I introduced a new concept for how companies should benchmark their social media presence and effectiveness: the Social Media Pyramid. I know many of you will be vying for awards at the Spring 2012 ERE Expo, and social media will play a role in quite a few of the awards, so I thought I’d give you my guidelines for using the Social Media Pyramid as guide.

Most companies are using a hodgepodge of social media ideas, trying a little of this and a little of that, in the hope something works. Rather than proceed in such a haphazard manner, I’ve decided to give some structure to the process by creating five levels of social media effectiveness based on currently available technology.

This hierarchy approach will be further refined over the next few months, but for now use these guidelines to figure out where your company stands and what you need to do to become a social media maven. (We’re hosting a webcast with Jobvite on November 3, 2011, describing the Social Media Pyramid in more depth.)

Novice: to rank at this inglorious bottom level all you need to have are Facebook and LinkedIn company pages with your boring job descriptions posted in some illogical and uninteresting order. Now all you need to do is to get people to follow you, with these followers regularly pinged via Twitter or the social media’s site internal pinging machine when a job is opened. Despite what any vendor tells you, this type of social media program is designed to stay in touch with active candidates who have excess time on their hands. If you have a big employer magnet, it might be all you need, though.

Minimalist: to move past Novice on the social media pyramid you need to have some type of CRM system driving your messaging and do at least two other things. First, be a little different. Second, be found.

At one level being different means your social media site is more robust; perhaps it has a game or something unique to keep prospects engaged, maybe the company vision/mission is presented in more compelling terms; or, best of all, the jobs themselves are a little bit more exciting. Being found, especially for the SMBs, means someone can find your company by searching on Google or one of the job aggregators with just a job title and a location without your company name. If you can’t get this part right, just think of how many prospects aren’t seeing your job postings.

Progressive: now we’re starting to get serious. Being serious starts by implementing a hub-and-spoke model for your social media efforts where prospects are driven via aggressive marketing programs to your page, microsite, group, or circle. The idea is to group all similar jobs into a master job class — for example, all hydraulic design engineers from mid- to senior-level — and then differentiate how you manage each of these master classes. From these master or landing pages you need to offer unique content and drive prospects to specific jobs as they open up via robust CRM systems (differentiated messages depending on master class and the prospect’s job-seeking phase).

In addition to the hub-and-spoke approach, true Progressives offer a means to easily connect prospects directly with employees they know both before a req is open, as well as after. At the Progressive stage social media metrics enter the picture. Tracking source of candidate opt-in and hire rates by channel allows for both the appropriate allocation of resources and as a means to improve the content and process.

Maven: aside from doing all of the above, Mavens realize that true passive candidates, especially the best, aren’t going to partake in the social media shenanigans in similar fashion to active candidates. Differentiation at the job level is critical for success at the Maven level. For one thing, just consider that the best passive candidates won’t even consider another position unless it represents a true career move. In this case a laundry list of traditional job postings won’t get much attention.

On top of the messaging, the process passive candidates use to engage, compare, and select the best of competing opportunities must also be different. From a social media perspective it means the job titles must be enticing, the job description themselves compelling, and the methods of attracting and staying in contact unique. It goes without saying that the process used to connect jobs with prospects through a company’s ERP system is automatic, robust, and professional. Very few companies are at this level, so if you’re one of them, you’re certain to become an ERE finalist.

World Leader: following are the most important components of a social media World Leader program. As you review the factors, rank yourself from bad to great to give your company some type of initial benchmark. If you rank outstanding on each of these measures, not only will you be a certain ERE Spring 2012 finalist, but probably the top dog award-winner, as well.

  • Career-focused messaging: if you don’t have a big employer name, assume all you’re attracting are active candidates unless all of your emails, job postings, Twitters, chats, and voice mail clearly describe career opportunities.
  • Auto Outbound PERP: a proactive ERP means your employees are formally connecting with the best people they’ve worked with in the past. This is important, since with “Auto Outbound PERP” once a req is opened your employees are notified if they have any strong first-degree matches. This auto-outbound ERP system is more effective since it drives passive candidate referrals, while an inbound auto-ERP process allows active candidates to find employees they are connected to.
  • Virtual Talent Community: Whichever company has the best passive candidates directly connected to their employees will win the new war for talent. Building talent pipelines of active candidates is great for filling positions quickly, but not for raising a company’s overall talent level. A VTC by class of job requires aggressive PERPing, great recruiters, true career opportunities, fully engaged hiring managers, and a competitive compensation structure.
  • Interactive CRM: Most recruiting CRM systems offer nothing more than the ability to deliver a series of timed, group-based messages. Direct marketing-based CRM systems have the ability to send a series of sequences and semi-individualized messages to prospects based on their job-hunting status and interests. In some ways this is akin to a virtual recruiter assigned to each prospect in your VTC.
  • An aligned talent-centric strategy and tactics: The criteria top people (whether active or passive) use to initially engage with a company is different than what’s used to decide whether to accept an offer or not. The former is more about compensation, title/company, and location. The latter is more about growth and opportunity. On top of this, most companies use the same apply/assess/recruit/close process for both passive and active candidates. No matter what social media programs you use, this mismatch will preclude companies from attracting and hiring as many top performers as possible.

Developing a series of social media recruiting programs should be part of an overall talent acquisition strategy. Based on what I’ve seen, most companies instead assign the role to someone who’s social-media savvy, rather than a person who is charged with developing a companywide program for improving quality of hire. As Magic Johnson said at LinkedIn’s Talent Connect, strategy drives tactics, not the other way around. This seems like good advice whether you’re playing basketball, running a company, or climbing the ranks of the Social Media Pyramid.

Nasa photo of "crystal ball" nebula

I’m going to go out on a very firm limb here and suggest that I’ve just seen the future of passive candidate recruiting and sourcing 2012-2015, and it’s amazing. Before I uncover this tasty morsel for all to see and properly digest, let me set the stage, the lighting, and get the orchestra warmed-up. 

Let me start with the basics of networking and the idea of developing a preliminary list of prospects. Most would agree that a pre-qualified referred candidate from a highly qualified co-worker is the standard of perfection. The reason: since they’re pre-qualified, you already know a bunch of important things about the person — e.g., how good they are, their compensation, if they’re looking or not, a rough idea of how they’d fit in your culture, and their team and leadership skills. That’s a lot of good information to know about someone before you even talk with them. And as a bonus, they’ll call you back if you mention the name of the co-worker.

Of course, you still need to engage with and recruit the person, but this is lot easier than having to call dozens of people, most of whom won’t call you back, and even if they do, you have no sense if they’re qualified and/or interested. This concept forms the foundation of the virtual talent community and future of passive candidate sourcing. Automating and scaling represent the hidden ingredients.

Now let’s consider technology as part of the proposed solution, particularly the concept of auto-ERP. This is one of the emerging bright spots in the world of sourcing and recruiting technology. The basic idea is that candidates can now directly connect with an employee they know at a company when they see a job posting of interest. LinkedIn includes this feature with its “Apply Now” button presenting a list of first-degree connections at the company. Jobvite offers this as part of its social recruiting services, and Jobs2Web provides it as part of its interactive sourcing programs.

But this is only half the solution, and the weaker half, at that. Let’s call this half outside-in auto-ERP, meaning candidates find your posting and then try to connect with your employees. In the long-term inside-out has more potential for passive candidate sourcing. In this case, the sourcing starts at the moment a job requisition is created. The inside-out auto-ERP system then searches through your company’s employees’ connections looking for great matches. The inside-out capability is what drives the virtual talent community and allows it to be scaled throughout the company.

PERP is the last piece of the puzzle. This stands for Proactive ERP (employee referral program). The problem with auto-ERP is that most of the existing connections, regardless of how fast you find them, aren’t going to yield as many top prospects as desired. The reason is that most of your employees haven’t made a point of building their networks with the idea of maintaining contact with the best people they’ve worked with in the past. While this might happen now and then, more likely their networks are composed of their good friends, people they know somewhat, a few subordinates, a potential future boss, and semi-casual current and former co-workers. This laissez-faire approach has limited value when it comes to turning these connections into outstanding employee referrals. While some will be there, most will not be. So when the auto-ERP engine starts doing its thing, it won’t find much.

PERP changes the game. The idea here is to set up internal company programs for employees to proactively connect with the best people they’ve worked with in the past, independent of their “friendship” status. Jobvite is doing this with a new for app for your employees to use for Facebook. LinkedIn is a little more direct since it’s designed to be a professional network of business associates. Regardless of the social media platform, PERP allows you to dramatically expand your employees’ network of top people.

Combining PERP, inside-out auto-ERP, and the concept of only calling pre-qualified referrals, represents the Virtual Talent Community, and in my mind the future of passive candidate sourcing and recruiting. Having a database of resumes, aka a “talent community,” is less advantageous than having a deep network of direct connections to the best people pre-qualified and referred to you by your own employees. With this type of virtual talent community in place, once a requisition is opened you’ll instantly see a pool of potential prospects emerge. Your employees will be automatically notified that one of their connections could be a good fit for the new career opportunity. They then can decide to contact the person directly, send an email, have a recruiter make the call, or suggest the match is not appropriate. As long as the posting represents a great career opportunity and the connection is a strong match, some type of contact will likely be established. (You might want to sign-up for a number of webcasts we’re hosting over the next weeks on how to implement these concepts.)

Of course, even with a virtual talent community, you still have to engage, screen, and recruit the prospects, but this is required anyway. However, we all know that when dealing with passive candidates, stronger recruiting and closing skills are required than when dealing with active candidates.

While all of this stuff is now being developed, you don’t have to wait to test out the virtual talent community concept for yourself. Here’s how. Search on some of your employees’ first-degree connections for a current search. If you have LinkedIn Recruiter you can do this automatically. You also might want to use LinkedIn to find co-workers you don’t now know who might be connected to the right type of person, and then connect with them. When you get a few good prospects, just call up the employee and ask what he or she thinks. Then connect with those people who are the best. You’ll discover they’ll all call you back, and since they’re pre-qualified, you just need to describe the career opportunity and get them interested. I refer to this as process as cherry-picking, and while what’s described here is manually intense, you quickly see how it could be automated and scaled throughout the organization.

The future of passive candidate sourcing and recruiting will accelerate with the development of the virtual talent community as described here. Of course, once everyone has the same tools and processes, they won’t help much from a talent acquisition standpoint since all your best employees will be connected with everyone else’s. The key then will be to make sure you’re providing your employees the best career opportunities. But until then, whoever has the first and deepest virtual talent community will have a field day.

In a recent Harvard Business Review blog I came across this quote attributed to Steve Jobs (this has been paraphrased for the ERE audience):

Screw the channel.

Manage the present for optimum performance.

Reinvent the future.

The equivalent for recruiting goes something like this:

Screw sourcing.

Maximize quality of hire.

Become a great recruiter.

The point: hiring great talent is not about great sourcing; it’s about great recruiting. And if you continue to chase the next sourcing silver bullet you’ll wind upexactly where you are today in 5-10 years from now. In fact, those of you who have followed the “chase-the-sourcing-silver-bullet” strategy have not improved quality of hire in the past 5-10 years. The only companies who have shattered this fundamental truth in the war for talent have been those who have a great employer brand. For everyone else, improving quality of hire requires great recruiters.

In a nutshell, here’s my secret formula for hiring great talent:

Great Hires = Good Sourcing plus Great Recruiting

If you follow this formula you’ll be seeing and hiring far better people. Here are some ideas on how to reinvent the future of recruiting:

  1. Don’t post job descriptions. These only work for those who have an economic need to apply. A great ad that leads with the EVP and emphasizes the impact of the actual work involved will increase your response rate at least 5X. There is no law, even the OFCCP’s, that says your postings have to be boring. Here’s an article for more on this important topic, but the key is to attract as many good people at the top of your sourcing funnel and then making sure you keep the best ones engaged from beginning to end.
  2. Bridge the gap. The criteria top people initially use to engage with a recruiter is not the same as that used for deciding to accept an offer. Most people, especially if they’re fully employed, always ask about the compensation, the company, the job, and location when first contacted by a recruiter. These are very short-term tactical issues. When these same people decide to accept an offer, they consider different things, typically the growth opportunity; the impact the job can make; what they can learn, do, and become; the compensation and work-life balance issues; and the company and the mission. These are long-term and career strategy issues. Good recruiters know how to finesse the conversation to shift the discussion away from the short-term to the long-term in the first five minutes. As a result, they increase their opt-in rate on every call and contact. If you don’t know how to bridge this gap, you’re then forced to find more candidates. That’s why recruiters who can’t pull this off look for more new sourcing techniques to find more candidates rather than recruit the ones they already have.
  3. Follow the 80/20 rule for passive candidate sourcing. Passive candidate sourcing is all about networking, not name generation. You need to get 1-2 pre-qualified referrals on every call to anyone on LinkedIn, then spend 80% of your time calling the best of these people. The payoff: they’ll call you back and they’ve been prequalified. That’s why bridging the gap is such a critical technique. Developing a relationship with a top person takes about 10 minutes, at least. If the person is not appropriate for the job then the process of networking can begin. As a minimum this consists of connecting with the person and then asking about their first-degree connections by cherry picking the best of them.
  4. PERP your ERP. The new big thing in sourcing is auto-connecting your company’s open jobs with your employees’ LinkedIn and Facebook connections. LinkedIn, Jobvite, and Jobs2Web (among others) are now offering this important capability. This auto-connecting ability is getting smarter day by day and will represent a huge opportunity for those who know how to take advantage of this and target passive candidates. One way is to proactively seek out your employees’ best connections using the cherry picking mentioned above. This is the P in PERP: proactive. To turbo-charge your PERP and to lead the effort for reinventing the future, get your employees to connect with the best people they’ve worked with in the past. Then, sometime in the future, when you open a new requisition, the best people will be immediately identified through your employees’ LinkedIn network.
  5. Minimize your opt-out ratio: aka, plug the leaks in your sourcing bucket. Top people don’t look for new jobs the same way average people do. They have different needs, they use different criteria for applying and accepting, and they move at a far different pace. Designing your sourcing processes around the needs of top active and passive candidates, rather than average candidates, will maximize the percent of top performers who ultimately apply. To get started on this, conduct a complete process review of your entire sourcing, interviewing, and hiring process. At each step, ask yourself if this is the best way to engage with a top-person who is not looking. After about an hour, you’ll have figured out the 4-5 things you need to do immediately to increase your end-to-end yield.
  6. Defend your candidate from dumb decisions. If you do all of the above well, you’ll have 2-3X as many top candidates without having to do much else. Even better, you’ll have gotten out of the trap of “chasing the next silver sourcing bullet” mentally. However, if your hiring managers tend to overemphasize skills and/or aren’t very good at assessing candidate ability and/or aren’t very good at recruiting the best people to work for them, then you’ll need to coach them every step along the way. One way to do this is become a better interviewer than your hiring managers. You’ll never be able to out-yell a hiring manager, but you can out-fact them. Providing specific in-depth details about the candidate’s past performance can often override a biased or superficial assessment. If you do this often enough, find stronger candidates whom you’ve recruited and can close more top people without giving away the farm, you’ll soon be recognized as a true co-equal partner in the process.

Stop chasing the next sourcing silver bullet. Instead become a great recruiter, design your hiring processes around the needs of top people, offer careers instead of jobs, and partner with your hiring manager clients. As Steve Jobs would say if you asked him about recruiting:

Screw sourcing.

Maximize quality of hire.

Become a great recruiter.

Measuring quality of hire (QoH) is somewhat elusive, but critical if a company wants to know if its sourcing, recruiting, assessment, and hiring programs are working properly. Without it, implementing a raising-the-talent-bar strategy become problematic. In this article I’d like to focus on some core issues involving QoH, and offer an idea on how to measure it both pre- and post-hire.

Let’s get started by first defining Quality of Hire (QoH). In an ERE article last year, I proposed this as a basic definition: how well a new person meets the performance needs of the job using the following 1-5 yardstick:

Level 1.0: Underperforms on all core performance requirements of the job.

Level 2.0: Reasonable match on most job needs, but needs extra management, direction, or coaching to meet the basic performance standards.

Level 2.5: Average performance. Meets basic requirements of the job with a normal degree of management coaching and direction.

Level 3.0: Solid performance. Meets significant performance requirements of the job on a consistent basis with minimal management direction and support.

Level 4.0: Consistently exceeds significant performance requirements of the job on measures of quality and/or quantity.

Level 5.0: Far exceeds significant performance requirements of the job on a consistent basis.

While typical interview and assessment tools can differentiate between above and below average performance, they don’t do too well in determining if someone is a Level 3, 4 or 5. Traditional job descriptions are part of the problem, not the solution, since they emphasize skills rather than performance. Generic competency models are similarly flawed, since they don’t adjust for the actual job requirements nor any unusual circumstances involved. Behavioral interviewing works to some degree by adding structure to the interview and reducing emotional bias, but is not specific enough in measuring variations in good performance. While these tools are adequate for separating the good from the bad, they’re far less effective for measuring QoH.

To more precisely measure pre-hire QoH, understand what drives performance and what causes underperformance. Assuming the person hired was appropriate on all traditional measures, a determination then needs to be made as to whether the person was hired for the right job, for the right manager, for the right company, and under the right circumstances. This type of multi-step approach offers a model for developing the means to measure pre-hire QoH. Here’s how: 

  1. Good person hired or not. First determine if the person hired was a generically solid performer in past roles doing similar work. For our purposes let’s define a Level 3 performer as someone who is in the top third or the top quartile of their peer group. These are people who get assigned bigger projects, get promoted faster, get bigger reviews, and receive formal recognition for a job well-done.
  2. Good job fit or not. A good person put in the wrong job is a big cause of underperformance, yet in most companies this assessment is not as robust as it should be. To measure pre-hire QoH on a job fit basis requires an assessment of past performance to some predefined future performance. Consider the Gallup Q12 as a guide for this. The Q12 identifies 12 factors that drive performance and satisfaction. Most of them relate to job fit, e.g., clarifying expectations up front; providing appropriate tools, resources, and materials; assigning people work they are highly motivated to perform; and providing appropriate training. Most companies blunderbuss their way through the job fit part of the assessment by over-relying on generic competency models, poorly constructed assessments, and an over-emphasis on skills. None of these help measure pre-hire QoH more precisely. A direct assessment of job fit, including the ability and motivation to perform the work at peak levels is an important subset of the pre-hire QoH measurement.
  3. Good managerial fit or not. A good person doing the right job for the wrong manager is a primary cause of dissatisfaction and under-performance. Bad managers demotivate their teams, and the best ones inspire them. One way to measure managerial fit as part of pre-hire QoH is to compare the new hire’s developmental and managerial needs to how the hiring manager trains, develops, and manages his/her team. This is a variation of Blanchard and Hersey’s work on situational leadership.
  4. Right company/situation or not. Given a good person, appropriate job, and the right manager, a mismatch at the company cultural or circumstance level could still undermine performance. During the assessment some measure needs to be made regarding these environmental issues, including pace, intensity, level of sophistication, complexity, how decisions are made, resource availability, and company politics. While most companies recognize the importance of this, the actual assessment is relatively superficial.

Considering this multi-step concept, here’s an approach for measuring and maximizing quality of hire:

  1. During the intake meeting, prepare a performance profile clarifying the performance expectations for the job.
  2. Look for the achiever pattern during an extended work-history review. This is comparable to gathering forensic evidence that the person is in the top half of the top half, doing work similar to that described in the performance profile.
  3. Conduct a “performance review” approach to interviewing, rather than a traditional behavioral interview. Here’s how: during the interview spend 10-15 minutes digging into the best example you can find of the candidate doing something similar for each of the performance objectives listed in the performance profile (here’s an interview guide for this). Then “grade” the person the same way you’d conduct a performance review using the 1-5 scale noted above.
  4. Examine the trend of performance over time and compare this to top performers in your company. The idea is that the steeper the slope of the line the stronger the person.
  5. Assess managerial fit. One way to do this is to compare how controlling vs. hands-off the hiring manager is to how much direction and support the candidate has received in the past.
  6. Measure cultural and situational fit by understanding the circumstances associated with the candidate’s best work. The idea here is to determine if there are any situational issues that affect performance.
  7. Measure team skills by examining the functional makeup of and types of teams the person has led and has been assigned to.
  8. Combine all of the separate scores for the 10 factors into an overall pre-hire quality of hire measure using the talent scorecard.

One problem companies have in measuring pre-hire quality of hire is the continued reliance on old tools. The metaphor that to a person with only a hammer every problem looks like a nail, rings true in this situation. To measure pre-hire QoH more precisely requires a different way of thinking and different measuring sticks. The multi-step approach is a simple way to rethink the problem in combination with a pre-hire performance review type of interview. Using a quality of hire scorecard like this is a reasonable approach to assess all of the variables that best predict on-the-job performance and those that contribute to underperformance. As long as the scorecard is based on real job needs and circumstances, the same evaluation process can then be conducted post-hire. The causes of differences in predicted vs. actual job performance can then be identified and used for process improvement.

Implementing a talent acquisition strategy requires some type of QoH metric to monitor effectiveness and provide immediate feedback. After the fact is too late to do anything much about it, since you won’t know if it’s working or not. The approach suggested here offers a commonsense roadmap to begin. From what I’ve seen, getting started is often the most difficult part of the journey.

Let’s get real here. Anyone who thinks LinkedIn is in the doghouse when it comes to recruiting the best talent isn’t a real recruiter, or they don’t know the difference between active and passive candidates, or they think sourcing is recruiting. So I’m going to use this article (and this webcast) to set the record straight.

First, let me first define a real recruiter:

  1. They have excellent relations with the hiring manager and the hiring team. As part of this, 100% of their candidates they present are interviewed by the hiring manager, and none are bad.
  2. They understand what it takes to maximize quality of hire, and achieve it on every assignment.
  3. They thoroughly understand real job requirements and why the job is important to the company. As part of this they can convince their hiring managers that using traditional job descriptions minimizes the opportunity to hire top performers.
  4. They are subject matter experts when it comes to knowing the company, the industry, the compensation ranges for the positions they handle, and the competition.
  5. They prepare sourcing plans and programs based on how the best talent looks for work, especially passive candidates.
  6. They are comfortable picking up the phone and talking to real people and getting outstanding referrals.
  7. The best candidates consider these recruiters great career advisors and proactively refer other top people to them.
  8. They can accurately assess competency and job fit on multiple measures including how the hiring manager and the person will work together.
  9. They maximize their first contact to final close yield (candidate opt-out rate) by recruiting at every step in the process.
  10. They can close the deal by emphasizing the career growth opportunity, not the compensation.

Being a real recruiter is less important if cost per hire is more important than quality of hire, and your management team is comfortable with hiring average people. However, if you want to implement a raising-the-talent-bar strategy, or facing a situation where the supply of talent is less than the demand, you need a real recruiter to pull it off, and in most cases they’ll need to target passive candidates. (Here’s a “real recruiter” competency model we created, if you’d like to rank yourself or your teammates. You need to score at least 35 out of 50 points to be considered a “real recruiter.”)

From a “let’s get real recruiting” standpoint, LinkedIn has a major edge over its current rivals. This is important since 82% of the professional fully employed categorize themselves as passive candidates. With real recruiting in mind, here are my top reasons why LinkedIn has a significant edge over Facebook, Google+, and those newbies who think they offer a better solution.

It’s about strategy, not tactics. Hiring top talent is not the same as filling positions with good people. Unknowingly, most companies employ a “candidate surplus” hiring model to fill their open positions, even the most critical ones. These means their hiring processes are designed around the idea of getting lots of people to apply, with the hope that a good person emerges. A talent scarcity model is totally different. In this case the hiring process is much more focused, designed around the concept that great talent is much more discriminating and a career opportunity discussion/decision dominates every step, from first contact to the final close. When viewed from a quality-of-hire perspective, LinkedIn’s advantages and options in the hands of a recruiter who actually recruits, rather than just screens, are far superior.

LinkedIn is a network, not a list of names. As mentioned in an earlier article, LinkedIn is not just a list of names to find and send emails. Instead it’s a 360° dynamic network of smart connections. Compare the flat list of Facebook to a clumsy hub-and-spoke distribution system (a one-to-many network) vs. instantly connecting everyone with everyone else by one degree of separation. This is almost equivalent to a point-to-point (everyone directly connected to everyone else). It’s this multi-level interconnectivity that allows a recruiter to Cherry Pick, PERP, and hopscotch (some advanced recruiter networking terms, see point 4) around his/her first degree connections and find a slate of pre-qualified candidates with a few phone calls and emails.

The short summary: a network is for networking, and real recruiters know how to network. On this basis LinkedIn is far ahead of its rivals.

Sourcing is not recruiting. If you have an excess of top talent to choose from who apply to your ads, you don’t need real recruiters. Microsoft was in this enviable position in the ’90s and Google claimed this space in  the ’00s. But selecting from a pool of top applicants is not recruiting; it’s screening and assessment.

Equally important, getting a list of names is sourcing, not recruiting, no matter how clever you are at Boolean searching. For example, there was a recent blog about how cool it was to be able to find primary school teachers in Ireland using state-of-the art Boolean terms. As a comparison test, I found pre-qualified candidates for the same job by calling up three headmasters at private schools in Ireland whom I found using LinkedIn’s seemingly prosaic advanced search tool. Even better, these candidates were all pre-qualified (I asked who the best primary school teachers they would want to hire again were) and they all called me back right away because I mentioned the headmaster’s name.

Navigation and the UI is critical. If you’re going to use a network for networking, LinkedIn has no peers. It was architected with this in mind. Real recruiters are as interested in finding hot prospects as they are in finding a person directly connected to a hot prospect. Getting referrals who have already been vetted and will call you back is the key to maximizing quality (see point 3 for an example), time to fill, and recruiter productivity (number of searches handled). You can accelerate this benefit by asking your employees to connect with the best people they’ve worked with at all of their prior companies. This is a PERP (proactive employee referral program). Then, when you have a search, search on their first-degree connections (LinkedIn easily allows you to do this). This is a high-yield effort. You can also Cherry Pick these connections by asking your employees (or any of your first-degree connections for that matter) about specific people in their first-degree connections. While you’re at it, using LinkedIn you can easily hopscotch around any profile you find by clicking the “Search for Similar People” button, the “Viewers of this profile also viewed…” feature, and even a person’s Recommendations. A multi-point network like LinkedIn allows you to do this stuff instantly. No other social media provides this type of interconnectivity.

Sourcing passive prospects and sourcing active candidates are not the same, nor should the choice of tools be. At the root of much of the LinkedIn vs. Google+ vs. Facebook vs. whatever debate is the fact that finding and recruiting people who are not looking requires a fundamentally different process than the one used for screening and selecting candidates who apply for your jobs. LinkedIn is great for real recruiters who are willing to pick up the phone and network. If you have plenty of great people to choose from or you’re willing to settle on the quality-of-hire metric, LinkedIn is probably not the best choice for you. On the other hand, if you’re a real recruiter you know it was designed with you in mind.

Long before I became a recruiter (I was an engineer working on inertial guidance systems), my first boss asked me to explain how these two concepts relate and why they were important to understand and apply: “Energy = Mass times the Speed of light squared and you can’t push on a rope.” I guess I was slow, since it took me a few years to figure it out. For a good engineer, knowing both is essential. The same principle can be applied to recruiting. If you think sourcing is recruiting, or that LinkedIn is not the primary platform for recruiting, you’re stuck on only half the solution to any complex problem.

(Hint: it relates to the adage – to a person with only a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.)

I’m concerned that most corporate recruiters don’t understand what it really takes to recruit passive candidates. In three minutes, I think you’ll agree. If you’re looking for candidates where the demand for talent outstrips supply, the ability to recruit top passive candidates will now be more difficult than ever. Those people with good jobs will hang on even tighter, and recruiters will need to use every technique in the book to pry them loose.

In the first article in this series I defined six skills that a recruiter must possess in order to effectively recruit passive candidates. Collectively, they’re called the 6Cs. While all are important, some are more critical than others. Here are the results of a recent poll we took of corporate and third-party recruiters asking them to define the most important of the six skills. Here’s the link to the poll so you can participate yourself. You might want to do this before you read the rest of this article. This way your responses won’t be biased.

The top three vote getters in this poll were the need to articulate a Compelling message, the ability to quickly convert your job opening into a Career move, and the Conviction that you won’t give up despite candidate reluctance to move ahead. The least important — at least according to the poll participants — were the need to Control the conversation, the ability to develop deep Connections, and Closing the deal, without money being the primary driver. If you’re a third-party recruiter you know this is upside down. Controlling, Connecting, and Closing are the most important. Without these, Compelling messages, Career opportunities, and Conviction won’t get you any more hires.

I’ll give the corporate recruiters who took the poll a break here since I didn’t define the 6Cs other than using the description shown on the chart. So let me better define and demonstrate why Controlling, Connecting, and Closing are the most important.

Why Control is #1 on the 6Cs Hit Parade

When first approached by a recruiter, passive candidates make a quick decision to engage in a conversation based on a few core pieces of information.

These generally cover factors like job title, company, location, and compensation. However, when candidates actually accept an offer, or even seriously consider one, the factors used to make this assessment are not the same. In this case they focus on job content, growth opportunity, chance to make an impact, the hiring manager’s leadership qualities, the team, and of course, compensation. But even in this case, compensation is somewhere in the middle of the list, rather than at the top. There is where “Control” comes into play and why it’s so important that the recruiter understand it thoroughly (article).

Control allows the recruiter to bridge the gap between the criteria the candidate uses to first engage in a conversation and those used to make a career decision after having a full set of information. It requires a combination of appropriate questioning, the ability to smoothly address concerns, and the ability to instantly shift the conversation from short-term to long-term. This is an essential skill if you want to increase the number of strong prospects in your candidate pool. If you want to either recruit passive candidates or network with them, you must start with a thorough understanding of the 6Cs, but be a master at Control.

Why Closing the Deal Is in the Top 3 of the 6Cs

One could argue that closing is more important than control, and should be the #1 of the 6Cs (article). Consider that if you can’t close the deal, everything else you do is a waste of time, effort, and resources. Let me be perfectly clear on this point. Closing encompasses the actual negotiation with the candidate, getting the person to accept the offer on reasonable terms, and making sure the person considers your offer on all critical short- and long-issues. Making matters more challenging is the idea that the person was not looking for a new opportunity until you called. Under this scenario that person will likely get a counteroffer that’s more competitive than what you’re offering, or worse, the person will immediately start looking and find something else better. Under this scenario, the ability to hold the deal together and close effectively takes center stage.

The fact that only 3% of those taking the poll considered this ability most important dumbfounds me.

Why Connecting Deserves to Be in the Top Three of the 6Cs

Most of you know I do a great deal of work training corporate recruiters to optimize their use of LinkedIn’s talent suite of products through networking (article). What surprises me is that corporate recruiters still think of LinkedIn as a flat list of 120 million names of largely passive candidates. For an external recruiter, it’s a 360° interconnected 3D map of every single person in the U.S. (soon the world). The idea here is that rather than finding your ideal candidate directly, consider instead contacting someone who might know the best candidate, and then provide a referral. For example, I called partners in CPA firms to identify great controllers they’ve worked with in the past. I connected with buyers at major retail chains to find out who the best salespeople they know are. And I’ve contacted product managers to find great engineers they’ve worked with on launching new products. Getting a referral like this is even better, since these people they call you back right away. And even better than that, these people are all fully qualified, since this is how you initially got their name.

So stop calling people you don’t know as a primary means for finding passive candidates. Instead start networking with everyone you do know and have them give you two or three names of the best people who are directly connected to them. If you start doing this on every call, pretty soon you’ll realize that connecting is really how you source passive candidates. (We’re holding a series of webcasts in the next few weeks demonstrating how to take connecting to another level and why you should give your TPRs a hug, rather than banish them.)

The 6Cs are the quintessential skills for any third-party recruiter who expects to survive and thrive in the current economic environment. Corporate recruiters need to think and act like TPRs if they expect to have success finding, recruiting, and hiring passive candidates in any significant quantity. While corporate recruiters might have the ability to deal with passive candidates, I’m not sure they have the hunger for it.