The criteria top candidates use to accept an offer are not the same as the criteria they use to decide to engage in a discussion about a job. Understanding this difference is a fundamental key to improving your passive candidate recruiting effectiveness. It’s best to break these decision-making criteria into three broad categories to help distinguish the differences.

Day 1: These are the aspects of the job the candidate will get on the start date. It includes the compensation, location, company, title, and a quick overview of the job.

Year One: These are the factors that affect on-the-job performance and satisfaction during the first year. They include the actual work itself; what the person will be learning, doing, and becoming; the scope and importance of the position and the impact it could make on the company; all of the team and cultural fit issues; work/life balance; and the total rewards package, not just monthly compensation.

Beyond Year One: These are the long-term components of the job including factors like opportunity for advancement, the company’s strength and resources, the industry and economic issues, visibility of the position within the company, the opportunity to develop relationships with senior management, and the leadership qualities of the hiring manager.

While all of these factors are important when deciding whether to accept an offer or not, it’s pretty obvious that for a person looking for a career growth opportunity, Year One and Beyond criteria are more important than Day 1. Unfortunately, most good people focus too much on Day 1 criteria when first contacted by a recruiter.

Being an effective passive candidate recruiter requires the ability to “bridge the gap” between Day 1 and Year One and Beyond decision-making. Bridging the gap properly can improve a recruiter’s end-to-end candidate yield – i.e., turning prospects into interested candidates – by 3-5X! This means instead of getting one in ten prospects agreeing to seriously evaluate your offer, you’ll get at least three or four. Alone, this will shorten time to hire. Even better: by developing relationships with those who aren’t appropriate for the job, you’ll be able to instantly search on their LinkedIn connections and find other worthy passive candidates you can contact. Developing a great list of pre-qualified referrals who will call you back can provide another 3-5X boost in productivity.

Contacting passive candidates requires a sound process that’s implemented correctly. Bridging the gap is part of this, but it’s important to see this in the context of the whole engagement process. This is shown below.

Moving Passive Prospects from Bystander to Interested Prospect

  1. Post a career-oriented compelling job. Passive prospects will often check out the actual posting before returning your call, so make sure your job is compelling and career focused. If you’re still posting traditional job descriptions designed to weed out the unqualified, you’ll also turn off the candidates you want to attract.
  2. Send a compelling email. Tell a story rather than cut and paste a job description. Make sure the subject line is engaging enough for the person to read the whole email. Make sure the first line highlights the “and Beyond year one.” As a minimum make sure the email includes the employee value proposition and a few highlights of the challenges involved in the job.
  3. Leave a unique voice mail. Regardless of how you got the person’s name, you need to call and connect. Most likely, you’ll need to leave a voice mail. It’s important to track the percent of people who call you back, with a target goal of 75%. One way to boost your percentages is to describe your opening using Year One and Beyond criteria, with an offer to spend just a few minutes to discuss it.
  4. On first contact only ask questions that can be answered by a “Yes.” Asking if the person is interested in a cost manager’s job in Toledo is less likely to get a Yes than asking if the person would be open to discuss a senior financial management role if it represented a serious career opportunity. The idea behind this is to make sure the person you’re calling doesn’t opt out for Day 1 reasons.
  5. Proactively “Bridge the Gap” if the person asks Day 1. When first contacted by recruiters, people naturally first ask about the compensation, the location, the company, and the job title. Rather than answering, just ask the person if the best job they ever had was based on the money the person was making or the work itself. Most people will say it wasn’t the money, but the job, the people, or the growth opportunity. Then ask if the person would be open to talk 5-10 minutes just to determine if your job offered something comparable to this and better than what the person now has.
  6. Anticipate the negatives and turn them into positives. There are some things about your job that just might stink. It could be the location, the fact that your company is struggling, or there’s lots of management turmoil. Don’t hide these issues. Confront them head on. A company in turmoil can be career enhancing if the person is brought in to make a difference. Suggest that taking a risk or moving to a different city might be worth it to jumpstart a stalled career. The idea is to bridge the gap to give yourself a chance to have a serious exploratory discussion.
  7. Don’t sell the job, sell the next step. Underlying many of these ideas is the principle that recruiting passive candidates requires the sharing of more information over many steps. Too many recruiters rush the process, trying to convert a cold lead into a hot candidate on the first call. Instead, suggest to the person that moving from a Day 1 decision-making mode to a Year One and Beyond career evaluation requires multiple steps.

In Part 3-2 of this article, we’ll provide specific details on how to actually Bridge the Gap (Step 5 above). From an introductory and positioning standpoint, this series of steps provides a good overview of when this technique needs to be applied during the initial recruiting process, and what you have to do ahead of time to make sure it works. Equally important is what you do afterwards. Hiring top talent can be a scalable business process, but first you need to have a process that works, and then it has to be implemented properly and monitored constantly.