LinkedIn asked me to host a webcast on August 26, 2015 on the trials and tribulations of passive candidate recruiting. They even suggested that attendees can send me their toughest challenges and tag them with hashtag #PitchItToLou on Twitter and I’ll provide my best advice during the webcast. Although I don’t know what questions will be asked, I suspect my advice will go something like this:

  • Don’t take no for an answer.
  • Don’t ask questions that can be answered with a no.
  • Don’t talk about the job.
  • Get the candidate to talk first.
  • Promise you’ll give the person a 30% pay increase.
  • Conduct needs analysis.
  • Prove the promise.
  • Recruiting isn’t selling the job.
  • Listen more than you talk.
  • Learn to drive the bus.

While you’ll need to attend the webcast to understand all of the answers, I’ll use this post to provide a few hints at what underlies the skills required to be an outstanding passive candidate recruiter.

What all passive candidates ask about….

Start by answering this question, “What do passive candidates want to know first when contacted by a recruiter?” Since I’ve talked to at least 10 thousand passive candidates over the past 30+ years this is typically what they want to know: the compensation, the company, the job title and the location.

I never tell them.

You shouldn’t either.

….And why I never tell them

To understand why, you need to answer this question, “After having full knowledge of the position, what criteria do the best passive candidates use to compare job opportunities and select one over another?”

If you don’t already know the answer you can review LinkedIn’s new report, Why and How People Change Jobs. In it you’ll discover that the best people focus on the career opportunity, job satisfaction, importance of the job and the people they’ll be working with as more important than compensation, job title, company and location.

If you answer the passive candidate’s first group of questions, you’ll never have a chance to provide him/her the answers to the second group of more important questions.

How to eliminate the “No” and get to a “Yes” every time

That’s why you can’t take no for an answer. If the candidate asks about the compensation, say it doesn’t matter if it’s not a career move. If the candidate says he/she is not interested, say that’s exactly why you should talk. If the candidate says he/she is happy where he/she is, say that’s exactly the frame of mind you need to have in order to evaluate any new opportunity objectively. It doesn’t matter how he/she says no, don’t fall into the trap. Have an instant rebuttal for every type of no.

Even better is to not ask questions that can be answered with a no. Here are some examples of good questions to use:

  • “Would you be open to chat for a minute or two about a potential career opportunity?”
  • “I’m leading a search for a number of executive-level positions. Would you be open to chat for a few minutes if one of them represented a career move?”
  • “(Name of referrer known to the person) indicated to me that you are the best person he knows in the field of (whatever you’re looking for). (Referrer) didn’t say you are looking-just someone I needed to contact. Let me ask you a question. Would you be open to explore a situation if it represented a significant career move?”

If anyone says no to these non-no questions, use one of the rebuttals. If you do this as described you’ll get more than 90% of the people to agree to a few minute discussion about your open position. But then don’t tell them about the job, because it will invite a no. Instead, get them to talk first. This is point 4 in the list above. At the webcast on August 26th I’ll describe exactly what you need to do to get them to talk first and how to offer a 30% increase, but it all starts by not taking no for an answer.

It takes hours spread over multiple meetings for a person who’s not looking for a job to understand the true career potential of a new career opportunity. You can’t rush it.

Recruiting a passive candidate is not about the recruiter or hiring manager selling the job, it’s about being skillful enough to get the candidate to sell you. This is easy to do with active candidates but hard with passive candidates. Everybody wants to know what they get on Day 1 – a title, location, company and compensation package. Yet the reason why they take the job is based on what they’ll be doing, learning and becoming in year 1 and beyond.

To recruit passive candidates you need to make sure they don’t make long-term decisions using short-term information. The process starts by not taking no for an answer.

Register for Lou’s webinar to learn more about his passive candidate recruiting tricks.