In a recent LinkedIn Recruiter training course, I suggested that recruiters must follow these five core passive candidate recruiting networking rules at all times:
- Only deal with the top 25%.
- Sell the discussion, not the job.
- Put the compensation in the parking lot during the first call.
- Recruit first, network second.
- Follow the 5:1 networking rule.
I then read this blog post that disagreed with me and called out that compensation should be a driver of the conversation with passive candidates. With that in mind, I want to use this post to set the record straight and show you how following the 5 steps outlined above (including NOT leading with compensation) is the best approach to engaging with passive candidates:
Only work with the top 25%
You don’t have enough time to screen every passive candidate, but you do have time to network with the top 25%. So when you ask a top 25% person (begin with your highly ranked co-workers), “Who’s the best person you have ever worked with who does (name the job you need filled)?” you’ll get another top 25% person. In parallel, search on Achieverterms to get another list of top 25% people who you can email.
Sell the discussion and the next step, not the job
Passive candidates don’t care about your “amazing” job. It’s presumptuous and ill-advised to begin a conversation with generic hyperbole. Instead, ask the person if he/she would be open to having a short conversation about if one of your open positions represented a clear career opportunity. Most people will say yes. They’ll all say yes if you can mention the person who referred them to you.
Getting the “yes” is called permission marketing. The person has given you five minutes to make your case that one of your jobs offers a career move. Start by asking discovery questions as a means to better understand the candidate’s current situation rather than talk about your job. If your job represents a career move, describe why and suggest a more detailed conversation.
Put the compensation in the parking lot during the first call
If a candidate asks what the compensation is too soon, suggest it doesn’t matter if the job isn’t a career move. Then say, “Let’s discuss the job first and if it is a career move we can then figure out if the compensation package fits. Worst case we can network.”
As part of the conversation I define a career move as a minimum 30% non-monetary increase consisting of a more impactful job, faster growth, and/or a richer mix of more satisfying work. I then ask discovery questions about the person’s background to see if the open position offers this type of increase.
Recruit first, network second
There are three primary purposes of the first call with a passive candidate. First, develop a relationship. Second, determine if the person is qualified and, if so, recruit him/her based on the 30% solution idea. Third, get at least two top 25% referrals if the person is not a viable candidate for the open role.
The best way to develop a relationship is to demonstrate that the recruiter is a subject matter expert. And the best way to prove this is to recruit the person first using the tools mentioned above. If the candidate is not appropriate for the position, connect with the person on LinkedIn and proactively search on his/her connections for some top 25% referrals.
Follow the 5:1 networking rule
Not every passive prospect you call will wind up being a strong candidate for one of your open roles but if you do a great job of networking and getting referrals, every person you call will be a top 25% person.
Typically it takes five targeted calls to get one highly qualified prospect to present to the hiring managers. For most searches you’ll need 4-5 passive candidates to get one person hired. Doing the math, it means you’ll need to generate a list of 20-25 strong prospects to make one hire. However, as long as you follow all of the above techniques 80% of these people will have been referred.
When it comes to passive candidate recruiting, getting referrals is the name of the game. That’s how you increase both efficiency and quality of hire. But to achieve both you must work exclusively with the top 25%, use permission marketing, put compensation in the parking lot and conduct discovery on the first call, create the career move if the person is qualified and get two more great referrals if the person is not appropriate for one of your current openings. I refer to this process as the passive candidate recruiting machine. After two or three great placements, you’ll call it commonsense.
I was just reading this article in Time magazine, What People Assume When They First Meet You, According to Science.
What first struck me is that too many articles have to add “According to Science” in order to be believed.
For 35+ years I’ve interviewed thousands of candidates, debriefed with hundreds of selection teams and tracked the careers of scores of people including those who were not hired. I consider the conclusions drawn from this work as commonsense observations. Maybe collectively it’s science, but whatever you call it, what the article described is true: People make instant judgments about people based on first impressions.
The big findings: If you’re attractive, affable, assertive and articulate you’ll do better in an interview than if you’re nervous, poorly attired, quiet and evasive. Back in 1972 I was told to look for the same positive four “A” characteristics by the VP HR of my company when I was first assigned to the MBA recruiting team.
It took me about 10 years to figure out that these characteristics of a good first impression were terrible predictors of on-the-job performance. The Time magazine article forgot to mention this part.
The problem: If we like someone we assume he or she is competent and we ask questions to validate our emotional or intuitive judgment. If we don’t like someone right away, we ask questions to prove his or her incompetence. This is how perceptions become facts and facts – as flawed as they might be – result in bad hiring decisions.
Given this situation, here are some commonsense ideas to help reduce the number of bad hiring decisions made by overvaluing someone’s first impression.
How Interviewers Can Minimize Hiring Mistakes Due to First Impression Bias
- Wait 30 minutes. Use a structured work history review at the start of the interview and go through the same process with every candidate whether you like the person or not. If you can wait at least 30 minutes before even making a hint of a yes or no decision, you’ll reduce your hiring errors by 50%.
- Treat candidates as consultants. With consultants we’re more concerned with their ability to handle the project, not how likeable they are. By treating full-time job candidates the same way, competency and performance are naturally assessed before personality and presentation.
- Use reverse logic. We naturally ask people we like softball questions and ask tougher ones of those we don’t. By fighting this urge and doing the exact opposite, you’ll neutralize your first impression bias.
- Measure first impression at the end of the interview. Wait until the end of the interview to determine if the person’s actual first impression will help or hinder on-the-job performance. If you stay objective, you’ll discover that at least half of the people with a good first impression aren’t as good as you initially thought. Even better, just as many of those you thought had a weak first impression don’t.
How Job Seekers Can Minimize the Harm Caused by a Weak First Impression
- Be phone screened first. Use the phone screen to break the ice. During the call ask about the major challenges in the job and describe something you’ve accomplished most comparable. When you’re invited onsite based on your past performance, first impressions are less impactful.
- Do your homework. Make sure you’ve read the LinkedIn profiles of everyone you’re meeting. Read the latest news about the company, review the Glassdoor comments, and review the company’s other open job postings to get a sense of where its biggest hiring needs are. If you pepper this info into your questions, the interviewer won’t be focused on your first impression but on your knowledge.
- Ask in-depth questions right away. As long as the questions are job related and meaningful the interviewer will respect your insight and assertiveness. But don’t overdo it. Performance-based questions counteract the negative thinking that naturally follows a weaker first impression.
- Minimize nervousness by being prepared. Use this PowerPoint deck to get ready for the interview. It describes how to ask the right questions and how to ensure you’re being interviewed on your key strengths. Being prepared will reduce your nervousness and improve your confidence and bearing.
When interviewers don’t know what they’re looking for in terms of performance, they naturally overvalue first impressions, intuition and emotional biases. That’s why I always suggest that hiring managers determine competency and motivation to do the work before determining personality, presentation and “fit.” While they’re all important, the order in which they’re measured represents the difference between a great hire and hiring a nice person who underperforms.
IMAGE: Getty Images
A great job is not enough to attract a great person. It requires a remarkable Candidate Experience ("CX") to fully appreciate what's being offered.
For hiring, mass customization means fitting the job to the person rather than fitting the person to the job.
This week's Businessweek (May 11, 2015) focuses on product design with most of the articles describing common products and services that were upgraded or redesigned by optimizing the user experience (UX). Many of these same UX concepts can by applied to hiring. In hiring the UX is called the CX: The Candidate Experience. As you'll see in a moment the idea is to personalize the CX for every single person you hope to hire and then scale it throughout your company.
Here's an example of this idea. One article in Businessweek describes a shift in Italy's northern industrial region to high-volume custom manufacturing. At first take this seems counterintuitive but it's a rapidly emerging trend. Harvard professors Todd Rose and Ogi Ogas's soon-to-be published book, The End of Average (October 2015), fully documents this trend throughout society. In their book the professors describe this mass customization shift in medicine, education and product design, among other disciplines.
Despite these obvious and critical trends, somehow hiring people has again been left to the dustbin of history as companies still use antiquated techniques to force fit people into ill-defined and generic jobs. I contend this is the root cause of why 68% of the U.S. workforce is disengaged.
For hiring, mass customization means fitting the job to the person rather than fitting the person to the job. This is an essential step since the only way to engage a person long-term is to provide work he or she finds engaging. However, the process people experience to find and get this job is as important as the job itself. This is the CX.
So if your company wants to hire the best people, you'll need to redesign your CX. Here are some ideas you can use to get started.
6 Commonsense Ideas to Optimize Your Company's CX
- Time matters: Hiring the best is not a one-night stand. Hiring the best person who applied as fast as possible is a surefire way to not hire anyone who's not looking. It takes hours spread over weeks for a top person to fully understand the career merits of another opportunity. You need to build these extra steps into your CX.
- Show respect. You need these people more than they need you. An informal exploratory career discussion among equals needs to start any discussion with any top person whether the person is actively looking or not. As part of this, eliminate the application as a prerequisite including any type of assessment testing. Add these steps only after the person fully understands that the job represents a great career move and has agreed to become a formal candidate.
- The Point of View (POV) of the process design matters. Too many HRIS and ATS systems are designed based on the mechanical nature of a job board's "find and apply" process. Instead, the process needs to be based on how top people find out about jobs, decide to gather career information, need to be assessed and how they compare and accept offers. A respectful but vigorous assessment process is part of this.
- The job matters most. The gap between what your job requires and what the candidate has already done represents the career move. If this is vague, filled with boilerplate and blue-sky hyperbole, the best will opt out long before you find out they're the best. Preparing a results-based job description describing the key challenges when the job is first defined is the first step in improving the CX.
- The hiring manager X-factor. The best people accept jobs from hiring managers in their own image. Few managers actually understand this. So if the hiring manager isn't respectful, doesn't know the job, doesn't have a track record of developing people and doesn't know how to conduct a proper interview, he/she won't hire any great people.
- Get the team involved. Find one or two potential friends to assess and bond with the candidate early on. They can meet, greet, lunch and debrief candidates at each phase in the process. Selected properly, these people will become coaches and advisors smoothing over any rough edges in the CX or helping create a more personal one.
Every company, recruiter and hiring manager wants to improve the quality of each person hired. But if anyone on the hiring team assumes there is a surplus of great talent just waiting to take some ill-defined lateral transfer at less than a competitive wage, they'll be waiting a long time. Instead, create a CX that targets the best, treats the best with respect and offers a job based on the candidate's motivating needs. Then apply these same principles to every candidate you see. That's how you go from many to one and back again and hire some great people in the process.
I’ve been asked to speak to a group of UX (User Experience) design leaders at the UX Advantage conference this summer. The focus of the talk will be on how to hire great UX designers and the discussion will start with the premise that you hire great people the same way you create a great user experience for any product or piece of software. This starts by first understanding the user.
In the case of hiring, the user is an outstanding person whom you’ll likely want to hire. He or she meets all the requirements of the “perfect” candidate. Understanding this “perfect” person comes down to accepting these three foundational points:
- Regardless of the job, there is a shortage of the best people in any field. Few are looking for another job and, even if they are, they will have a choice of multiple opportunities. One key aspect of their decision to accept an offer will be the content and quality of the job, not just the compensation package. Another aspect will be the quality of their CX (Candidate Experience) from first contact to final close.
- Most of the best people are not looking for another job. In this case, you’ll need to reach out and find them. This will largely be through a referral of some type in combination with the hard work of a recruiter reaching out to passive candidates.
- The best will opt out early, unless the CX is first class. The quality of the CX and how the job is positioned will determine who agrees to initially engage in the hiring process and how many remain at the end. The best people in any field opt out in record numbers due to bad CX, even if the job itself is great.
Given these principles, here are some ideas you can implement to improve the quality of the CX and the quality of the people ultimately hired.
6 commonsense ideas for optimizing your company’s candidate experience:
1. Time matters: Hiring the best is not a one-night stand.
More often then not, hiring the best person who applied as fast as possible won’t get you the highest quality hire. It takes hours spread over weeks for a top person to fully understand the career merits of another opportunity and come on board. You need to build these extra steps into your CX and have clear communication about the person’s status and next steps.
2. Show respect.
You need these people more than they need you. An informal exploratory career discussion among equals is how you need to start any discussion with a passive candidate. As part of this, eliminate the application as a prerequisite, including any type of assessment testing. This is bad CX if quality of hire is more important than the efficiency of the hiring process. Add these steps only after the person fully understands that the job represents a great career move and has agreed to become a formal candidate.
3. The Point-of-View (POV) of the process design matters.
Too many HRIS and ATS systems are designed based on the mechanical nature of a job board’s “find and apply” process. Instead, the process needs to be based on how top people find out about jobs, how they decide to gather career information, how they need to be assessed and how they compare and accept offers. A respectful but vigorous assessment process is part of this. They’ll judge the quality of the people already hired by the quality of how they’re being treated, assessed and hired.
4. The job matters most.
The gap between what your job requires and what the candidate has already done represents the career move. If this is vague, filled with boilerplate and blue-sky hyperbole, the best will opt out long before you find out they’re the best. Preparing a results-based job description describing the key challenges when the job is first defined is the first step in improving the CX.
5. The hiring manager X-factor.
The best people accept jobs from hiring managers in their own image. Few managers actually understand this. So if the hiring manager isn’t respectful, doesn’t know the job, doesn’t have a track record of developing people and doesn’t know how to conduct a proper interview, he/she won’t hire any great people.
6. Get the team involved.
Find one or two potential friends to assess and bond with the candidate early on. They can meet, greet, lunch and debrief candidates at each phase in the process. Selected properly, these people will become coaches and advisors, smoothing over any rough edges in the CX or helping create a more personal one.
Every company, every recruiter and every hiring manager wants to improve the quality of each person hired. But, if anyone in this chain assumes there is a surplus of great talent just waiting to take some ill-defined lateral transfer at less than a competitive wage, they’ll be waiting a long time. Instead, create a CX that targets the best, treats the best with respect and offers a job based on the candidate’s motivating needs. Then apply these same principles to every other candidate. That’s how you create an award winning CX and hire great people, too.
Over the past few years, I’ve made the contention that there are two job markets – one that’s public for all to see, and the other hidden. The hidden job market is created when a hiring manager thinks about filling a job. If the job can’t be filled internally or through a referral, it then goes public.
There are significant advantages to filling jobs in the hidden market due to more flexibility in how the jobs are structured and compensated. When jobs go public, they’re overdosed with an endless checklist of requisite skills, salary ranges, experience requirements, educational needs, competencies and personality traits.
In a recent LinkedIn Influencer post I introduced the public vs. hidden job market as a means to highlight the differences between how active and passive job seekers are sourced and hired. This comparison is shown in the graphic.
Here’s the quick summary:
- Most companies seek out active job seekers in the public market using a weed out the weak process – shown as Zone AP. Here candidates are force-fitted into jobs that are, at best, lateral transfers. I contend this is the root cause of why employee disengagement is a whooping 68%!
- Active job seekers who want better jobs or who don’t meet the traditional requirements need to hack-a-job in the hidden market as shown by Zone AH. Here they have a chance to demonstrate their ingenuity and performance rather then justify why they don’t meet a “perfect” set of arbitrary requirements.
- Passive job seekers represent the bulk of the talent market. To hire them they first need to be recruited and then offered positions that provide job stretch and upside opportunity. The best approach is represented by Zone PH. When done properly, the result is a more engaged, high performing workforce.
- Unfortunately, most companies struggle with hiring passive candidates by using the appropriate high-tech processes to source them, but not enough high-touch to recruit and hire them. This is represented by Zone PP.
The graphic outlines some ideas on how to design a hybrid talent acquisition strategy for any company interested in seeing and hiring more qualified candidates, whether active or passive. Here are a few that stand out:
1. Attract the best.
Emphasize an attract-the-best approach, versus a weed-out-the-week approach to recruitment advertising. Eventually all job candidates will review the public job posting to learn more about the job. When the job emphasizes the learning, doing and becoming rather than the skills required, you’ll attract more of those looking for career moves and less of those who will accept a lateral transfer.
2. Implement a hub-and-spoke sourcing model.
By clustering similar jobs onto a microsite, candidates can have the most suitable jobs presented to them rather than requiring them to hunt and peck for one that best matches their skills. The top level of the microsite needs to describe the range of jobs available and how they relate to important company initiatives. This will induce more passive and less active candidates to “browse.” These people can then be converted into more engaged followers.
3. Implement job branding.
Job branding involves incorporating the intrinsic motivators the best people use when evaluating new job opportunities. This needs to be the basis of any type of recruitment advertising copy, whether it’s a posting, voice mail or email.
4. Track passive candidate yield from sourcing to recruiting to hiring.
Getting 100 strong people interested in your opening is a waste of time if only a few are hired. By tracking these six metrics, you’ll be able to identify the gaps in your recruiting processes that need to be closed.
5. Use needs analysis to qualify candidates, not box checking.
Needs analysis involves comparing a candidate’s abilities and aspirations in his or her current situation to what your job offers. If big enough, the difference represents the career opportunity. It’s better to modify the job to increase the stretch and growth, rather than the compensation. This whole process is called recruiting.
6. Use a performance-based approach for assessing candidates.
To ensure all candidates are assessed properly based on their ability and motivation to do the work, we suggest giving them this PowerPoint template as a means to have them formally document and present their qualifications. By giving them the questions ahead of time and having hiring managers review their answers, assessment accuracy is increased. This type of Performance-based Interviewing approach is essential with passive candidates, since the recruiting piece is embedded in the questioning.
Recruiting and hiring the best active and passive candidates requires a hybrid high-touch, high-tech process. By attracting the best and modifying the positions to meet their needs, it’s possible to focus on what really matters to them: the long-term career opportunity. Collectively, this is how a company not only raises the talent level of every person hired, but also maximizes employee engagement, performance and job satisfaction.
*Image by Romain Guy