Over the past 12 months I’ve been asking people how they found their most recent job. (Here’s the link to the survey.) About 3,000 people have responded so far, most of whom are in staff or management roles. The results are shown in the graphic.
The most startling observation: Even for the most active candidates, networking is their primary means for finding jobs. This is represented by the two groups of candidates on the left.
Not unexpectedly, for those who are less active (Tiptoers are casually looking for another job), networking trumps applying directly for a job by a factor of 3:1. For the true passive candidates the ratio of networking to applying is a whopping 7:1.
However, this is just a part of the story. The overall size of the talent market for each of these groups is as important. This is shown at the top of the graphic. This information was based on joint research conducted with LinkedIn last year determining the job hunting status of the fully employed. This revealed that active candidates represent around 5-20% of the total talent market, Tiptoers about 15-20% and passive candidates about 65-75%. The ranges reflect different positions with fewer active candidates available for high demand positions.
Given this data, it’s pretty clear that finding candidates or getting a job today needs to emphasize networking. Here’s some instant advice for all those involved on either side of the process.
Rose offers scientific proof that existing hiring methods used by most organizations around the world are fundamentally flawed. The big one: The context of the job matters most of all and skills- and experience-laden job descriptions fail to capture true job needs. Rose suggests using performance-based job descriptions to define real job needs.
Job seekers need to use the backdoor to gain access to the hidden job market.
Demonstrate the ability to do the work, not pass some assessment test, to get the interview.
I’m still dumbfounded that smart HR people can justify the use of assessment tests for prescreening purposes without first determining if the quality of the people who won’t take the test is better than those who do. In the hidden job market these prescreening tests are not given. Instead, candidates are hired based on their track record of success. The two-step process of getting a candidate to summarize one major career accomplishment before applying is one way recruiters can determine a non-referred candidate’s qualifications without giving the assessment test.
Job seekers can gain similar access by demonstrating their ability to do the work required by providing a sample of their work or presenting some type of analysis that is part of the job. One product marketing person told me he got three interviews by conducting a competitive analysis and sending it to the VP Marketing of the three companies involved.
Be different. If you do what everyone else does you’ll get average results.
If you’re trying to hire a top person don’t use processes designed to weed out the weak ones. Part of this is posting jobs that are filled with useless jargon and a bunch of must-have requirements. Only the desperate and unqualified will apply. Instead write compelling postings and emails that capture your ideal candidate’s intrinsic motivators. Here’s a great example for a tough job in a remote area that attracted passive candidates within hours.
Job seekers need to be different, too. Different when applying. Different during the interview. And different on the job. Here’s some advice on how to demonstrate your differences.
Since 85% of critical jobs are filled via networking of some sort, being highly networked is essential for both the job seekers and for those seeking them. It starts by recognizing no one is average, using the backdoor to find jobs in the hidden market and being different. It ends with hiring better people and getting better jobs.
Over the past year on these pages, I suggested there were a number of things a job seeker could do to get a (better) job rather than wasting time complaining about the unfairness of the process. Following is recap of what I consider the most important advice on how to hack-a-job rather than applying directly. (Here's a link to the video series summarized below.)
Don’t spend more than 20% of your time applying directly to a job posting. Unless you’re a perfect fit, it’s a waste of time. Here are some ideas on how to spend the other 80% of your time.
Use the job posting as a lead. Once you see a job of interest, search for all the jobs the company has posted. Then use some of the non-resume ideas below to connect directly with the department head or someone connected to the hiring manager.
Become a true networker, not a glad hander. Networking is not about meeting as many people as you can. It’s about meeting a few well-connected people you already know who can introduce you to a few well-connected people you don’t know.
Use the backdoor. If you’re not a direct match on skills and experience you need to be referred by a company employee or someone connected to the hiring manager. This will get you to the top of the resume stack since there are fewer gatekeepers watching the backdoor.
Prepare a non-resume. If your resume isn’t a perfect match, but you’ve done something related, you’ll need to narrow the focus and amplify your accomplishments. A one-page job proposal or a video describing a major comparable accomplishment might just do the trick.
Do some pre-work. An MBA student took my suggestion to prepare a competitive analysis for a company he had targeted. He sent it to the VP of Marketing and landed an interview. Mini-projects like this are a great way to demonstrate your ability.
Send the department head a performance-based job description. If you’re familiar with the job, you might want to reformat the posted job description by describing some of the likely performance objectives. Send this to the department head with a summary of a few of your related accomplishments to get an interview.
Offer a free or low cost trial. There’s always a risk in hiring someone. To reduce this risk, offer to work on a small project on a contract or temp-to-perm basis.
Learn the 2-minute answer to any question. Get a two-minute egg timer. Find a bunch of standard interview questions. Turn the timer over and force yourself to answer each question out loud for the full two minutes using this technique. This will be great practice and a real confidence builder for an actual interview.
Control the interview. Ask the interviewer to describe actual job needs. Then give a two-minute example of something you’ve accomplished for each one.
Divide and conquer. You don’t need to possess every skill listed on the laundry list of qualifications to get seen or hired. Long ago I had a candidate for a controller spot get hired by describing some of the related things he had done extremely well and how he could quickly learn everything else.
Prove you’re not overqualified. There are two dimensions to being qualified for any job. First, you need to be competent to do the work. Second, you need to be motivated to do it. No matter how competent you are, if you can’t prove you have proactively done this work in the recent past, instead of sometime long ago, you’re now overqualified.
Interview yourself and send someone your answers to our Performance-based Interview questions. This Performance-based Interview template will help you get prepared. This video explains the process. To get an interview, send a recording of your answers to someone you found through the backdoor.
Get phone screened if your appearance or age will send the wrong message. In The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired I suggest that a 30-minute phone interview focusing on accomplishments will minimize biases due to first impressions. Job seekers should request this type of phone screen if there’s any chance they won’t be assessed objectively.
If you don’t want to wade through each of the links above, here's the condensed video version. The tips are also hidden in plain sight between the paragraphs in The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired. Whatever approach you use to try these ideas out, I can guarantee they're more likely to help you get your next job rather than complaining about how unfair the system is.
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.
This article originally was published in the Electronic Recruiters Exchange (www.ere.net). Check out ERE for more great recruiting information.