Finding an active candidate who fits your skills requirements and compensation range is not the same as convincing an outstanding performer who’s not looking to consider your open opportunity for a modest increase in pay.

These are two fundamentally different hiring strategies and they make it clear why full-cycle recruiters are likely to outperform the best sources when it comes to quality of hire.

Here is a brief overview of what these strategies entail:

Hiring Strategy #1: The “Broad and Shallow” Cast a Wider Net Approach

The objective of this strategy is to expand the pool of active candidates through employer branding, advanced Boolean searching and sourcing, expanding your pool of followers and increasing your email response rates. This is a very transactional process that filters candidates on their skills and compensation requirements. Unless there’s a surplus of top talent for the open job, this approach results in hiring solid but not necessarily spectacular people.

Hiring Strategy #2: The “Narrow and Deep” Work a Short List of Top Performers Approach

This strategy involves building a list of 20-30 strong and largely passive prospects and with the recruiter and hiring manager working in partnership, convince 6-8 people to be serious contenders and 2-3 to be final candidates. This is a very consultative process that requires a basic knowledge of Boolean, strong recruiting and networking skills and fully engaged hiring managers. This is the required process for improving the quality of hire in a talent scarce market.

Surprisingly, there is no difference in cost per hire or time to fill with either strategy but there is a huge improvement in quality of hire and ROI using the narrow and deep strategy.

In previous posts and at Talent Connect I made the contention that if a hiring manager needs to interview more than four candidates to get one person hired there’s a problem. It’s usually lack of alignment around real job needs, over specifying the skills required, inadequate sourcing or weak recruiting.

So rather than seeing more candidates using the same techniques it’s better to investigate the problem and improve the processes. It’s pretty obvious the problem is sourcing-related if there are too many active candidates being interviewed. My rule of thumb is that passive candidates should represent 50-75% of any slate of candidates presented to a hiring manager.

Given that most recruiters are pretty good at the broad and shallow approach let me describe the narrow and deep recruiting process. This will be helpful if your mix of passive candidates needs some bulking up.

How to Work a Short List of Top Performers

Good full-cycle recruiters only need to identify 25-30 hot prospects, even if they’re all passive candidates, to convert 4-5 of them into serious final candidates. The initial target list needs to be created via a combination of direct searching and aggressive networking. The direct approach involves using “Clever Boolean” in combination with LinkedIn’s powerful search filters to identify people who are in the top 25% of their peer group.

Getting great referrals of people who are not looking involves proactive networkingsearching on your connection’s connections. For example, if you’re looking for a top-notch servo engineer, connect with project managers who have led projects involving these types of people. These people are doubly great since they call you back and obviously you won’t call anyone who’s not a talented person. So all that’s left is to recruit them.

Once you have the 25-30 hot prospects you’ll need to send multiple emails and voicemails to convert the direct list of names into exploratory phone calls. If you persist, you’ll get more than 50% to call you back. Almost all of the referred candidates will call you back just by mentioning the referrer’s names. As long as you’ve prequalified both groups properly, this process will result in 15-20 exploratory calls with top-notch people, and if you’re a strong recruiter you’ll be able to convince 6-8 of them to seriously consider your opening.

This requires strong recruiting skills including knowing how to overcome objections, how to put compensation in the parking lot and how to shift the decision to proceed based on career growth vs. compensation max. But these are the things full-cycle recruiters are required to do every day.

Unless sourcing efforts focused on expanding the pool of active candidates yields outstanding talent it should be used sparingly. In my opinion, a narrow and deep process starting off with a list of 25-30 great prospects is all that’s needed to maximize quality of hire quickly, efficiently and cost effectively. This requires strong full-cycle recruiters working in partnership with fully engaged hiring managers who will not comprise on the quality of the people they hire.