Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Be Careful What You Ask For...

As a recruiter, one of the most common things I hear from clients when taking a new job order is, "I want PASSIVE candidates only".  Sometimes it also comes out as, "No job board candidates please....we pay for you to find us candidates that we can't find ourselves".

For me as a recruiter, those are two completely separate discussions.  Let's just deal with one today though...specifically:  "I WANT PASSIVE CANDIDATES ONLY".

Let's first define "passive candidate".  I guess if we get really snippy and particular, then "passive" is actually defined as "receiving an action without responding to or initiating an action in return".  In other words, a passive candidate by this definition simply isn't going to respond to any new opportunities....no matter how great the opportunity or "pitch" may be.  Certainly not the definition that is used commonly in job search today.  Here then is a better definition for "passive candidate" as is used in our common/present vernacular:  "A passive candidate is a qualified candidate for employment who isn't necessarily looking for work, but who may be interested if the right job comes along".

I get it....employers want a candidate who isn't really actively looking for new jobs, but is a "diamond in the rough" that they just happen to overwhelm with their own "right" job.  RIGHT is the key word here....this is what we need to explore and to understand in order to truly find the elusive passive candidate, and then get them to accept a new opportunity.

What does the RIGHT job look like for a passive candidate?  This will vary as much as the candidates themselves vary, but here are a few keys to what can make up the "right job":

  1. Compensation.  Compensation is a combination of salary and any bonus opportunities.  In my experience, most candidates in seeking new employment will be looking for an 8-10% increase in their current total compensation in order to truly consider a move.  Remember...that is the average/active candidate....what about the "passive" candidate who has no other reason to leave their current job?  
  2. Benefits.  This will not only consist of medical, dental and other insurance options, but also how that equates to real dollars and tangible coverage (ie..monthly premiums, contribution of employer, coverage, deductibles, etc.).  Benefits traditionally also incorporate things like vacation time or PTO, company perks, discounts on services or goods, retirement, equity, etc.  Again, most active candidates are looking for better or at least equal benefits....what about passive candidates?  Be creative....benefits range from traditional to very non-traditional...set your company apart.
  3. Work/Life Balance.  The ability to have some time to be productive, but not completely married to a job is becoming more and more in demand.  Obviously each candidate will have a difference in what they truly want and need, but interestingly enough, geography can play a big part into what is the "norm" for work/life balance.  Hours spent at work (both required and expected - they aren't always the same), the ability to work from home (scheduled or for emergencies), flexible schedules, etc. all play a big part.
  4. Company Culture.  Most people want to "like" where they work...not just "tolerate" it.  Some even need to "love" where they work....and a few poor souls "hate" where they work.  Culture is hard to define, and even harder to explain to someone that isn't a part of the culture.  It combines management philosophies with people and personalities.  Does everyone want somewhere "fun" to work....definitely not...but everyone wants to be comfortable at work.  Nobody wants to worry about their job security, and few want to be micro-managed.  Motivation by fear is the least powerful motivator of all...and usually leads to the biggest turn-over.
  5. Opportunity.  Do I have a chance to grow?  People innately want to grow and learn and produce....basically we all want to better ourselves in some way.  Growth doesn't necessarily mean promotions or raises or management opportunities (though they are all included as well in this topic).  Some people are looking for personal growth, skills growth, or even growth in responsibility.  Not everyone wants to manage, but almost everyone wants to be valuable and continue to add value to a company or group.

Employers...when you are looking for PASSIVE candidates, please keep these things in mind.  Here is where a good recruiter comes in.  Most candidates realize that the recruiter is an advocate, so hopefully they'll be a bit more open with a recruiter than they will with a potential employer.  A good recruiter will dig in and see what really could motivate a move.  As an employer, understand that to truly get a passive candidate to leave a situation that is clearly already comfortable for them, you'll need to step up to the plate and offer better than average Compensation, Benefits, Work/Life Balance, Company Culture, or Opportunity.  Be Creative, Be Honest, and Be An Industry Leader.  If you understand and can do this, then that elusive "Passive Candidate" is yours to have.