The Best Person for Your Job Doesn’t Even Know It Exists

By Robert Half on January 9, 2020 at 2:02pm

“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?” That’s what Steve Jobs once famously said to John Sculley when Jobs recruited Sculley from his position as head of Pepsi to be Apple’s new CEO.

Jobs understood that the perfect candidate for his opening probably wasn’t looking for a job. Chances are that person was doing great things for another company. He had to sell Sculley on the opportunity and convince him to leave a secure position for the unknown.

And if you’re hiring, you’ve got to take the same approach.

Don’t overlook passive candidates

The truth is that the person you want to hire — the one with top-notch skills, years of experience and an in-depth understanding of your industry — probably already has a job. Many economists consider the Canadian labour market to be at or near full employment. That’s when virtually everyone who wants a job has one. So posting a job ad and hoping to catch the perfect candidate’s attention probably isn’t going to work.

Passive candidates — professionals who, like Sculley, aren’t even looking for a job — are people you need to include in your hiring efforts.

Passive candidates haven’t prepared a resume, and their interview outfit needs to be dry-cleaned. They haven’t even bothered to push the Apply button. But many happily employed people are at least interested in hearing about good opportunities that allow them to move up the ranks, learn new skills or simply earn a bigger paycheque.

But it has to be worth their while to make a move. Hence, Jobs’ pitch to Sculley: Change the world or sell sugared water. Who wouldn’t listen when offered that choice?

Passive candidates aren’t easy to find

But let’s step back for a moment. How do you identify passive candidates? Jobs had it relatively easy compared to you. Sculley was a known name and had a reputation as the inventor of the Pepsi Challenge. Where do you even start when looking for a passive candidate for your accounting manager vacancy or executive assistant opening?

LinkedIn is a good place to start, but it can be a black hole. Where do you start trying to find passive talent among its millions of members? How do you narrow down the list? And, realistically, is your cold-call message to a LinkedIn subscriber really going to resonate? Probably not. It’s like shouting into the wind and hoping to hear an echo.

How a recruiter can help you find passive candidates

A better bet is using a specialized staffing firm. The best ones have large networks and work with passive candidates every day. A recruiter’s network includes people who have approached them about conducting a confidential job search. They’ve told the recruiter to alert them if the right opportunity comes along.

Staffing firms can simply reach more people more quickly than you can on your own.

Some have even developed long-term relationships with people they’ve placed. They know these people. They know their skills. They know their preferences. They know what opportunities passive candidates might be interested in even if they haven’t asked the firm to keep an eye out for them.

And perhaps the most important point: Candidates that the best recruiters represent listen to their staffing professional. They know the recruiter has their best interests at heart. When the recruiter brings up an opportunity, the candidate listens.

If you try to recruit on your own, you’re very likely to miss an important piece of the job market: passive candidates. Experienced staffing firms are the door to this often-overlooked talent source.


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