Shifting Market? Passive Talent Engagement is Still a Critical Part of Your Strategy

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In today’s market, with layoffs happening in many industries, you may be tempted to take your foot off the gas in pursuit of passive talent to build your pipeline. US based companies made 36.3% more layoffs in July 2022 versus July 2021 – the second highest month for layoffs this year. Why would you worry about engaging with people who aren’t actively looking for jobs when talent is forcibly becoming available?

Being transactional or the old “need a guy? I’ve got a guy” approach is easy enough for the lazy recruiter. It’s about making the most money as fast as possible in those scenarios, but it’s not the best way to build a sustainable business. The top recruiters know that long term relationships are the foundational building blocks for their business – regardless of the market cycle.

What’s happening in the job market?

There’s an availability bias happening in the job market right now. Leading economic indicators pointing towards a possible recession are resulting in two cascading effects. The first is that leaders in big businesses are doing everything they can to cut costs – including trimming up their budgets and laying off employees – so if the economy does take a downturn, they have the extra capital to spare to make it through the recession.

These layoffs and major budget cuts effect talent mobility. The economic indicators, like inflation, mixed with large, publicized layoffs is enough to cast doubt in candidates’ minds. When they would have been willing to move before, now they are left second guessing whether leaving a “meh”, but sure-thing, job is worth the risk of moving to another company where they would be at risk of being laid off as one of the newest hires. This is true especially if the talent knows they’re indispensable where they are, especially if they’re good at their job.

This availability bias is making would-be candidates think they need to hunker down until the economic outlook isn’t perceived as scary as it is today. However, the reality is that there are still a reported 1.8 jobs for every person who is unemployed. Despite layoffs happening every week from big name companies, there simply aren’t enough people actively looking for work to fill the estimated 10.7 million job openings reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in June.

This is why seeking out A-Player passive talent is a key differentiator, even today. That talent, especially if they’re nervous, will want to have a backup plan in case the company they’re at is looking to lay-off some of its labor force. If the recruiter calls and actively builds a relationship with the talent, the talent will feel safer in knowing there are other options just in case. They’ll also be more likely to pick up when you call with a job to fill if you’ve done the advanced legwork of connecting with them multiple times as opposed to the transactional recruiter who only calls when she needs something.

Talent can sniff out a bad recruiter, so it isn’t recommended to spam hundreds of people with the same message who have never heard your name before. Not only will you be ignored this time around, but you likely won’t make any quality connections to keep in your pipeline down the road. This is a fast way to being discarded along with all the other inbox clutter that A-player talent receives.

Top passive talent isn’t going to be easily engaged

The best talent across all industries is passive for two main reasons. First, they love their job and aren’t going to be (easily) swayed to leave it, or their job is good enough, for now. Second, the current economic outlook has them scared enough to stay put for a while. This doesn’t mean you can afford to ignore them, it just means you’re going to have to find inventive ways to get their attention and keep them engaged.

The first step in engaging passive talent is to make sure you’re speaking to the right people. Figure out who is the top talent in that industry. Look for quantifiable success metrics (increased sales by 35% in two quarters, decreased IT requests by 50% through implementation of self-help center, etc.) – which can often be found on their LinkedIn profile. These metrics are good selling points when you pitch your talent pool to your clients – and increases your value to your clients as well.

It is important that you have great, highly-targeted message to capture their attention. This is going to require some research on the recruiter’s side. You’ll need to have a clear idea of what your clients are looking for in their candidates and have an ideal candidate profile outlined so you have a good starting point. Once you have nailed down the candidate profile, get to know the individual candidate’s work history, and be sure to check out any achievements they have listed on LinkedIn.

Use this information to craft a personalized message to them with a sizzle statement that speaks to their perceived pain points and start building a foundational relationship. You’ll want the message to resonate with the candidates and to include critical things they care about in their industry. The best passive talent isn’t going to respond well to a quick job request, so resist the urge to immediately ask for an application.

From there, develop a plan to check in with the candidate from time to time. You can even talk this through with the candidate. “I know you aren’t looking to leave your current role, but I’d love to check in with you in the future. Would it be ok if I reached out again in 3 months? In the meantime, please let me know if anything changes on your end.” Remember, the whole point is that you’re not just providing a valuable service to your clients, but to your candidates, too.

What waits for you on the other side

You’ve seen the signs of a possible recession. You’ve put in the work. You found the top passive candidates in your industry, found their pain points and were able to speak with them, kept them engaged, and built an incredible pool of passive talent. Once we get out of this weird economic time and that talent turns active, you’re going to have all these relationships built from doing the work you’re doing now. Your rolodex becomes the envy of your space, making it easy to pitch rockstars to potential clients, and keep your pipeline healthy to fill both current and future searches with talent that trusts you.

While your competitors just did the status quo, your firm is going to be out in front because you differentiated yourself as a recruiting firm that cares about candidates, not just about the money.

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