When making a new hire, ideally you want to find the perfect person for the job and if they don’t exist, the next best thing!

To find this individual you are going to have to leave no stone unturned and this means expanding to everyone, whether they’re currently employed or not. There is no reason that you should be limiting yourself to candidates who are actively seeking a new job, as by rushing your decision or hiring on the basis of availability, you’re at risk of making a bad hire that could have negative implications for the business. In fact, some of the best candidates could be those who are perfectly happy in their current role; however this doesn’t mean they aren’t open to hearing about new opportunities.

When approaching passive candidates it is important to be tactful, as if you come across as too salesy or generic, they are unlikely to give you the time of day. To win them over, you’re going to have to cultivate relationships and keep them engaged throughout the entire hiring process. So how can you go about it?

Here are the 5 essential rules of approaching passive candidates, that will ensure you secure the best possible person for the job:

1) Get referrals:

Successfully recruiting passive candidates is all about networking. By asking your existing contacts if they know anyone suitable, you are not only more likely to be put in touch with quality candidates, but your common connection will give you much more credibility and people will be more open to have a conversation.

You can also consider each candidate approach as a form of networking, as while not every candidate you contact may be suitable for the role you are working on, they may know somebody who is, so it is still worthwhile forming a relationship with them.

2) Tailor your messages:

A lot of recruiters are guilty of sending dozens of generic InMails out to just about everyone on LinkedIn who vaguely fits the bill. DON’T!

The candidates you are contacting aren’t stupid and they will see right through it. Plus they’ve probably received a multitude of nearly identical messages from other recruiters ahead of yours, so don’t expect to hear anything back!

If you want to capture their attention, you’re going to have to prove that you have done your research and genuinely think that they would be suitable for the role. By mentioning something specific that you have read on their profile or referring to a mutual connection, you will have a much better chance of getting their attention and trust. Try to keep it short and to the point, as they don’t have the time to read a full on essay!

3) Don’t sell:

If the candidate is not in the market for a new job, then your sales pitch will be wasted on them. Instead, take a much more personal approach, that will put them at ease and make them trust you.

You can establish a good rapport with the candidate, by listening to what THEY have to say, rather than taking a hard sell approach. This way you can build a much better understanding of what they are looking for in a role and if they actually are suitable for the job. Learn all you can about them ahead of making contact, as you can then use any common connections or interests as a conversation starter, which can help to build a relationship with them.

4) Let them know why it benefits them

Don’t just tell them that you’re working on a role that you think they’d be a perfect fit for, tell them exactly WHY they should be interested in the job. What’s so great about it and how does it fit in with their personal experience?

This may sound slightly contradictory as I just said that you should not sell; however it is possible to do this in a way that does not come across as a sales pitch. Directly link aspects of the job with specific responsibilities they have had in previous jobs, or give them an insight into the direction it could take their career.

5) Follow up

If you didn’t get a response to your first email, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the candidate is not interested. Lots of messages get caught in spam filters, or they may have just been to busy to reply at the time.

If you still haven’t heard back from them after a few days, you’ve got nothing to lose by contacting them a second time. Send a brief message to follow up, asking them if they’ve had the time to consider your initial message and if they’d like to discuss it further. This may be what it takes to capture their attention and even if they are not interested they are more likely to let you know that they would like to pass on the opportunity.

[Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Sophie Deering

You can follow Sophie at @SophieDeering.

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