Can You Predict a “Near Active” Candidate?

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Dec 9, 2015
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

You’re an experienced corporate sourcer who is tasked with building a talent pipeline for a specific functional area…you decide to tackle it this way:

You begin targeting functional talent from companies your hiring teams want to hire from. You craft a contact list, begin reaching out (email, phone, InMail, FB/Tw, etc.) and engage with those who respond. You gain their interest and pipeline the best for future openings. For extra credit, you rank the talent placing “hot” prospects into a “short list,” and send interesting content on a recurring basis to maintain prospect interest.

My guess is most would agree this is sound pipeline sourcing technique. I would also guess that many of you have also experienced the following:

You eventually are asked to tap your pipeline for a specific opening. You reach out, but find things have changed since you last connected. You initially did such a good job igniting them to consider greener pastures that since then, they’ve been viewing job ads and recruiting content that previously they ignored. What was an extremely promising prospect when you first spoke is now less interested in your company, is actively interviewing, or worse is off the market having recently accepted a new job with one of your competitors…and it was you who started the ball rolling – yikes!

There’s been a ton of research (and debate) about the quality of active vs. passive candidates, but little on how job seeker activity might impact engagement. The unintended consequences for pipelines as outlined above happens to everyone, yet very little is said about it. We recently reviewed several of our short lists (most with 90-100 people), and found that when revisiting passive prospects, 35% of the time they were no longer passive. Worse still, the highest ranked prospects who were a “shoe in” for our openings, were the most active in the job market.

When we looked at the activity levels of prospects when first approached, it became clear that we rarely ever attract “true” passives. Mostly we’ve been igniting “near actives,” those who have some underlying motivation, are thinking about taking the plunge, but need a nudge to fully make the leap. Looking back on ten years of “direct source” search engagements, we’ve discovered near actives made up about 90% of those we’ve interacted with.

Realizing that a newly ignited near active would continue to look elsewhere made me rethink pipelining. I crafted a different approach that I think many would benefit hearing about. It’s a different work flow than the pipelining process outlined above, and should deliver qualified, interested and available prospects with fewer competitive complications. Here’s the sourcing recipe in two steps:

Talent Sourcing Management – Step One

  1. Draw concentric circles around the geographic focus area and isolate the preferred companies found within.
  2. Research and uncover every single person that does the needed functional work at these companies (craft a chart with all the names and titles).
  3. Research and denote those who are “making noise” in the industry from this group (speakers, bloggers, commenters, etc.).
  4. Network with your internal functional team (not just management), ask who/what they know about your “targets.”
  5. Network with new hires from companies on your target list, ask about your targets as well.

Talent Sourcing Management – Step Two

  1. Uncover “near active” prospect – response levers
    1. Employment anniversary dates
    2. Milestone birthdays (30, 35, 40, etc.)
    3. Competitive company volatility (potential M&A, etc.)
    4. Prospects in a role longer than any previous one
    5. Others, etc.
  2. Track this intel for every prospect in your Talent Map and cross reference openings with those most likely to respond at a given time
  3. When an opening is posted, tap into the most likely to respond group of “near active” prospects who are functionally and geographically targeted
  4. Use the intel collected in Step One for personalizing the introductory messages you send
  5. Approximately 35% of these prospects will be waiting to learn about your openings and most will be entering the job market for the first time in a long while

As sourcers we know we’re not ultimately responsible for making hires, but most talent acquisition functions are using hires to measure the ROI of a sourcing team. It sucks, but for now it is reality. So to stack the deck in our favor, it behooves us to submit prospects who increase the probability of being hired.

By focusing on freshly ignited “near active” talent, we’ll increase the hiring odds with fewer competing offers for our recruiters to contend with. By only submitting top performers, more hires will be made. That’s what I call a sourcing win…

What do you think – spout off in the comments and let your voice be heard!

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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