Having Trouble Attracting the Right Candidates?

Venus Flytrap While attending the Social Recruiting Summit in Minneapolis back in May, I made specific note of a common sentiment expressed by recruiting representatives of two social recruiting powerhouses – Best Buy and Facebook: They don’t have any trouble attracting people, but they do have a tough time attracting the right people.

Recruiters in attendance scoffed at the thought that these two great companies with fantastic brands would have problems attracting talent.

However, I wasn’t surprised – not in the least. And I’ll tell you why.

Talent Attraction Offers Very Little Control

Talent attraction efforts, social media-based or otherwise, offer a near-total lack of control over precisely who gets attracted.

Having a great corporate brand coupled with a great employer brand will draw strong interest and response, but it doesn’t give you the ability to choose who you attract, whether they come in the form of referrals, ad responses, or resume submissions.

Talent Attraction Efforts are Passive and Non-Selective

Talent attraction is an intrinsically passive and non-selective strategy. Even if you use a state of the art interactive recruiting solution that pushes your content all over the Internet in a highly targeted manner (inasmuch as such efforts are limited to surface-level targeting), you have no control over who actually sees, perceives, or acts upon your content (jobs, tweets, Facebook/YouTube videos, etc.).

That’s right – even if you can be guaranteed to get your content in front of precisely the right people (and you can’t), it doesn’t mean they will actually “see” your content, even if their look directly at it, let alone take action.


Passive and Non-Job Seekers Don’t “See” Employer / Employment Content

The majority of people – approximately 66% – aren’t really looking for a job, or even thinking about making a change.


People who are not really looking to make a change in their employment tend to not even perceive employment-related content.

If you just bought a vehicle, or perhaps if you just like your current vehicle – do you notice car ads? Sure – if you’re into cars. But to someone who isn’t specifically interested in cars, they will not even register a car advertisement, no matter how interesting or compelling. Even if they were to “see” a car advertisement for a vehicle that they found highly appealing – how often do you think they would take a decisive action to buy that specific vehicle if they didn’t actually need a new one?

Changing jobs is a stressful event – supposedly one of the most stressful events that can occur in your life, along with getting married, moving your home, getting divorced, and coping with the death of a loved one.

No matter how compelling the employer branding content/message, as a passive strategy, a recruiter/employer is leaving the decision to act or not to act in the hands of the potential candidate.

If changing jobs is a highly stressful event, even for active job seekers, imagine how difficult is actually is to not only get someone who really isn’t looking to make a change in their employment to #1 actually perceive employer branding/job content, and #2 take specific action on it.

It’s a shame that too few sourcers and recruiters take the time to think about what the world looks like through the eyes of a passive or non-job seeking “A” player.

Don’t Just Set Traps – Go Hunting!

Relying heavily on pushing content and hoping that the right people see it and actually take action upon it will leave you constantly struggling to attract enough of the right people. Companies need to put just as much, if not more energy and effort into taking an active role in seeking out and identifying, contacting, engaging, and recruiting the right people – whether they’re looking for a new job or not.

Searching for people is an active strategy that is a selective process which affords you the ability to precisely control who you find, engage and recruit. Directly messaging and calling the right people who you’ve specifically searched for and identified puts the power of action in the hands of the sourcer/recruiter.

Well over half of the people I’ve recruited were “not looking” when I found them and made contact. Those are hires that would never have happened had I waited for them to notice my content and take action (or not!) or be referred to me.

Final Thoughts

While the “war for talent” would be a whole lot easier if simply placing employer branding content and jobs in front of people via social media and traditional channels would net you large quantities of the right talent, it simply doesn’t work that way, nor will it ever.

It can’t.

Talent attraction strategies and tactics, regardless of the medium utilized, are passive and non-selective strategies and afford no control over who is attracted.

Of course, every employer should post jobs and publish employer branding content via social media to attract talent – it works, especially for people who are actively and casually looking for new employment opportunities.

But if you’re having trouble attracting enough of the right people, don’t just sit back and hope for them to notice and take action in response to your posting or your Twitter/LinkedIn/Facebook content, or to be referred to you – take initiative and control and go find and engage them.

Because the majority of the right people won’t come to you, and they’re certainly not seriously thinking of taking action to make a change in employment.

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  • RecruiterB

    This is exactly why are little job we do will not go away. Recruiting is a verb.

  • You make such a great point. Talent attraction is important and every company should have a strategy around it, but if you are not actively out there finding the people that will lead your company into the future, you are missing the boat. It’s key to have a strategy to keep in touch with the people you’ve sourced that like your company and what it has to offer, but are not able to move “at the time” — aka the pipeline. Keeping those people top of mind and engaged is where it’s at. They’ve already, in some small way, agreed to be an evangelist. And they probably have a network foull of good people like them.

    Your post reminds me of one I read recently on Seth Godin’s blog — the art of seduction. No matter how great your employment branding content is, it won’t matter to people who aren’t seeking it out or have a reason to be affected by it. http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2010/07/the-art-of-seduction.html
    Hence the need to proactively identify the talent, give them a reason to care, and then let them choose to digest your employment marketing messages.

  • Sourcing Samuri

    “””It’s a shame that too few sourcers and recruiters take the time to think about what the world looks like through the eyes of a passive or non-job seeking “A” player.”””

    -the above statement might be the most under-utilized and under-appreciated concept in the Recruiting game today. Without question, Recruiters and Sourcers MUST practice this on a daily basis in order develop the relationships necessary to secure the employment of those top tier, passive candidates. The larger challenge, in my opinion and personal experience, is managing the hiring team into understanding this concept. Hiring Managers, HR Managers, Compensation Team, and the Recruiter need to be on the same page regarding the “minimal requirements” a passive candidate is looking for in order to make a move. In almost all cases, the candidate is currently happy in their position and will need to be “lured” away. Making lateral offers, or even 5-10% salary increases is not cutting it these days. Top tier candidates are looking for 15-20% salary increases in order to leave their current comfortable situation.

    Nice thought-provoking article, Glen!

  • Glen,

    Nice article.

    With Social Media booming – it is in danger of being overhyped. Recruiters / Sourcers has started using it at maximum extent; however if you are only using it to push the content – then it’s just post and pray approach. In that case they just become “Inbox Recruiters 2.0”.

    With social media – it has given a visibility to those hidden leads which would have never come in highlight. You have to actively hunt them by selling right opportunity to right candidates.

    It’s important that you reach out to leads than waiting for something to happen!!!

  • Coresourcing

    I guess its just a matter of perspective

    Your Job board searches (Fishing in a pond”)
    Your SM techniques (Fishing in the sea with a net)
    Web and telephone research (Deep sea diving)

    Pick your skill and you will find the best approach. All these approaches have their space and purpose in sourcing.

    Anything new is hyped so lets not worry too much about it. the focus should be in finding where it fits and I still think, the solution is yet to come

    Hope it helps

  • @Kristin – thank you for your comment! The simple fact that the majority of people are NOT looking is reason enough for companies to spend more time, effort, and resources into a solid proactive talent identification and acquisition strategy. Anyone who comes to you from a job posting or social content is just the icing on the cake, IMO.

    @Sourcing Samuri – well said! It is equally critical for hiring managers and HR to always keep in mind what it’s like to be on the other side of the process, but from my experience, VERY few do. I’ve seen hiring managers that get so cocky with their corporate/employment brand that they will extend offers under a very good candidate’s current pay. My question to them is how would you feel, what kind of message does that send to you, and what would you do/how would you react?

    @RecruiterB – exactly. :-)

  • @Coresourcing – I agree with you to some extent. However, I would equate searching large resume databases (job board or your own) as the true deep sea diving – most people only scratch the surface of what’s actually available. I would also say that although that each of the sources/skills you detailed can and do produce results, I would argue there is a difference in the ability to quickly identify people with very specific skills and experience. I just worry that people are unknowingly spending 80% of their time on what will only produce 20% of the results, at the expense of doing it the other way around.

    @Sarang – definitely. I fear there are more people who wait for things to happen/people to come to them – without taking control of the effort and going out to hunt, you’re simply a talent farmer at best, and a talent trapper at worst.

  • Great Post! I totally agree with you on most of your points.

    The first step for most companies is to create the content and increase the # of candidates that they are getting through their recruitment marketing funnel.

    Once they are overflowing, they need to determine what skills they are exactly looking for in new candidates and put some tests / measures in their apply process to screen for these skills.

    This gives you a great base of qualified candidates to begin sourcing and contacting through social media and other forms. Also, I think most importantly companies need to put processes in place to identify and add the best candidates to their Talent Networks because a certain qualified candidate may not be a great fit for the job you are looking to fill right now, but future jobs may be great fits.

    Form relationships, and make sure to keep them!

  • Great post. By and large ‘finding’ will yield a higher quality candidate than being ‘found’

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