Having worked within the headhunting (passive) recruitment market for some 13 years now, clients definitely fall into two categories; those who assume moving forward with passive candidates is the same as the more active market and those who completely understand the headhunting process and hook better candidates in.
So what is my best advice for company's looking to drive better shortlists and ultimately recruit the best the market has to offer, rather than skimming from the best available candidates obtained through database and advertising means:
1 - First, and foremost, interviewers need to be aware of the courting process, especially at first interview stage. Company's all too often have poorly thought out candidate engagement strategies, with weak employer branding. It staggers me that company's still want headhunted candidates to fill out (largely redundant) forms of employment and assessment centres ahead of preliminary interviews. Shock horror when candidates get turned off by this process. This is not to say at subsequent stages the company do not have the opportunity to cross question and be more forensic in their approach. Importantly, by this stage, the company have already warmed the candidate and has a strong handle on their personality and fit for the culture.
2 - During first interviews passive interviewees may seem a little reserved about their motivation and in giving in-depth information about their current employer (especially if direct competition). This, in part, goes back on the courting process at first meeting stage. Candidates are not going to show all their cards straight away. Once they feel comfortable, and are fully brought into the company, they are more likely to open up and trust the prospective employer.
3 - Package. Passive candidates are likely to be less forthcoming with package details. This is where any headhunter worth their salt will work to support both parties at a very early stage, making sure expectations are married up before any awkward conversation spills over. Oh, a word of warning to headhunted candidates - best not to dive in straight away regarding the 30% increase in salary you are looking for. This is likely to just turn off the headhunter and show your true motivations for moving... on second thoughts, carry on doing this as it saves mine and my client’s time in the long run!
4 - Communication is key (and a degree of flexibility from the interviewer’s perspective). Again, this goes back on the whole "courting" process. As long as passive candidates are clear on when they can speak, be this for a specific reason, or a more generic weekly window for a catch up, company's should respect this. They are not actively looking and have day jobs to do.
5 - Do not fall into the trap of allowing the candidates CV to solely influence your opinion on whether you should interview. This, again, is where a consultative approach from your headhunting partner works wonders. More than likely, the candidate has cobbled together an updated CV one evening in between getting the children ready for bed and reviewing one of his team’s performance review.
Ok, I appreciate a lot of the above puts the onus on the perspective employer to impress and, of course, ultimately it is the decision maker’s neck that is on the block if the recruit does not work out. Much of the above revolves around the early part of the recruitment process, which allows for the company to come out of the traps harder after preliminary conversations.
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