On the Verge of Another Recession, You Need to Recruit Passive Talent

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It has been just about a decade since the Great Recession, but the repercussions are still palpable for many. Those who lost significant portions of their savings or were laid off are rightfully worried about history repeating itself, and as a result, they aren’t willing to take the same kinds of risks they once did.

Those fears may be justified: A great number of people are currently worried we are on the verge of another recession. In a recent Duke University survey, 48.6 percent of CFOs predicted an economic downturn by the end of 2019, and 82 percent said one would begin by the end of 2020.

At the same time, unemployment is incredibly low. The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows it at 3.9 percent. The combination of this fact with the fear of a recession has created a unique challenge for companies looking to hire.

In short, there are not enough active job seekers, but employed talent is resistant to new opportunities. If there is another recession, they don’t want to fall victim to “last in, first out” layoffs. This leaves companies struggling to fill their open positions.

However, filling those position is not impossible. Talent acquisition professionals can successfully engage and recruit passive talent as long as they take the right approach.

Here are three ways to reach passive talent despite the fear of a recession:

1. Make Time for Building Relationships

When plenty of people are looking for work, it is easy to find talent. You just send out a batch of emails to potential candidates and wait for the replies to roll in. When candidates are skittish, however, you have to put in more effort.

Passive talent does not necessarily want you to come knocking when your talent pipeline has run dry. They’re not itching to shift gears, and they certainly don’t appreciate being targeted out of your desperation to fill an empty role. If you want to gain the trust of passive talent, you must put their needs ahead of their potential risks, and you must set your own needs on the back burner to focus on theirs.

By taking time to cultivate real relationships with candidates, you show them you are genuinely invested in their careers. When a candidate sees your company is interested in their talents and professional growth, they will feel more confident about the prospect of a future with your company.

It takes a lot of time and energy to build strong relationships with candidates. When a tight talent market puts pressure on your team to fill empty seats, time may feel like something you cannot afford. This is why it is best to focus on just a few high-quality passive candidates.

Before you reach out, research who they are. When you craft the initial email, draw clear ties between the candidate and your company. While you don’t want to cross any boundaries by getting too personal, do explain the mutual benefits both parties will receive if they come to work for your organization. Show that you understand what is important to them, be it family, hobbies, promotions, etc. The point is to make the candidate feel valued.

Don’t forget to ask questions. Inquire about the candidate’s long-term career plan. See what they think about industry trends or news. Ask them what they want in an employer, company, or team that they don’t have now. Even if a candidate is only slightly interested, your questions will encourage them to reply, giving you a chance to continue building the relationship.

2. Forget Everything You Thought You Knew About Transparency

Many people associate the Great Recession with shady business practices, and they worry about being blindsided by company secrets all over again. Transparency is no longer a surefire way to stand out from your competitors — it is now expected of all potential employers. You can’t simply offer need-to-know information and call it full disclosure.

Talent is already feeling uneasy, and they are fully aware you’re in a position where you need to earn their trust. As a result, they’re more skeptical of company communications. Anything you share that is conveniently not part of your online presence is going to raise red flags, regardless of your best intentions. You won’t win candidates’ trust by making them feel as though they are learning some secret truth about your company.

Instead, start by updating your online branding. Be clear about the good and bad parts of the job. Traditionally, talent acquisition professionals have tried to hide negative aspects of their open roles. Any rational candidate will see right through an opportunity that appears too good to be true. Even when candidates ask tough questions, don’t sugarcoat the answers. Talent is more likely to consider working for your organization if they know they’re going in with open eyes and full information.

3. Customize Your Pitch to the Candidate’s Values

No job is perfect. If you want to win over talent, you need to discover what a candidate is currently missing in their career. Don’t automatically assume they’re looking for more money. These candidates understand how quickly the economy can change, so a higher salary won’t always catch their attention.

The trick is giving candidates detailed information about your company. Send them video tours of the office. Invite them to join employees for happy hour. Share articles written about the CEO that delve into the company mission. Then, pay attention to their reactions. What sparks their interest most? This will show you what candidates value and how their values align with the organization’s. From there you can refine your pitch and make your offer more enticing to the specific candidate.

It’s never easy to recruit passive talent. Today, with the unemployment rate so low and the economy teetering, it’s harder than ever. Yet that shouldn’t stop you from recruiting top talent. When you take the right approach, you can give even the most nervous passive candidates the confidence to come to work for your organization.

Josh Tolan is the CEO of video interview solution Spark Hire. Connect with Spark Hire on Facebook  and Twitter.

By Josh Tolan