In This Job Market, Passive Candidates Have All the Power. Here’s How to Attract Them

September 26, 2017

 

It’s no secret that Canada’s economy is at high tide right now. GDP growth is regularly eclipsing forecasts – growing at an eyebrow-raising 4.5% rate over the course of 2017 so far – and unemployment is at its lowest rate in nine years, with the economy adding a 388,000 jobs over the past year (354,000 of those being full time). The job market is strong. Take it from us as a recruitment agency when we say that the strong economy is leading to lots of great positions as companies look to poach the best talent. What’s more, in our vertical of Supply Chain, Procurement and Logistics, we’re also dealing with an emerging talent crisis. Baby boomers are beginning to retire in droves and there’s a lack of adequate skills training by colleges and universities to replace them. Add these factors together, and it can be a crushingly-tough market for companies who want the best people for their jobs.

Say a senior, strategic opening becomes available. Maybe an incumbent A-player took another offer with a competitor, or your company is taking advantage of the strong economy and pursuing expansion into new markets. Just posting your job on job boards isn’t going to attract the best people. Because in a job market as strong as this one, the top candidates – especially in Procurement and Supply Chain – aren’t looking for jobs. They’re already working, meaning they’re part of the oceanic pool of “passive” talent which, even in a weak job market, can make up 75% of all available employees.

It’s surprisingly tough for companies to dislodge these people from their existing roles in this market. The good news is that for the right opportunity, the top passive candidates will make a move. Because an economy as good as this is a wonderland of potential for superstar candidates.  

But how do you craft that right opportunity? How do you motivate a superstar to make a move? Salary, bonuses, time off, you might say – the standard picture. But the nuance of attracting great passive candidates to your company is actually trickier than that.

Here’s a quick story that illustrates the more unconventional motivations of top candidates: Bronwen Hann, our President and Senior Partner, was speaking with a Director-level Procurement candidate in the Food Production industry for a Senior Director-level role we were working on. The job was with a renowned company. It had attractive compensation, a great location, the chance to gain more responsibility and impact. In other words, it was a stellar opportunity. But what questions did this candidate – an accomplished business leader with a significant track record of adding value and cost savings – want to have answered the most?

Who would she be reporting to? Who was the VP she’d be working with, and what were their priorities, strategy, and management style?

This was this candidate’s most important criterion, beyond salary, job title, or any of the other traditional measures defining what makes a job great. Top candidates want a functional, positive working culture – they value the relationships they will build with senior leadership – and many of them aren’t even willing to come out for an interview unless they know something about the boss.

Money will always be a draw, responsibilities will always be a draw, but we think this anecdote illustrates a tricky fact of hiring in this market: there are lots of nuances to attracting passive candidates beyond those more typical measures. It shows that companies can’t just throw large salaries and bonuses at candidates – superstars want to be wowed, or at least convinced that the grass will be greener at a new role. (For what it’s worth, we were happy to be able to tell this candidate about the great senior executive she’d be working for, and she’s now going in for an interview).  

Another, unexpected factor that’s important to passive candidates in this tight market is the ability to work from home. More and more senior passive candidates we’re speaking with are telling us that if a prospective company has a structured work from home policy – say, a certain number of days per week – it’s much more likely to convince them to make the leap. It’s no longer enough for companies to offer vague commitments to work/life balance and flexibility in working arrangements: candidates now want prospective employers to have thought through, codified policies for working from home just like they would for vacation. With various kinds of software making working from offsite a reality, the top candidates (who might be looking to duck out of long commutes) are leading the way when it comes to making work more flexible – and once these top candidates get their wish, it’s only a matter of time until these policies become more codified across business more generally.

These factors are unexpected, and they’re surprisingly important in today’s market. So what’s the takeaway for companies looking to hire? Securing great passive talent in a marketplace like this one is a major coup. It’s worth thinking about some of the outside-the-box factors that can help you secure your next greatest hire. 

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