Can You Predict a “Near Active” Candidate?

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

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  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!

K.C. Donovan “Lives life to express, not to impress.” His low-key history of Talent Engagement Leadership has touched every facet of the industry both internally and externally. An eclectic mix of experiences previous to recruiting provides a diversity of knowledge that few can claim. Having held numerous executive positions in Hospitality, CPG, Distribution and Technology (VP’s of Recruiting, Marketing & Sales), K.C.’s dynamic innovation is best seen with the four successful companies he has founded.

His fifth company, DonoVision, launched in Q1 2018, is a Digital Talent Agency employing Advanced Engagement techniques that deliver “quality applicant” outcomes. Focused on engaging with the emerging Career Engineers who are avoiding our ATS’s in droves, recruitment marketing, branding, sourcing and cultivation are used to create a winning formula. K.C. is more excited about DonoVision than anything he’s previously created.


16 Comments on “Can You Predict a “Near Active” Candidate?

  1. Great post KC. Love “Competitive company volatility (potential M&A, etc.)” – something that is often overlooked.

    1. Thanks Billy – I usually train my team to watch out for M&A as a potential motivation for hiring cause more time than not the activity doesn’t impact the prospect and they get cold feet just when yo need them to accept…BUT…as a response lever it is one of the best!

      1. Not that this is the best or most fancy news source, but I scan daily and I believe that the NY times features a section on M&A that aggregates news fairly well. These do not catch everything, but they are easier to adopt. GageIn is another tool that has been valuable for business intelligence. I think that my internal clients also appreciate that I keep tabs on what is going on outside of the company and can advise when pockets of people at key locations are more inclined to make a move.

  2. WOW, WOW and WOW, Just LOVE when someone like you K.c. come up with stuff that is so advanced, so thoroughly thought through with such depth and width. This is TRULY e v o l u t i o n a r y thinking, and thinking that takes the entire subject to a new and much more elevated level. This is simply bl… intelligent stuff right up there in the highest echelons. I applaud for the vision you have shown and the insight provided and think this is likely right up there among the 5 most advanced corporate sourcing and hiring thought leadership of 2015, B R A V O

    1. Hi Maureen – uncovering every single person used to be a real chore – one that you have been at the forefront and championing since I first heard of you back in the 1990’s!! so this is really preaching to the choir…

      Today calling in and asking “who is” is a bit too time consuming for this process (although for certain functions it is the only way). Fortunately, we have access to data and tools to extract that data that we never had before. These data sets and tools if used by an experience sourcer (Internet Geologist) can get you close to the mark. A follow up call to the division admin is a great way to confirm you have most of the people that do that work (For example: “I’m conducting due diligence on the marketing team for ABC soda and currently have mapped out 14 people, is that number close to the total people that work in the ABC soda marketing team?”). If there is a small company pool and you’re not getting it done through Internet datamining, then you have to pick up the phone and ask “who is!”

  3. Love the Bayesian probability approach KC- the only thing I might add is that anything you can do to uncover available propinquity will dramatically drive closing rates. A spouse’s hometown, a college match between interviewer and candidate, an industry involved with a candidate’s avocation….if you find something, it can be rocket fuel….

    1. Ah Thomas Bayes…it’s amazing that he did his work way back in the 1700’s…(was he pals with Adam Smith?). Anyway Martin (so erudite!), when you combine the “response levers” with an outreach that is personalized – based on the “noise” that the contacts have made in the industry (comments, blogs, etc.) and add some personal connection that the sourcer/recruiter can find with the contact…ahem…together these three can achieve response rates that are unprecedented…you are so so correct about making use of propinquity…for the best this comes naturally… 🙂

      1. KC when you say discovery/use of propinquity comes naturally, are you agreeing with the notion that great recruiters are born and not made? I have no doubt that all the top billing recruiters I have known are propinquity machines – they query for everyone you have ever met and talk about everyone they have ever met….and that knack does come naturally… and I totally agree that using triggers for timing, social content for rapport, and any useful propinquity as a systematic approach works as a force multiplier. Can it be taught or automated? Quite possibly….

        1. Great question Martin!

          I think those who naturally are loquacious, confident, curious, competitive and care about others will find that recruiting is a good fit…but…good recruiting can also be taught to people with opposite instincts…I’ve done it successfully numerous times…so I guess the answer is it can be both.

          As to automation, the system I’ve outlined in this post can be certainly streamlined with software using any good CRM…for externals Bullhorn and for internal teams Avature would be my “go to” tools as both are easily customized for this process (have used both). The value of the approach is the integrated pieces of the process that together lead to powerful results…force multiplier is a great term for this 🙂

          1. I’m not talking about Bullhorn style automation (P.S. PCRecruiter is the finest recruiting tool in the known universe) I mean Watson style automation. I have a feeling when we start conversing with computers for real, we are going to find talking to other people markedly less stimulating, ego satisfying, insightful, etc.

  4. That’s
    a great post KC. Kindly advice how effective is manual way to locate, attract
    and engage passive candidates for hiring? In this technology driven age, what
    is the ratio between machine and human collaboration for hiring?

    1. Hi Mayurakshi

      Thanks! IMO the blend of programmatic analytics, human interpretation (context) and interaction is the frontier of Talent Acquisition (TA) and very soon the rush will be on once the gold is discovered. We’re at the tipping point and consumer insights and analytics is showing us the way. For example, companies like PepsiCo are uncovering the “demand spaces” for their products by drilling directly into the household. They’re learning the lifestyle choices of each household member that lead to when these consumers want to consume a certain type of product, and are directing their digital engagements to that household member at that precise time. It’s only a matter of applying these same techniques to “career consumer” activity, and what better industry to make use of these breakthroughs than TA. This activity can be mined from an analysis of some of the levers I point out in my post (anniversary dates, bonus payouts, birthdays, among numerous others). This can be done programmatically using social data, engaging at the appropriate moments with personalized “what’s in it for you” marketing messages and then adding interpretative context from humans to to position the career consumer into the best path for them.

      There is an emerging engagement technology called “conversational commerce” that provides the ability for brands to engage with consumers directly in the digital conversations they’re having with their various “messenger” or SMS/text platforms (you’ll be hearing a lot more about this in 2016). A quick example of this is if you’re texting/messenging with friends about where to go to eat or what movie to see that night, and icons appear from brands that help you to make reservations or get tickets for a show (Yelp, Fandango, etc.). Facebook is already doing this with FB Messenger and Uber (you can pop an address from FB Messenger directly into the Uber app and schedule a pick up). How far a leap is it for a candidate marketing company to have their icon pop up when conversations turn to getting a new or different job? You can have AI tools to direct the career consumer based on “interest and motivation” to the appropriate Human Agent who can chat with them about options…I see huge opportunity for this in TA… Either way you’ll begin seeing more of this from mainstream brands in the coming year in whatever messenger you use. (If interested, read this and listen to the podcast attached – it’s fascinating…

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