Attracting Passive Candidates During a Talent Shortage

It’s no secret that the U.S. is facing a significant talent shortage in tech, financial services, manufacturing, and several other sectors as we recover from the economic ravages of COVID-19.

According to Forbes, 54% of companies globally are reporting talent shortages, while Korn Ferry estimates the shortfall could climb to an alarming 85.2 million people worldwide by 2030, which translates into an $8.5 trillion problem.

As a result, companies are competing for a limited pool of available talent in a candidate-driven market. Wages are rising fast and employers are scrambling to improve their employee value propositions.

But with a finite number of active jobseekers available, companies are still falling short when attempting to fill vacant roles. The solution is to pivot to attracting passive talent, or people who are currently employed and may not be actively looking for a new role.

Unfortunately, attracting passive talent isn’t as simple as it may sound. Some of the challenges include:

Comfort/upheaval: Don’t underestimate the upheaval involved in leaving a company and starting a new role. For many workers who are comfortable in their current jobs, the effort simply isn’t worth it unless they are offered a meaningful incentive such as a significantly higher wage or much better working conditions than they are currently experiencing.

Job security/hesitation: The economy is recovering but the nation isn’t out of the woods yet. And even though the unemployment numbers are reassuring, many workers have been frightened by the collective trauma of 2020 into believing that it is safer to stay in a secure role than to take a risky leap.

Competition: When I was on the phone with a data analyst recently, she gave me an idea of what it’s currently like for passive candidates in highly sought-after roles: “You may be surprised to hear this, but this is the third job offer I’ve had this week,” she said. With inboxes filling up with competing offers, your EVP will need to stand out.

Counteroffers: Employers are more willing than usual to make a counteroffer because they know their top talent is at increased risk of being headhunted. Recruiters may find themselves in a bidding war with an incumbent’s current employer.

Let’s explore some of the most effective ways to attract passive talent.

Five ways to attract and hire passive talent

Consider the inbox of a sought-after passive candidate in a sector such as tech. Multiple times a week, emails appear from recruiters or direct from hiring managers at competing organizations. How are you going to make your offer stand out?

  1. Ramp up your offering. Be realistic: your usual salaries and incentives simply aren’t going to cut it in a super-competitive environment. For however long this talent shortage lasts, employers need to be bold and generous with salaries and bonuses. Other EVP perks include remote working, flexible hours, in-office facilities, and a great team culture.
  • Get straight to the point with the strongest element of your offer when you approach a passive candidate. Most likely it’s the salary, so be sure to put that in the email subject line or lead with this on the call.
  • Improve your employer brand. Brand-building takes time, but it undeniably provides an advantage when attempting to attract candidates in a highly competitive market. If a candidate recognizes your brand, they are more likely to click through to learn more. Also consider your online presence – what will a busy passive candidate see if they Google your company name? Optimize your careers page, social media presence, and review information about your company on sites such as Glassdoor.
  • Hire faster. I can’t stress this enough. If you recognize great talent, secure that person by making the best offer as fast as possible. There is no time in a highly competitive environment for a drawn-out recruitment process with multiple rounds of job interviews, nor is there any room for hesitation before making the job offer. 
  • Improve your tech stack. This rule doesn’t only apply to tech candidates. Talented people in every sector want to work with the latest technology because it’s great for their professional development, and it (usually) makes their job easier. No matter what sector you’re in, make sure your #ProcureTech, #FinTech, #MarTech, #InsurTech, #AgTech, or #WhateverTech is cutting-edge.

Of course, once you’ve successfully hired a passive candidate, the next step is to ensure someone else doesn’t come along and tempt them away from you. Retention strategies also need to be ramped up amidst a talent shortage – but we can discuss these in a future article.