Hiring marketers? If you want the best (and you really should), your business needs to be adamantly pursuing what marketing recruiters call “passive” candidates.
Active vs. Passive Talent
Even if you’re a A-level marketing veteran, you’re not necessarily familiar with the ins and outs of recruiting and hiring others for your team. Here’s what you need to know about active and passive job candidates:
- Generally, active candidates are individuals that are in the current, consistent process of searching for a new job. Sometimes they are out of work and seeking employment, unhappy with their current job, or simply ready to take the next step in their career. Active candidates are the ones applying to your jobs, aggressively growing their professional network in search of opportunities, and are very easy for employers to engage and recruit.
- Passive talent, on the other hand, is not on the hunt for a new job. They may be entirely satisfied with their current situation and see no need to look, or just too busy and dedicated to find time for a job search. Passive candidates will rarely notice or apply to jobs—even those that would make excellent fits for their skillset and personality—and are more difficult to approach and hire.
Why You Want the Talent That’s Not Looking
If passive candidates are so much harder to reach, why bother? Because tapping into the passive pool gives you a larger selection of higher quality talent!
A Broader Talent Pool
The more potential marketers you have to pick from, the greater the odds one of them will be the perfect fit for your critical vacant role. Active talent is easier to find and hire—but it represents only a small fraction of the total pool of marketing professionals. That fraction has grown in recent years as a stabilized economy motivates greater mobility, but it’s still less than a third of the total workforce.
Image from LinkedIn 2015 Talent Trends
Higher Quality Talent
Not only are most marketing professionals passive candidates—but the best marketers available tend to skew heavily toward the passive side.
Why? Simple: they’re busy.
A-level marketers are much less likely to be let go from a job. And if they do find themselves unemployed, they rarely have a hard time showcasing their ability and finding work quickly. So it’s very uncommon to find game-changing talent in the active category.
Being a hard worker doesn’t always make a great marketer. But a great marketer is almost inevitably a very hard worker. They’re too busy obsessing over strategy and analytics and leadership and trends to spend time casually browsing job boards.
That passion and dedication is why new hires that were recruited as passive candidates provide a performance rated about 10% higher than their active counterparts, and why passive candidates are 25% more likely to stay with your company long-term.
The Nuances of Attracting Passive Talent
Of course, the nature of passive talent makes attracting it significantly more difficult. While active marketing candidates will be seeking your jobs out and going to great lengths to impress you, you’ll be the one seeking out and trying to impress passive candidates.
It’s a time- and labor-intensive process, but one that can pay off huge dividends if you do it right.
- Perpetual networking: If you want to attract top marketers to grow your business, you’ll have to be constantly and aggressively growing your personal and professional network to include more and more people who are or know excellent marketing talent. That means attending industry events, engaging in social networks, making 1-to-1 connections, and more. The more active, engaged and knowledgeable professionals you know, the better your odds of having an “in” with the ideal talent for your vacant role.
- Pursue the bona fide rock stars: Since attracting passive talent is so much more demanding, you can’t realistically afford to try and engage every single person you think might be a good candidate for your marketing role. There are simply too many; and if you try to attract everyone you’ll end up succeeding with none. Instead, identify a relatively small list of truly ideal “walk-on-water” individuals that you’re confident would be near-perfect fits and focus your efforts on them.
- Personalized messaging: Remember, these top marketers are already plenty busy; they’ll overlook “canned” messages like you ignore junk mail. If you want to grab their attention and keep it, you’ll need to be able to catch their eye with highly personalized messages that immediately resonate with their interests and ambition.
- Speak their language: If you’re going to engage innovative, game-changing marketers, you must be able to communicate with them in a way that resonates with them and lets them know you understand and appreciate what they do. This is why it’s always risky to leave marketing recruitment to HR staff or hiring managers that are out of touch with the cutting edge of marketing.
- Know when to quit: If your attempts to connect with a rock star candidate have been unsuccessful, it’s important to know when to stop wasting time on them and focus your efforts elsewhere. A good rule of thumb is to limit your search to about five messages per person–including any phone calls, emails, and social media communications. If you’re unable to engage talent within that window of opportunity, they’re not interested in what you have to say.
How to Handle All That Work
If that sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to finding and recruiting the absolute best marketers, which tend to be passive candidates. But at a time where marketing has never been more important, having the right talent in place at every level of your marketing is critical to growing your business and remaining competitive.
The good news is that you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) do it all on your own. Looking for and engaging top-tier marketing talent should be a collaborative and constant effort across your entire marketing management team, even if you don’t have an immediate, urgent need to hire.
And of course, you always have the option of calling in backup. Consider partnering with a dedicated marketing executive search firm or other marketing recruitment services for finding talent at any level, especially if you need help with a particularly important or hard-to-fill role. While passive recruitment might seem like a huge burden to add on top of your other duties, it’s the daily duty of a good marketing recruiter. And that constant experience, extensive talent network, and finely-honed communication skill are all available to you as you need it on demand.