It’s a pretty common thought that this is a difficult time of year to hire. I hear this over and over each year once the leaves stop falling. In actuality, the hiring climate changes a bit at the end of fourth quarter – so planning for it can work to your advantage. Now is one of the best times of the year for passive candidate recruitment – people seem more open to speaking – maybe it’s the holiday spirit, some free time on their hands or they are thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. Whatever the case, passive recruiting is a key part of a recruiting strategy. Smart companies look for the best people, not the best available people.

Passive candidates are just that… passive, “not participating readily or actively”. That doesn’t mean someone isn’t interested in making a change, but people are busy. Making a concerted effort to search for a new job is often in the back of someone’s mind, but actually making the time to do so is another story. Searching for a job takes work. So –imagine having the “perfect” opportunity land in your lap. No searching boards, no networking, no redoing the resume…. A great candidate can be enticed to speak if you approach them the right way.

Here are a couple things to keep in mind:

Be Relevant
If you are going to approach someone, you should have a good reason for doing so. Do they have expertise in your industry? Would it be a career step up for them? If you are approaching passive candidates with opportunities that are irrelevant you are certain to come across as sloppy and self-serving – an immediate turnoff. Which brings me to my next point.

Before you reach out to a passive candidate, take some time to research them. Find out more about their current company and what they have been doing there. Look at where they went to school. Do you have a common connection that you can reference when approaching them?

Understand that before you jump in and start qualifying a candidate, you must engage with them and gain their further interest in what you may have to offer them. Think in their shoes. They don’t want to waste their time, so ask some key questions to help determine what their hot buttons are and then align what you can offer. If it is not a match, complete the conversation cordially and see if there is anything you can do to help them. Who knows – they may even refer you to another candidate.

Relationship Building
Passive recruiting is extremely time-consuming. It takes research, multiple outreaches and often a number of conversations. Approach it as building a relationship with each person you reach out to. You are networking with new people, maybe now is the right time for them to make a move, or maybe it isn’t. Use this time you have invested to create a new and lasting contact. You may find in 12 months they approach you with renewed interest.

Follow through – if you say you are going to do something, do it – whether that means sending them information on your company, setting up a time to meet for coffee or connecting to them on LinkedIn. Employment brands can be destroyed by the people representing them if one is not mindful. People remember the negative, so as a representative of your company, keep your word for the sake of the company’s reputation as well as your own.

One final note – Beware! Candidates often go from being passive to active pretty quickly. A call about one job often is the motivator to them moving forward on a full blown search. If you are recruiting passive candidates, make sure the recruitment process goes at a steady pace. Not too slow, not too fast.

Taking on passive recruitment is a tall order, but a necessary recruitment strategy when building a world-class team. As you look at 2012 plans, I urge you to consider a holistic approach to hiring – surely your competitors are doing so!