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How Many Interactions Does It Take to Warm Up Passive Candidates?

Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes you send an email to your top candidate, and within a couple of hours they reply expressing interest in the role. Most of the time they don’t, and you’re left wondering what you should do next.

Should you settle for someone else, another candidate who is interested in the role? Should you send another email or should you give them a call? You have worked so hard to source the candidate, and you know they would be perfect. What do you do?

Don’t countdown the minutes until your candidates reply.

Experienced recruiters know that engaging passive candidates is hard work, requiring more than one email to start a conversation. Good recruiters will follow up one or two more times before they throw in the towel. Great recruiters are persistent and will follow up 6 or more times before moving on. But, why so many times?

Great recruiters acknowledge that people are busier than ever. Inboxes are flooded with work to do, replies to be sent, and a lot of marketing emails that will never be opened. And, that’s just their inbox. Once you factor in social media, text, voicemail, and whatever else you can think of and couple it with responsibilities at work and home, it’s not surprising they haven’t replied to your email. You have to face it. You’re not their priority, but that is okay. You know to land the best talent requires effort. You have to be committed to your process, persistent in your follow up, and thoughtful in your messaging.

Getting The Candidate’s Attention

Candidates are a lot like drivers on a highway. They will continue on their path until they get a sign or two or six, prompting them to take their exit. As a recruiter, this is your greatest challenge. You have to breakthrough all of noise in the candidate’s life to get their attention. Here’s how you go about it

  1. Email first: At this point, your candidate knows nothing about you, the role, or the hiring company. The relationship is cold, and you need to first start a conversation before you can sell them on the role. While you could call, InMail, or text, it’s best practice to warm up the candidate with a brief introductory email to generate awareness. In your email, provide them with some background on the opportunity, enough to spark interest but not too much where they can self-select out.
  2. Email again: You sent your first email and you still haven’t heard back. Either one of two things happened: the candidate didn’t open your email or they did and didn’t reply. There could be a lot of reasons they didn’t reply, but don’t let that stop you from following up. It’s time to send another email. Like like last time, keep this email relatively brief, but avoid copying and pasting the same message. At this point, the relationship is still cold, and you need to continue warm it up and generate more interest by expanding on your initial message and going into more detail.
  3. Give the candidate a call: You sent two emails and still haven’t received a reply. Now, it’s time to change up your strategy. Instead of sending a third email, pick up the phone and give the candidate a call. If you’re lucky, the candidate will answer, and you’ll finally get a chance to work your magic and sell them on the role. If they don’t pick up, all is not lost. It’s just another opportunity to build on the foundation you have laid, but now your message has to be more tailored and personal. Reference the previous emails you sent, provide even more background on the role, and instruct them on next steps.
  4. Time to Send That InMail: In a perfect world, the candidate would have replied by now and you would be in the process of scheduling and preparing them for their interview with the hiring manager. As we all know, the world is not perfect, and sometimes candidates need more than a gentle nudge. It’s time to take your efforts up another notch. This time instead of an email or a call, send the candidate an InMail. You have laid the groundwork, and they should be anticipating your message, reducing the chances it will be marked as spam. Now, your message should more personalized than ever before, and you should focus on selling them on the opportunity. Reference their previous work, blog post, or shared connection and draw parallels between that and your opportunity.
  5. Get Social: At this point, you have tried all traditional methods of outreach. Now, it’s time to get creative. If the candidate won’t come to you, go to them. Find any channel where the candidate is active. This could be their blog, Twitter, Facebook, or wherever, and engage with them on that platform. You can tweet, comment, or private message, but make sure you acknowledge their work, provide your own thoughts and/or commentary, and then bring the message back to your role.
  6. Email or Text or Call: At this point, you have exhausted all of your options and reached out to them all possible channels. Unfortunately, sometimes it just doesn’t work out and no matter how well you message the opportunity the candidate is just not interested. Before you walk away, reach out to the candidate one more time. Mention your previous messages but really focus on the hard sell. Frame the opportunity as a story and make the candidate the champion. Don’t just mention their previous work. Instead frame their experience as the path leading to this role. Be specific with benefits, such as potential for growth, leadership opportunity, or personal benefits. Throw everything at this last message, and let them know you’re closing the loop. Now, the burden is shifted to the candidate. If they still don’t respond, you have given it your all and can focus on your other candidates.

Ideally, the candidate would reply to you somewhere in this process, expressing interest or opting out; however, sometimes they just don’t. Maybe they have a lot going on in their personal lives or are happy in the current role. Don’t take it personally and break your commitment to your process. Instead, look at it as an opportunity for improvement. Review any metrics you have, like email open rates and click-through rates. Identify areas where you could improve, maybe tweaking your subject line or follow up sooner. Whatever you do stay committed to your process and be persistent.

Still struggling?

Everything comes back to your candidate sourcing strategy. You always want to make sure your contacting the right person, for the right job opportunity, at the right time. If you’re still struggling, the problem might not be your process. You might be contacting the wrong person.

If you add value to your candidates and help introduce them to opportunities that they are not only a good fit for but will also help them further their career goals, you will become someone of influence. You will be someone they trust, and in the future, they will open your emails, return all your calls, and even send you a text.

Don’t countdown the minutes until your candidates reply.

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