By Joanna Weidenmiller

How Recruiters Can Leverage Engagement to Engage Top-Talent Passive Candidates

The latest employment numbers speak loud and clear: we’re out of the recession, our economy is growing fast, and we are going to face a war for talent like nothing before. That’s right, a “war” for the best and brightest passive candidates who, in most case, are happily employed at one of your competitors.

The U.S. economy added 252,000 jobs in December, and revisions showed 50,000 additional jobs were added in October and November, more than initially estimated. Over the last 12 months, the added 2.9 million jobs is the most for a 12-month stretch since the middle of 2000.

Well-Educated Workers Are Much Less Likely to be Unemployed

Well-educated workers are much less likely to be unemployed. While unemployment is 8.6 percent among those without a high school diploma, it’s only 5.3 percent among high school graduates, 4.9 percent among those with some college or an associate’s degree and 2.9 percent for college graduates.

The competition for talent is expected to be fierce among corporate recruiters, head hunters and staffing agencies. Most likely they will all go after the same pool of candidates, especially for niche jobs as well as for high-demand roles (sales reps and software engineers among others). In this environment, finding great (passive) candidates is just the start; recruiters need to plan and implement effective strategies to attract and engage them, in order to start a conversation that will lead to a successful hire.

Engagement Is the Key to a Successful Hire

Engagement is the key. Here are 5 strategies that recruiters can leverage to engage passive candidates and increase their chances to win the war for talent:

Employer branding. Everybody does it, but some companies do it better than others. A great career site is a good start. What really engages candidates is the ability of a company to create a long term branding strategy that goes beyond the need of a candidate pipeline to fill current openings. HR departments must dedicate resources and time to engage active and passive candidates, both online and offline. Provide resources like a company blog, social media posts, free white papers, webinars, so that they can learn about job hunt or career planning best practices – directly from HR experts like you and your team members.

Referrals. Employee referrals provide the greatest ROI for HR departments. They help to significantly reduce time to hire, increase the quality of the hire, and guarantee higher retention rates vs. candidates coming through job boards and other sources. In a highly competitive environment, where the market is candidate-driven, candidates tend to respond less and less to recruiters inquiries, but tend not to do the same with a message from a friend. Leverage your employees not only because they might know valuable people, but because valuable people will more likely respond to a friend rather than to another LinkedIn email from a recruiter.

Culture of Innovation. Organizations must foster innovative thinking. Millennials (soon to be 50 percent of the US workforce) want to work for organizations that support innovation. In fact, 78 percent of them are influenced by how innovative a company is when deciding if they want to work there, and but most say their current employer does not greatly encourage them to think creatively.

Innovation in assessment. From a candidate perspective, the hiring process is a tedious and impersonal experience. The rise of applicant tracking systems, psychometric assessments, video interviews, etc…, are pushing great candidates away from companies as they also fail in identifying great candidates based mostly on descriptive variables. Competing for talent today means interacting with candidates and leveraging innovative ways to assess their skills. Challenge-based recruiting offers a great alternative to standardized tests, as it engages candidates to showcase their skills while pitching their ideas (just like they would for a project or business idea).

Investing in your talent – the job 12 and 24 months from now. In a world where some of the things we learn at university are already outdated the moment we graduate, candidates look at companies as a place where they can also learn and grow. Companies are sometimes afraid to invest in training, because they fear that employees will leverage those new skills to land a better job. There is no point in increasing retention rates if the workforce is not prepared to face future market and technology conditions. In a candidate-driven market, corporate training and a clear career path will help you engage motivated and driven people and increase your chances to succeed in your job.

In this new environment of rapid economic growth and subsequent job boom, employers need to use more than compensation and benefits to attract great people. Those who will implement strategies to engage candidates and build relationships more than pipeline, have greater chances to achieve their organizational and business goals. For recruiters and HR leaders, 2015 is the year of the candidate.

Joanna Weidenmiller is a former FBI recruit, model, national rower, serial entrepreneur and active woman in tech who recently took her company, public on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX). She also spoke at the G20 Summit – Women in Leadership Track . She lives and works in San Francisco, CA. @OnePageCompany