Proactive Recruitment: How to develop a Powerful Proactive Strategy:

To improve recruitment metrics taking a more proactive approach will furnish more successful results. Taking on a more proactive recruitment process means engaging with folks long before a position comes open by building a pipeline of qualified talent that is ready to be put into place as soon as a position is available. For many companies the challenge is time. There are so many active openings that there isn’t enough time to pipeline for future ones. Another challenge is resources. Who should be responsible for working proactively to find qualified talent? Companies that don’t have a set plan and set list of guidelines in place with always run into issues and challenges with proactive recruiting practices.

Everyone within an organization should be responsible for bringing top talent to the company. While recruitment teams are put in place internally to drive the recruitment strategy and the process, it should not be the sole department being held accountable for where the talent comes from, how we find the talent or how successful that talent becomes once brought on board.

The talent drivers within the organization should first be the recruiters, if there are any, or the Human Resource department, second should be the managers themselves and following them should be the rest of the organization including executive leadership down to every day employees within the organization.

Most companies don’t hold themselves accountable across the organization for recruitment metrics. Most organizations weigh that load on the Human Resources department. With that in mind, managers can tend to point the finger and not take any responsibility when the heat is on to fill a position that has been open for a long time.

The primary measurements for recruitment encompass Time to Fill and Cost per Hire. Other metrics that play into recruitment is success level of new hires and retention rates. All are indicators of a strong or weak recruitment process.

In many companies it is also mostly driven by reactive recruitment, depending on the demand of the quantity of openings across the organization. Most managers and HR departments feel they have too many other day to day responsibilities on their plates to focus on recruiting as a priority prior to the day an opening exists. Reactive Recruitment is the process of waiting to recruit for a position until it becomes actively open. Reactive activities typically consist of posting a job on careers sites internally/externally and on other job boards. It is a typical “sit and wait” approach. Some positions can be filled successfully this way…notice the word some. However, most job postings do nothing but attract masses unqualified applicants.

So how does a company develop a powerful proactive strategy? Proactive Recruiting = “Always Be Looking”.

Follow these guidelines and success will be undeniable.

1.Get everyone involved: Everyone throughout the company should be involved proactively in
looking for talent that could be a potential next employee. Our employees are brand ambassadors. Especially those that are in a customer facing role. Sales people engage with other people outside of the company on a daily basis. Someone at a next client meeting or networking function could be a potential prospect. Sales people should be the best at “selling” someone on the company.

Managers should also always be “casually interviewing” for potential future openings in the same way as sales people. Using their industry knowledge and knowing the competition in the area gives keen insight into who else is out there.

2.Hold Managers Accountable: Managers should be held accountable to numbers and feel the sense of urgency just the same as HR and Recruiters. Performance plans should include these metrics. If they don’t feel a sense of urgency how can they expect others to? Managers should also be held accountable to constantly be interviewing and engaging with prospects on a regular basis. It should become a second nature and not an odd occurrence.

3.Contact them before they someone else does: Being proactive means taking the initiative to reach out to those that maybe haven’t considered a career change. Recruiting in a sense is selling. It is important to reach out to those in the market that are known well and have a solid track record. There are other companies and recruiters out there being proactive as well. If you don’t find them and engage, then most likely someone else will and you could miss out on a potential top candidate.

4.Stay Engaged: Once you have made initial contact with prospects it is important to stay connected with them. Social Networks have made it easier to stay connected through sites like Linkedin and Facebook which help keep potential applicants more engaged throughout the “courting” process. Even when you don’t have a position open in a specific area, staying connected with business updates and even personal changes can keep these potential prospects interested in still considering making a move in the future.

It is also possible to stay engaged outside of social networks as well. If you are not actively participating in social networks keep communication with potential prospects through email and phone contact on a regular basis. Set up reminders in your outlook calendar to reach out to say hello.

5.Always be honest. If there isn’t an active opening available make sure that you are completely honest with the candidate. Let them know that they are only being considered for future openings and that there is no immediate opening. Give them an idea of a potential timeline. Granted a position could come open any day for unexpected and uncontrollable circumstances, but giving them some sort of expectation will leave them feeling more at ease and not put a bad taste in their mouth later on. If it could be a year before anything opens that is okay, just let them know upfront. Odds are through if they are actively looking for a change now, they may not be available once an actual opening arrives.

How to source for Proactive Prospects and How to NOT:

Proactive sourcing is a whole different ball game from sourcing for open jobs. Posting a position and using the “sit and wait for them to apply” approach throws up many red flags in a proactive sourcing process. Proactive Postings cause several implications. The first issue with proactive job postings is that it impedes the ability to adhere to number 4 above, “Always be Honest”. Posting a job that is not actively open is misleading. Even if the ad states that the posting is for proactive purposes most of the people applying actively for jobs are those in need of an immediate job. So while interviewing candidates that apply to a proactive job requisition may seem like a good idea, in the long run it will cause more issues. The three major issues include:

1.Candidates that apply to job postings are typically actively looking for a job in the immediate future. Passive candidates are generally not out searching for jobs now.

2.Candidates with more immediate needs tend to be very persistent in follow up. Even through you may tell them up front it is for proactive purposes they are not likely to sit and wait for you to call them back when a position is open. They will call continuously and may become more of a nuisance than anything.

3.Candidates actively seeking employment will most likely be off the market by the time a position within the company finally comes open. For those that are truly very unhappy in their current job or are currently unemployed; they can’t just wait for a position to come open within the company. They will continue to actively interview with other companies and if they are any good it won’t take long for them to find employment.

The best way to source for proactive candidates is through good old fashioned cold calling and networking. The best proactive candidates are those that are actively employed and happy with where they are. You won’t find them posting their resumes to job boards or applying to active job openings. They are too busy being top performers for their current employers to stop and take a look at what else could be available. Not even job advertisement, as big and bold as they may be, can typically lure or entice someone that hasn’t even thought about a career change.

That I why managers and other costumer facing employees become a pivotal piece of this process. Even if they don’t actively engage with the prospect themselves, handing of leads to the recruitment team can speed up the process of finding great talent.

Seeking out talent and staying engaged with them is truly what it takes to make a proactive process successful. I hope this has helped guide you in the right direction for building a solid proactive process.

What are your thoughs? I welcome feedback comments or suggestions on other things that have been successful.

Additional articles/blogs of reference:

1.“It’s All About Talent Communities” Jeffrey Wheeler, May 21st 2009:
2.“Lean Sourcing and Recruiting; Just In Time Recruiting” Boolean Black Belt, December 2008:
3.“Job Posting vs. Searching for Candidates” Boolean Black Belt October 5th 2009:
4. “Proactive or Reactive Recruitment?” Blog By Frank Pacheco 2005:
5.“Stop Holding Us Back! Problems and Roadblocks in Recruitment”, Dr. John Sullivan, March 22nd, 2004:

Views: 9331

Comment by Phil Murray on October 29, 2009 at 1:01pm
Great post, Stephanie. I couldn't agree more on your point that recruiters should spend their time proactively, not just reactively. It reminds me of Covey's first "Habit": BE PROACTIVE. His "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" were meant to be, and I believe they are, universally applicable across industries or careers. So, there's no reason it won't work for recruiters as well.

Building a cache of strong candidates surely would make it quicker to fill positions in the future. So, the time invested on the front end can lead to significant time savings later, and probably a better fit for your client company as you would have better knowledge of the individual than you would have from someone who applied to you just a few days earlier off of a job board posting you placed for that specific position.
Comment by Harold Ensley on October 29, 2009 at 6:08pm
Hi Stephanie,

I'm really happy to see this post, it's an excellent overview of proactive recruitment. Particulary your points about involving everyone, and holding non-HR/Recruiting partnerships to task. I agree with your point that Recruitment is sales.

I would like to add a few points to this conversation, (1) Proactive recruitment is passive candidates. The minute you add active candidates to the pool, one is muddying the water. This means that referrals from people on the market - today - should best be served by one's recruiting department, not someone assigned to proactive recruitment. This is especially true if you have a strong brand, that attracts more candidates than you may want, at times. A lot of these candidates may be pretty darn good - but not worth leveraging proactive channels for.

(2) The level of proactive recruitment is important. Let's be frank, you can't proactively recruit for junior level jobs. These people look for new work that pays 50 cents higher, etc. If someone is making near the poverty line, or less than 50k per annum (many call centers, retail), your pipeline is only as good as the jobs you recruit for today.

(3) Respects the limitations of your recruitment department. Many recruiters recruit for an insane amount of positions. If you think proactive recruitment can come from this area... honestly... forget it. Your recruitment department is not a recruiting agency. By the same token, using those same recruiters to funnel proactive candidates to hiring managers is a bad idea. It ends up with a lack of feedback for candidates, or candidates being asked stupid questions, such as "why do you want to work for us?" - instead of selling a passive candidate on the job. I've even had candidates being low-balled for existing openings. Most day-by-day hiring managers are not proactive creatures. One should not mix these programs.

I speak from my experiences, perhaps others see it differently.
Comment by Recruiting Animal on October 3, 2013 at 6:29am

The thing you should do now is provide six real life examples of how each of the the things you recommended were done in real life and worked or didn't.

If they have never been done it would be good to hear why you yourself are not doing them. So many articles talk about what should be done without taking any responsibility to prove that they can be done by providing detailed examples.

And not one example that might be the exception to the rule but half a dozen examples which would suggest that the recommendations being made can be done.

And, again, if the practice is not being done we want to know why not and what has to be done before it can be done. And we want to know if the author is doing any of this stuff herself.

For instance, you say that hiring managers should be given personal sourcing quotas. Is that being done anywhere in a way that doesn't allow them to just dump their personal quotas on recruiters? If not, why not? Has it been tried anywhere? Was there resistance? Was it successfully implemented. I personally doubt that it can be done so I would be very interested in seeing six examples.

If the recommendations are just visionary suggestions and have never been attempted we should know that too.


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