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When key roles remain vacant or are filled with average performers, what does it cost you?

Certainly, your organization feels a very real “pain” when a senior marketing position remains vacant during a prolonged search. Projects fall behind, impacting everything down the chain. Team members become overworked or disgruntled from picking up the extra slack. You may even lose clients.

But even if your team fills a role quickly with an average performer, your company still pays a high price. According to Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author and strategic talent management advisor, average employees:

  • are more “high maintenance,” requiring more time, expense and effort to train and manage;
  • cost the same as high performers, but yield less in terms of quality and quantity of output;
  • can damage your company’s brand and put your business at a greater risk for turnover and employment-related complaints.

Clearly, hiring the right people has a huge impact on your bottom line. According to global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, “Top performers can increase productivity, revenue and profit between 40% and 67% over average performers.”

But top performers are unlikely to take your recruiters’ calls.

Most high performers are “passive candidates” – and aren’t actively looking for new opportunities. And here’s where things get a little confusing. Recent research suggests that high-performing, employed professionals are receptive to recruiters’ advances:

  • LinkedIn’s Talent Trends 2014 global research survey of 18,000 fully employed professionals in 26 countries shows that 85% of the workforce want to hear from you.
  • The same survey showed that just 15% indicated that they are completely satisfied and are not interested in discussing a new opportunity. This is down from 20% when LinkedIn last published statistics in 2012.

But if your company’s talent acquisition team has reached out to this demographic recently, they’re likely being ignored.

Why the cold shoulder?

Why isn’t a typical passive candidate as receptive as the numbers would lead you to believe?

He’s treated well by his current employer. He gets raises, promotions and opportunities for professional development. If you’ve identified an individual as “A-level talent,” chances are his employer has, too – and is doing whatever he can to hold onto him.

He isn’t desperate – or even motivated – to change jobs. Your company, your opportunity and its potential for growth have to be a great fit for him to even give you a second look.

A high performer assesses opportunities differently from a typical candidate. He doesn’t merely look for a match between his resume and your job description; he evaluates your position as a potential business opportunity. Specifically, he needs to understand how his talents and career goals align with the business objectives behind the available role, as well as how his personality fits within your culture.

Your recruiters’ calls are viewed as little more than interruptions. Unless your talent acquisition team’s timing is exceptional (i.e., they reach the individual on a day he’s extremely frustrated with his job), the candidate is likely to view their advancements as an intrusion.

Is she more trouble than she’s worth?

If the right passive candidate takes so much effort to attract, you may rightfully ask, “Is it worth the trouble?” If you want the best person for the job, absolutely! A passive candidate:

  • Has already proven her worth. A top passive candidate doesn’t just “have a job”; she excels in her career. She achieves her goals, both individually and departmentally. She’s at the top of her chosen field – and is hungry to stay there.
  • Is honest. Secure in her career, she has little motivation to hide her flaws or inflate her abilities. If your team gets an opportunity to speak with her, you’ll know exactly what she brings to the table – and exactly what she’ll expect from your organization.
  • Promises a greater ROI. Her foresight, honesty, proven success and lack of desperation all cause her to evaluate your opportunity with exceptional care. If she makes the choice to work for you, she’ll stick.

How can you open a passive candidate’s mind – and get him to consider making a switch?

Traditional recruiting strategies won’t work. To get him to seriously consider your opportunity, try these ideas:

Create an “opportunity gap.” A top passive candidate isn’t likely to speak with your recruiter for more than two minutes, unless he presents a position that addresses the individual’s needs and offers significant potential.

Show the candidate the WIIFM. Create a “success profile” that not only defines the job, but also describes the major challenges to be met. Explain the position as it exists now, as well as the potential for future growth. Presenting the job this way helps you create an opportunity gap (i.e., a measurable difference between the individual’s current role and your opportunity) that will cause him to take notice.

Create a killer referral program. It’s a simple fact: great people know other great people! To source more high-caliber passive talent, strengthen your referral program:

  • Give high-impact and tough-to-fill roles priority. Instead of bogging down your program with typical roles, feature positions that are likely to attract top passive job seekers.
  • Leave no stone unturned. Your employees are a great source of referrals, but make sure HR expands the program to also solicit clients, trusted vendors and other key business contacts.
  • Integrate your program. Most referral sources’ relationships occur via social platforms. Invest in seamless technology that makes it easy for people to convert social connections into referrals.

Adopt a “pull” strategy. Turn your organization into an irresistible magnet for top talent:

  • Build your reputation as a thought leader. Top passive candidates want to work for progressive employers at the leading edge of their fields. Publish thought-provoking content that appeals to the talent you seek in the places they’re likely to get their information. Consider major marketing associations, trade journals, LinkedIn groups and leading industry blogs.
  • Become an “employer of choice.” As we mentioned in “The Worst Marketing Mistake Ever,” attracting better talent starts with offering a better product. Create a reputation as a “best place to work” for top marketing talent – one that offers exceptional opportunities to exceptional people.
  • Help top candidates be more successful in their careers. Add expert career management resources and advice to your company website, to demonstrate how much you value your most important asset – great people! Showing your commitment to employees’ success strengthens your credibility as a great place to work.

Sound like a lot of work? It is. That’s where we come in.

Rethink your talent acquisition strategy.

Instead of conducting your own search – and paying the price of vacancies and mediocre talent – work with proven experts in recruiting top passive talent.

BrainWorks can help you find the leaders, innovators and doers to drive your future success:

  • We know what matters to top passive talent. We use our industry and functional expertise to clarify the business objectives, key challenges and growth potential of your available position. Using this insight, we present your opportunity in a way that makes passive candidates take notice.
  • Passive candidates know us – and take our phone calls. We don’t just “sell jobs,” we act as career consultants. We maintain ongoing dialogues with passive candidates, only offering positions that fit their expertise, goals and personality. Candidates know we have their best interests at heart – and are receptive to the opportunities we present.
  • See better talent – at no cost. Benchmark our candidates against those your team recruits, to see how they stack up. With our contingent services, there’s no cost unless you hire a candidate we refer.

Over the past 23 years, we’ve developed the expertise and proven strategies to attract, identify and deliver exceptional talent. What can we do for you?

Contact us today to learn more!


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