5 Ways to Tempt Passive Tech Talent and Build Your Dream Team

May 24, 2015

4:00 pm

As an established employer, you’re used to being the one in demand. Résumés are thrust in your face, you get countless requests for introductions, and you have enough business cards to build a house with. But you’re also used to the crazily competitive climate that surrounds top talent — especially top tech talent.

The best people always seem to get snatched up before you even hear about them — or they’re never explicitly on the job market. But there’s a group of special candidates that’s just waiting to be found by your company.

The candidate pool on job sites and social media can be misleading. According to recent research by LinkedIn, only 25 percent of people are actively seeking a new job opportunity, but an impressive 45 percent would be open to considering a move if they were approached.

Tech talent is so sought-after that companies will spend a lot of time and money trying to keep theirs happy. Employees are insulated by this special treatment and might not be aware of opportunities elsewhere. Proactively targeting these passive candidates is the best way to show them what they’re missing.

Even if you don’t get a direct hire from it, reaching out could create positive opportunities that will eventually form your dream team. That includes:

  • Information and insights about different companies and candidates that can only be gleaned from talking to someone with an “in.”
  • A strong entry point into other companies. If your passive candidate knows someone else on her team who’s open-minded about leaving, you could get an internal referral.
  • A new relationship that could pay off in the future. Your target may be happy for now, but when something changes, she’ll remember that you reached out and keep you on her radar.

By stepping outside your usual channels, you could find a whole new caliber of recruits. You just need to change your tactics and start targeting passive candidates. Here are five easy steps to follow:

1. Use marketing to turn passive candidates into proactive candidates.

You can use content marketing to pique passive candidates’ interest and indirectly advertise the exciting features of your company. Task your best and most engaged team members with blogging and tweeting about interesting challenges you’re facing or projects you’re launching. People who are fueled by these kinds of challenges might reach out proactively if they’re inspired. This is exactly the type of hire you want.

2. Challenge them in a new way.

If there’s one thing that’s sure to attract top tech talent to your company, it’s the chance to work on a challenging problem or a new tech frontier. Top tech candidates are always looking to grow with fresh challenges, but they might not always know where to find them. Be the one to bring the challenges to them.

Our team has used this method at large tech companies by asking passive candidates for their insights into technical challenges. It gets them talking and forms an exciting association with our company that could lead to a hiring opportunity.

3. Show them a better culture.

It’s not just tech challenges that will tempt candidates to leave their current roles. Show them that your company has an amazing culture, and you might just tap into what’s missing in their jobs. Show off your high-caliber team, flexible hours, and creative environment. Paint them a picture of what their new work life could be like.

4. Tap into your employee networks.

Take a tip from Dropbox and audit your employees’ LinkedIn profiles regularly to find impressive potential candidates in their networks. Not only will you find people you wouldn’t have been able to find through other channels, but you’ll also have a ready-made connection in your existing employee, allowing you to “poach” the prospective hire more easily.

You could also offer internal incentives and recognition for employees who refer good candidates, creating a sense of team spirit around recruitment.

5. Get to know your targets.

You’ll only be successful in luring a passive candidate if you go after the people who actually want the challenge of a new role. There are ways to figure this out, and staying active in the combined networks of your team is a good start.

From here, you can look for signs on potential candidates’ online profiles. If the candidate has just started working on a fascinating new project, she’s unlikely to want to move on. But if you see that a candidate has been working in the same role for four years without a promotion (4.6 years is the length of the average U.S. job stint), it might be time to reach out. Get an introduction, pose a challenge you’re facing, ask her how she would solve it, and flatter her a little. Often, this indirect approach is more tempting than flat-out saying you’re looking to hire.

Stepping out of your office, rather than just opening its doors, could be the way to attract your dream team and propel your company to new heights. Who knows who you might find if you just start looking in a new way?


Image Credit: Flickr/John Keogh

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Falon Fatemi is founder and CEO of Node, a stealth startup of ex-Googlers backed by NEA, Felicis Ventures, Mark Cuban, Dave McClure, and more. Falon has spent the past four years as a business development executive doing strategy consulting for startups and VCs and advising a variety of companies on everything from infrastructure to drones. Previously, Falon spent six years at Google, starting at age 19. As one of the youngest employees in the company, Falon worked on sales strategy and operations focusing on global expansion, Google.org, and business development for YouTube.

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