The job market looks drastically different now than it did three, five or ten years ago. If you’ve been struggling to find candidates with the skills you need, you’re not alone—this is a common trend in many parts of Canada!

Today, the best talent rarely comes from plastering job postings on every job board possible. When there is a shortage of skilled candidates, top talent is often passive—that is, candidates who are not actively seeking a new job, but are open to new opportunities and could be willing to make a move for the right fit. In these situations, headhunting is the name of the game!

So, how are companies winning at headhunting the best and the brightest?

Primarily, this requires a shift in the way you view candidates. Think of it like asking someone to dance: In the past, candidates lined up for the chance to dance with your organization. But now, your company must invite them to dance.

You need to recognize this change in dynamic and learn to approach the conversation differently:

1. Don’t rely exclusively on job boards

Indeed, ZipRecruiter, Google for Jobs, Monster, Workopolis, LinkedIn, Facebook… the number of job boards available are numerous. These sites can absolutely be helpful to get the word out about your job, but when you rely exclusively on job boards, you’re essentially limiting your candidate pool.

Broaden your thinking about hiring:

  • Have you considered working with a recruitment agency? An experienced headhunter has the time, resources, network and expertise to access the passive candidate market.
  • Have you tapped into the networks of your existing employees? Do you have a referral program?
  • Do you keep a database of resumes from candidates you’ve considered in the past?
  • Does your social media strategy focus only on the product you sell or service you offer, or does it also showcase your employer brand? What are current and past employees saying about you on online? (It may be time to tag-team with your marketing department!)

2. Don’t rely on ‘gut’ to determine fit with your culture

“Fit” is important to employers and employees, and that importance is paramount with the influx of Generations Y and Z to the workforce. The problem is, so many employers are still using “gut feeling” to assess personality and culture fit.

According to our partners at TalentClick, with gut-based hiring you have about a 50/50 chance to selecting a top performer. Introducing robust pre-employment behavioural assessments, like our Workstyle and Performance Profile, brings a scientific approach to evaluating fit. This helps you hire the right people, in turn maximizing performance and minimizing disruption from turnover.

3. Reframe your communications with candidates before, during and after the interview

When you start recruiting passive candidates, it’s important to remind yourself throughout the process that you reached out to them. When a candidate is headhunted, they have not applied to your job opening, and as such you need to be mindful of how you are communicating.

It’s not just about what questions you ask, but the way you ask them. Here are some ways you can reframe your typical wording before, during and after the interview:

Instead of: We can see you at 3pm on Thursday.
Ask: Thank you for wanting to learn more about us! Would mornings or afternoons work better for you to meet?

Instead of: Why do you want to work for us?
Ask: Thanks for being open to a conversation—what made you say yes to speaking with us today?

Instead of: Why are you leaving your current employer?
Ask: What’s your dream job? What elements of that are not being met by your current position?

Instead of: Our hiring manager is away for two weeks so we’ll need to wait to meet.
Ask: Our hiring manager is away, but we’d love for you to connect with [insert another appropriate person] in the meantime.

Instead of: Here is our assessment that all candidates must complete.
Ask: Thank you for your interest in our organization! We ask potential new employees to complete an assessment to help us to work together. Would you be open to doing our assessment as part of our hiring process?

Instead of: Those are all of the questions we have for you today.
Ask: We’re grateful for your time and understand you must have lots of questions. What would you like to learn about us?

Here’s a downloadable version of these questions—print it as a quick reference or share on social media:

List of questions to ask headhunted candidates

Some final tips on communicating with passive candidates:

  • Open-ended questions are more engaging than close-ended questions
  • Expect and allow for the candidate to ask more questions than you might typically in an interview.
  • Understand the candidate may not be “sold” yet on the position—it takes time!

4. Be prepared to woo candidates at the offer stage… and then dazzle them on their first day

Try and shift your thinking to view candidates more like how you view customers. Approach communication and interactions as if you are selling your brand… because you are! With passive candidates in particular, you need to woo them just as much as vice versa.

As you navigate offers and negotiations, be creative—the conversation is not all about salary! What other forms of benefits and compensation do/can you offer? What kind of flexibility? Do you offer remote or work-from-home options? Relocation assistance? What are their opportunities for growth and advancement?

After your dream candidate has accepted the offer, the dance is not done… go the distance to make them feel welcome! Show them how excited you are for them to join your team, whether that’s through something as simple as an enthusiastic and well-crafted email, a team lunch on their first day, or something more creative like a customized welcome GIF! You should also make sure your onboarding and training process is smooth and thorough, to help kick this new relationship off on the right foot!