#1 Must-Know When Engaging Passive Candidates

#1 Must-Know When Engaging Passive Candidates

The candidate engagement problem

Candidate Engagement
Candidate Engagement (credit: marketo.com)

Proactively sourcing for passive candidates is an important part of technical recruiting, even for companies with strong brands among developers, such as Google or Facebook, which seem to have plenty of active candidates to choose from.  (It was reported that Google has a job application acceptance rate of 0.2% – 25 times more selective than Harvard, which has a 5% acceptance rate.)

Recruiting passive candidates is an absolute necessity for companies with neither the brand power nor the deep pocket as companies like Google.  However, a major challenge for many recruiting teams to effectively acquire passive candidates has been the lackluster candidate engagement level.  While there is no one industry benchmark, several sources seems to point to a single-digit response rate when it comes to engineering recruiting emails.

There are many blogs and articles providing good tips on how to increase the response rate when recruiting passive engineering candidates.  We understand the importance of

  • personalization
  • clever email subject line
  • concise yet informative content
  • right email timing
  • persistent follow-ups
  • creating attention hooks with humor and curiosity
  • focusing on the candidates
  • identifying common connections, and even
  • mobile friendliness.

However, something fundamental is missing…

All these are good recruiting practices and techniques, but these alone can only take you so far.  If you neglect something of the utmost importance to your passive candidates – their well being, particularly their career advancement – the chance of successfully engaging and, eventually, recruiting them would remain low.

In other words, the foundation of genuine engagement of passive engineering candidates comes from a technical recruiter’s understanding of their candidate’s career goals and how they can help them achieve these goals.  This most important must-know is, however, rarely being discussed.  We are now going to help you address this.

Making your passive candidates open up to you

There are a few obstacles standing in your way to getting your candidate’s career goals.  The first one is simple to solve – just ask.  Although it seems obvious, it’s surprising how many recruiters don’t bother to ask their candidates what they want for their careers and in their jobs.

The second obstacle is a bit trickier.  Most people don’t immediately share their career goals with just anyone.  Certain level of trust and rapport needs to be established before this conversation can happen.  Your passive candidates are looking for the following signs to decide if they would even start a career conversation with you:

  1. They need to know that you “get it”

You need to demonstrate that you’re a professional, with industry knowledge and expertise, and deserve their respect.

  1. They need to know that you “get them”

You need to understand the significance of their work, what they are good at, what matter to them in their work, the type of environment they would thrive in, among other things that matter to them and their work.

  1. They need to know that you put their interest before your own

If your technical candidates sense that all you care about is filling your open positions, they would not trust you.  In this case, they will not open up to you, and you will have little or no influence on them.

Putting this to practice – a hands-on workshop

We’ll be leading a workshop at this year’s Talent42 to detail the process for technical recruiters to develop a deeper understanding of their technical candidates, with a focus on their career goals.  Here’s the summary:

Peek inside Developers’ Heads using Personas

The surest way to candidate engagement is to know what they are really thinking.  We’ll take a page out of marketers’ playbook by using personas to better understand software developers’ career needs, goals and behaviors.  You will get a glimpse the hidden thought process used by techies when being recruited, such as why certain technologies are more interesting than others, what’s considered cool vs. boring, and sources of influence.

Get ready to do some analysis work using real personas, including tell-all’s from a lead mobile developer, a senior test automation engineer, and a (true) full-stack Python engineer.  Walk away with insights into how to get software developers’ attention and what would motivate them to make a career change.  These would help you develop your own plans to increase candidate engagement and recruiting productivity.


We’ll publish the detailed case studies from this workshop in the coming months.  If you’re interested to learn more, you can subscribe to Geekology newsletter or contact us at geekology@jobfully.com.

Our Technology Training Core program helps you stand out by speaking geek with confidence and ease.  With Geekology, having a meaningful and intelligent conversations with geeks using their language just became easier.

2 thoughts on “#1 Must-Know When Engaging Passive Candidates”

  1. Pingback: Candidate Persona Case Study (iOS Mobile App Developer) | Geekology Blog

  2. Pingback: Personalization in Recruiting Process | Geekology Blog

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.