Why Approaching Passive Talent Can Be Cost Effective Recruitment For SMEs


Ireland’s soaring employment figures are proving quite a challenge for SMEs that need to recruit. SMEs can make their recruitment more effective by targeting passive talent. The nation’s near-full employment status means that, according to a recent survey from Performance Reward Consulting, 80% of Irish firms are finding it difficult to recruit much-needed talent. If a firm struggles to find their ideal candidate among those actively hunting for new positions, they need to look in a different direction – by targeting talented candidates who aren’t yet dreaming of pastures new. Here is why approaching passive talent can be cost effective recruitment for SMEs:

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Passive versus active

“There are two types of candidate – passive and active,” explains Brian Fairbrother, director of solutions at Talent Cloud Media. “The passive are not interested in a new job but they are prepared to listen to employers.

“We estimate that 80% of candidates are passive, and they are incredibly important to target because the problem with focusing on the active candidates is that everybody is talking to them. When they apply for one job, they apply for 10 and could be mulling over two or three offers. It’s a little bit like a cattle market.”

The trick, says Fairbrother, is to learn how to pinpoint the exact moment when a passive candidate decides to start looking around for a new job and becomes active.

“People are only active for a short period of time so you need to ensure that the first company that person thinks about is yours. You only have a small window of opportunity to grab them,” he adds.

Recommended reading: 6 Ways to Recruit the Best Staff for Your Small Business

Making an impact through social media

One of the best ways to achieve that is by building up your employer brand on social media.

“Over a long-term period – say from three months to a year – you need to be in regular communications with passive candidates over a variety of platforms, from LinkedIn to Instagram and Facebook. You need to target people who are of specific demographics, interest groups and academic backgrounds.

“We’ve even started looking at Snapchat because people there are more truly passive than those on LinkedIn,” says Fairbrother.

“The differentiating factor for any job in the market is who the employer is. It’s never the job that’s the unique selling point; it’s the employer’s brand. So send them non-aggressive content on social media such as reports about the industry or industry trends. What are you seeing in their market and what information can you provide that will help someone in their current job? If they like the content, they will remember you and inform their own network about how good you are.”

“It’s a tight labour market, and people are looking at the organisation, not just the job. People want to connect to an organisation rather than just work there”

Caroline McEnery, managing director, the HR Suite

But Fairbrother reiterates his point that the communication must remain “gentle” and helpful. “Don’t ask them for an email address and then pester them for the rest of their life,” he states. “Keep it light and be careful that the content represents your culture.”

Caroline McEnery, managing director of the HR Suite, which advises businesses on HR issues, adds: “It’s imperative that you get your brand right. It’s a tight labour market, and people are looking at the business, not just the job – they want to connect to an organisation rather than just work there. They’re taking into account factors outside the role, like your attitude to corporate social responsibility and well-being, and questioning whether they feel aligned to your goals and your values.”

This is particularly important for SMEs whose brand and culture may not be as well known to potential candidates as their bigger rivals.

Face-to-face meetings make a difference

McEnery urges SMEs to consider face-to-face networking as well as social media to get their message across. “Host events such as thought leadership sessions, breakfast briefings and lunch networking,” she says. “Target those who are happy in their present job and let them see the great things your company is doing from an employer branding perspective, emphasising the ways in which your organisation is progressive. It might spark their interest.”

Fairbrother warns that employers need to be careful of looking like “politicians seeking your vote” at events. “It is OK to give them information and think long term, but companies go wrong in thinking short term and deciding that what they need is as many CVs as they can get in as short as possible a time,” he says.

As part of this relaxed approach, Fairbrother suggests employers build up a strong database and talent pool of potential passive candidates who could be directly targeted when a specific job offer comes up.

Employers should also look at developing an internal talent pool to monitor the strengths and development of people within their own firm who may be passive and content in their present position. “Concentrate on the candidate rather than any specific job,” Fairbrother says.

Cost-effective recruitment

The advantages of social media and face-to-face networking are that contact can be made with potential candidates without shelling out cash to recruitment agencies. Employers can replicate what recruitment firms do in identifying and nurturing talent.

It may take a few months to get passive candidates onside, but when a vacancy arises employers then have people in their pipeline to fill the slot quickly.

Another way of cutting down recruitment costs is through employee referral schemes. This is where employees are paid a bonus by their bosses if one of their contacts is interviewed and then succeeds in landing a role at the firm.

“You could save yourself money by using employee referral schemes rather than paying for a recruitment agency, although that depends on how much you are offering per referral,” says Rob Shannon, manager, IT division, at Martinsen Mayer. “But are they just getting in their friends or people that they know are very good?”

Fairbrother has similar concerns. “You want to create diversity in a company – you don’t want everyone to be the same,” he says. “Friends tend to know people just like them.”

Recommended reading: Recruitment Strategies: Talent Spotting For Your Business

Crunch the data

Shannon says SMEs can find cost-effective recruitment solutions but would benefit from having a dedicated in-house team in place.

“It takes time and experience to build up databases, research social media profiles and send out hundreds of messages,” he says. “If you don’t have such a team, you still need to outsource the recruitment function particularly if you are looking for highly skilled passive candidates.”

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