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Nurturing Passive Talent: Why is It So Important?

Nurturing Passive Talent

Note: Gem has been thinking about, and working on, our long-term nurture features for some time. We’re publishing this content at a time of great uncertainty in the market—but nurture as a recruitment concept might be more important than ever. As unemployment rises, recruiters may soon be managing the largest talent pipelines they’ve ever had to manage. Your reqs may be on hold; existing candidates may be temporarily trapped in various stages of your hiring funnel. Keep reaching out to them. Keep checking in with employees who have been furloughed or laid off. At Gem, we can’t think of a better time to be focusing on human relationships—which is what nurturing passive talent is ultimately about. When hiring ramps up again, those outreach labors (and those labors of love) will pay off in a ready talent pool that felt seen by your company in a time of crisis. 

We all know that sourcing and recruiting talent is a long game. With only 30% of talent actively looking for new opportunities at any given time, and only 42% of direct applicants meeting the minimum qualifications for the roles they’re applying to, TA teams are turning to passive talent to fill their pipelines. But at Gem, we’re seeing that many sourcers and recruiters aren’t following up with prospects after the initial outreach sequences have ended… which means that after all that work to discover a great prospect and make them aware of your company, you’re letting them slip right through your fingers. 

It’s worth remembering that it can take between 12 to 20 touchpoints to influence a career decision. By the time your initial outreach sequence ends, you’ve only had around 4 touchpoints with talent. And if recruiters don’t have a solution to pick up the thread for that 5th, 6th, and 7th touchpoint to maintain relationships with prospective candidates, they’re starting from scratch every time a new role opens.

This isn’t an effective way of working. Winning over passive talent takes more time and effort than winning over active talent; but the data suggests it’s well worth it. Your initial outreach sequence catches talent in a very specific 2-to-4-week window of their lives, in which any number of things could be going on for them. But we are creatures of transition; and if your first outreach doesn’t catch talent precisely when they’re ready to make a move, that doesn’t mean they won’t be ready 4, 6, or 9 months down the line. Remember: the vast majority (90%) of passive talent say they could be tempted to move into a new role if the timing was right and the right opportunity came along. There are a hundred reasons why terrific candidates wouldn’t be ready to commit to a role upon first outreach. But your timing might align in a few months. So why would you not follow up? 

For many of our customers, nurturing passive talent becomes a strategy when talent responds to recruiters with some version of “not now, but maybe later.” At Gem, we call those warm candidates; and our new nurture feature allows recruiters who receive those kinds of responses to immediately create and personalize a nurture sequence and schedule it to go out for that later date. But all buckets of talent can—and should—be nurtured over the long term. Alumni who left your company for another position and whom you’d love to eventually have back as “boomerang” employees. Former silver medalists who didn’t quite make the cut for your last open role, but who’ll have exactly the experience you need 8 months down the line, or who would be strong candidates for a different role in the same department. You want to keep your company top-of-mind for these candidates because when the timing finally does feel right for them to make a change, you’ll be the first they come back to; and you’ll only stay top-of-mind if you’re consistently checking in with them every once in a while to show that you and your company care.

So What Is Nurture?

Candidate nurture replicates a set of tried-and-true strategies that marketers have used for years to keep their companies alive in consumers’ minds in the weeks, months, or years before they decide to make a purchase. In recruiting, the idea is to build and maintain relationships with talent over the long haul by following up on messaging long after that initial sequence is over. Nurture campaigns allow you to offer consistent messaging through gentle touchpoints, over time, that sell talent on your company, its mission and vision, its team and culture. 

Nurturing passive talent can take many forms, and can be as simple or complex as an individual recruiter decides to make it. For some of our customers, nurture simply means sending a “how are things going?” email 6 months down the road for those evergreen roles that they hope talent will keep them in mind for. For others, it means sending out regular campaigns with company updates and personalized content: funding rounds, “Best Workplace” awards, free tools relevant to prospects’ fields, employee blog posts, videos of Q&As with their CEO, and more. (After all, according to LinkedIn, the things candidates most want to know about your company are its culture and values, its perks and benefits, and its mission and vision. They also want employee perspectives.) Some of our customers who have their eyes on very specific talent—leadership roles, for example—even set-and-forget emails to say happy birthday, or to congratulate that prospect on a work anniversary. We know sourcers who set Google alerts for their top prospects and message them when they’re in the news to congratulate them on their most recent successes.

With solutions like Gem, some of these nurture strategies entail messaging that you can set-and-forget (birthdays, work anniversaries, requests from interested prospects to follow up later, subsequent outreach to silent prospects). Others—new news about your company, for example—you can’t anticipate; and you’ll have to set that messaging up and send it out when it happens. Regardless of how sophisticated your nurture strategy is, the point is that the process of attracting, engaging, and hiring passive talent is improved by first building relationships with them over time – longer periods of time than you’d expect. 

The Benefits of Nurturing Passive Talent

Sound like a lot of work? It doesn’t have to be. With automation, a lot of nurture outreach can be set up once to use indefinitely in the future. You won’t have to go digging for context when a due date rolls around; and the nurture email is threaded with your initial outreach, so if a prospect does respond to your nurture sequence, you’ve got the full history right there.

Aside from ease of operation, here are some other reasons it’s worth re-engaging (and continuing to engage) with passive talent through nurture campaigns:

It builds your talent pipeline. You know that sage advice to “dig your well before you’re thirsty”? Nurturing passive talent even when you don’t have open roles lets you cultivate a pool of high-quality talent that you can then pull from when a relevant role does open. This is proactive rather than reactive hiring; and it significantly reduces both time to hire and cost per hire (not to mention recruiter pressure), since you’re not starting from scratch with each new open req.

It bolsters your diversity initiatives and ensures you hire for cultural fit (or values-alignment). Nurturing prospects over time can be particularly valuable for a company’s diversity initiatives: you build trust, develop rapport, and ultimately help your prospects believe in the same company vision that attracted you when you joined. Underrepresented demographics are taking a big leap into a new culture, and the stakes may feel higher for them. Nurture campaigns give prospects a real feel for your company culture, which is what might prompt them to respond. And because nurture familiarizes talent with your company’s mission, vision, and core values—the details of which recruiters don’t have to cram into the space of an initial outreach sequence—the talent that responds does so because they resonate with those values.

It drastically improves the candidate experience and gives your employer brand a boost. Regardless of how elaborate your nurture campaigns are, people won’t feel picked up and then dropped by your company after a one-time email sequence. Nurture opens up the space for personalized, two-way relationships between sourcers/recruiters and talent; and recruiting teams go from being distant, single-touch job-advertisers to real, long-term advocates for their candidates. So few teams are using nurture strategies these days that we can guarantee you’ll stand out in prospects’ inboxes. This makes for great employer branding — and you might even get some brand ambassadors out of it.

Best Practices for Nurturing Passive Talent (Shortlist)

Your team should decide on more specific practices for nurture—after all, you’ll have things like rules of engagement to keep in mind. Here are a few general best practices worth aiming for:

Use personas. Whether you segment prospects by role (engineering, marketing, sales, etc.), relationship with your company (sourced, silver medalist, hopeful boomerang, etc.) or by another set of attributes, you’ll find better outcomes if you tailor your approaches with each segment. Personas allow you to send the most relevant content to specific talent pools, increasing the chances you’ll strike a chord and hear back.

Personalize. Even if you’re sending a simple follow-up because a prospective candidate told you their shares were vesting in 6 months—and even if you set-and-forget that message when they first replied to you a year ago—personalize your reengagement outreach. Something as simple as: “I remember you telling me that you’d planned to stay at {{company}} until May, so now that May is just around the corner, I just wanted to reach out to see how things are going” will yield you great results. For high-profile talent, you can pay extra attention by setting a reminder to yourself for the day before the nurture sequence is set to send. This way, when you get the reminder, you can look over the email and see if there are things worth adding before the email sends.

Partner with other teams to gather content. Your marketing team is a content machine. Your engineering team might keep an engineering blog. Social media is bound to speak volumes about your company’s culture, and might even be “owned” by the entire company, with a different employee taking over every week. Consider a consolidated space for all the content recruiting could use in their long-term nurture campaigns to paint a clear and captivating picture of your company to the prospects you’re feeding these tidbits to over time. You’ll want an easy place to draw from for that messaging. 

Use a solution that allows you to schedule and auto-send messages. Like we said, nurturing passive talent doesn’t have to be a high-maintenance operation. Sourcing solutions and talent CRMs allow you to set up messages to send automatically, so that you don’t have to go back and remember context 6 months down the road. These solutions will also let you personalize at scale.

Use data to optimize your nurture efforts. The right solution should allow you access to outreach data (open rates, click rates, response rates, etc.) so you can optimize the performance of your nurture strategy. How is talent engaging with your content? Use that intelligence to pivot entirely, or to make small changes where you need to. 

Nurturing is great behavior that I feel is overlooked in our industry. Gem has been a huge part of cultivating that for me. A lot of people send out three messages in their little drip campaign, and that’s it. But I believe wholeheartedly that this is a relationship whether they’re responding to you or not; you’ve got to keep cultivating it. Let’s say you respond to me, ‘Hey, I’m not actually looking right now, but thank you’… I’ll send a message a month later that says, ‘Hey, I know you’re not looking to make a move right now; but just wanting to share the excitement: We just got funding!’ Or I’ll set a reminder to hit milestones: ‘Congratulations on your 3-year anniversary at Google!’ 

– Aaron Smith, Technical Sourcing Lead @ Plaid

How Gem Can Help

Gem has built-in talent re-engagement features that allow sourcers and recruiters to continuously nurture candidates past the initial outreach sequence, and mine through their databases to re-engage with past candidates. Gem allows you to set reminders, due dates, and add notes to candidates profiles so that candidates never slip through the cracks. Our new nurture features allow recruiters to immediately create and personalize a nurture sequence to go out at a later date when candidates respond with a “not now, but maybe later,” and allows them to easily see how their nurture efforts are paying off with various talent pools.

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