Friday, March 14, 2008

Microsoft--A Corporate Recruiter's Perspective on Finding Passive Candidates

Gretchen Ledgard, a corporate recruiter at Microsoft, wrote in her blog about how she finds passive candidates. This is what she had to say.

When I approach the Passive and Somewhat Passive Job Seekers, I do so carefully. First, I want to gauge their interest and see if I can get them to give me just 5-10 minutes of their time.

Most of my initial communication is done via e-mail. I know other recruiters who cold call (instead of cold e-mail), but I’ve found a simple introductory e-mail remits far higher results than a phone call. (I should note I think this trend has to do with my target candidate set. A Marketing candidate may love to get a weird phone call out of the blue, but honestly, how many Developers do you know who are willing to talk on the fly with a stranger … let alone even answer their phone!) :)

An e-mail is much less intrusive, and personally, I know I’d be more willing to return an e-mail with “tell me more” then return a strange person’s phone call.
That said, I want to be really careful about my wording since I’m putting my request in written form. Usually the passive job seekers are working in a similar field or technology so I’ll say something as simple as:

Hi – My name is Gretchen Ledgard, and I work at Microsoft. I read a little bit about your experience (on the internet, via your whitepaper, through a colleague etc). My team has some current career opportunities based in Redmond, WA, that I believe you may find very interesting given your experience, and I wanted to contact you to see if you might be open to learning more.

Although my response rate is really high, if I don’t hear back from the person within a week, I’ll usually send a quick follow-up note just to ensure he received my first message.
Often, respondents aren’t interested in talking to me. That’s fine … they may know others who are. I’ll say something like: “Since you seem to be well-connected XYZ industry, please feel to forward my name and contact out to your colleagues and associates.” Good people know other good people.

If respondents are interested in learning more, I want to get them on the phone for about 10 minutes, but I want to tread very lightly in my “assessment.” I usually don’t have a resume to review, and since this is a “soft sell,” I don’t need to jump in with, “So why do you want to work for Microsoft?” I know what the answer is going to be, “Um… I don’t. You called me.”

Instead, I want to tell the person about the job opening and gauge his/her interest. If interest exists, I ask more about the candidate’s experience and career goals. A lot of times I find these don’t align with my opening (after all, I contacted them rather blindly – usually only with knowledge of a job title). From here, I tell them honestly my job doesn’t sound like it would suit their interests, but “Since you seem to be well-connected XYZ industry ….” These folks are also great people to include on a future contact list. They are well connected and at least somewhat interested in a future role with the company.

If we do have a mutual match, I’ll try to get them on the phone with the Hiring Manager as quickly as possible. I do this for two reasons: 1) I’m currently playing the role of good cop so I don’t want to jump into interview mode and scare them away, and 2) the HM can sell the opportunity a hell of a lot better than I ever could.

I should note that having a well known and mostly respected corporation behind me helps in the sell. I’ve never been anything but a corporate recruiter so I’d love to hear how independent recruiters approach this situation. The Microsoft name (most of the time) assists tremendously in getting the passive job seekers on the phone … the hard part is finding them.

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