The Real Targets of Social Media Recruiting

by The Red Recruiter on May 26, 2010

Ostrich in ArizonaA while back, I had the opportunity to hand feed Ostriches.  It’s quite an experience and I’d recommend you try it… as least once.

One thing I learned about feeding them was that an Ostrich knows what it wants and it’ll go for it – sometimes nipping at your fingers in the process.  Naturally, if one took too strong of an approach, I would move on to the next.  Little did the Ostrich know, I had a whole bucket full of food hidden away.  With a gentler approach, they would have received my whole stash.

Fast forward to tonight as I scrolled aimlessly through Facebook, I noticed the following from Boolean Black Belt (Glen Cathey):

“#LinkedIn – active vs. passive candidates? I’m telling you, based on laws of statistics alone, % passive is same as any other source.”

At first, it kind of bothered me.  I mean, “passive” is where it’s at, right?  Isn’t that what all of the top search firms get paid the big bucks to do?  Further, isn’t this the pool of hidden talent that every company is after?  How could it be the same size?

Then I stopped and pondered his quote for a moment.  Could there really be as many active as passive candidates in the market?

Wasn’t this whole social media recruiting thing giving us an edge in connecting with audiences (namely the elusive “passive” grouping) that weren’t easily accessible in the past?

Then something occurred to me.  Perhaps, as recruiters, we have been ignoring the majority.

Candidate Groups

There are three groups of candidates in my mind… active, passive and non-active.

The “Active” group is pretty easy to define.  This is the group of candidates who remain active in the pursuit of career opportunities.  They apply for job openings, they are networking for a new position, and/or they stay in constant contact with their recruiter of choice.  In a nutshell, they’re ready to make a move and they actively participate in that process.

The “Passive” group is a bit trickier.  To me, this group consists of the people who are open to opportunities, but aren’t investing time and energy into the pursuit of a new role.  Should the right position come along, or the right convincing recruiter, they may consider a move.  However, for the most part, this group is happy at work, performing well and not out trolling the job boards for a new place to call Office.

Finally, we have the “Non-Active” group.  These are the individuals who think they are performing well, are living a good enough life that they don’t even want to consider transition AND they don’t have time to deal with recruiters.  They are content in their routines and/or happy with their current status.  These are the people who will come to us when they are good and ready and no sooner than that.

To expand on the “Non-Active” definition a bit more, this would represent the largest grouping of talent.  Following along with Boolean Black Belt’s logic;  if as of May of 2010 we have over a  9% unemployment rate in the U.S. (Active job seekers… at least, I hope so) and the Passive pool is the same size (9%), then the Non-Active group would represent over 80% of the talent pool.

Before you challenge me to a duel on the statistics, let’s say that the “Passive” group is much larger… how about 30%?

Even then, we are left with a Non-Active grouping of over 60% of the working population.

Branding Picks Up Where Recruiting Ends

As my career has shifted more towards the direction of employment branding, something has become very apparent to me.  For all of the efforts that the recruiting profession pours into hiring the Active and Passive pools of talent, we don’t often consider our largest potential group of candidates.

Some may say that Social Recruiting (aka Social Media, Social Networking, Social Rambling… etc…) has been the tool used for this type of engagement with the general population of Non-Actives.  While I agree to a certain extent, I would also argue that we’ve been actively utilizing the tools to connect with people who are open to opportunities (i.e. Passives).

I don’t blame us – in fact, I totally get it.  It’s easier to quantify the results when we consider currently attainable objectives.  If I put in X amount of hours into Y activities, I can quantify the results with Z figure.

I’ve done these kinds of calculations myself… in fact, I’ve written about ROI in Social Recruiting before.

Social Recruiting Balance

How can we utilize Social Recruiting effectively in balancing our active recruiting efforts (better defined by BBB as active and passive sourcing efforts) with our long-term Non-Active recruiting efforts?  After all, likelihood says that the Non-Actives will eventually look for a new position… it’s our job to be there first, right?

Is it simply a matter of framing the target and setting the long-term goals?

With our current technology, connecting with this audience is very attainable – we meet them where they live and play (online).  So, how do we speculate and measure the effectiveness of the energy and dollars we invest today in results that we are not likely to see for years?

I could contemplate this all night long, but I’d love to see what you think.  The pool exists, the tools exists, the long-term value exists…

Why The Ostrich?

That finger nipping, overly eager and somewhat scary looking Ostrich, had no idea of the food supply he gave up because of his aggression.  All of his focus was on the here and the now… and, as a result, it cost him something much greater.

Are we giving up our treasure chest of a talent pool by remaining so tactical?  How can we find balance and brand for the future?

P.S.  Glen Cathey (Boolean Black Belt) is a fantastic contributor in the online recruiting space.  This post was not intended to counter his comment or thoughts on the topic… he just caused some ideas to bounce around in my head.  Thanks Glen!

* Thanks to Vincent Kan for catching my late night spelling errors!

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  • glencathey

    Nice post, and no worries Michael! I'm glad my late night tweet got you thinking!

    Just to clarify, I'm referring to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics data (see Marvin Smith's excellent piece referencing it here:…), which found that approximately 14% of people are “active” job seekers, 20% are “casually looking,” 32% are “passively looking,” and 34% are not looking for employment at all.

    That means the majority of people simply aren't looking, and that fully 66% of all people are either not looking or are only passively looking.

    Those BLS stats are for the United States – not for any particular source of candidates. My comment regarding LinkedIn is that it doesn't magically have a larger percentage of passive and non-job seekers than any other source of candidates, even job board resume databases. When you're talking about a sample size of over 60M people globally, it's going to conform to average statistics. Also – I've found that approximately 80% of the resumes in databases like Monster, Careerbuilder, Dice, and Hotjobs are dated over 30 days old, and after that timeframe, can anyone say for certain what their job search status is?

    It just irks me when I hear people refer to LinkedIn as a great source of passive candidates – it isn't any better of a source of passive candidates than cold calling, Twitter, Monster's resume database, or a company's ATS/private candidate database for that matter.

    And BTW – I've practically made a career out of specifically targeting non-job seekers, preferring to hunt in the largest candidate pool of all. :-)

  • theredrecruiter

    You are one smart dude Glen! Thanks for stopping by and for always keeping it interesting! 😉

  • theredrecruiter

    You are one smart dude Glen! Thanks for stopping by and for always keeping it interesting! 😉

  • Brandi Cole

    Great post on social recruiting! We have a similar post on the SmartRecruiters blog about active vs. passive candidates: Since it seems we blog about similar topics, we should do some blogging together!

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