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Anyone who posts job openings knows the problem.  We get hundreds of resumes and the vast quantity of them have absolutely no qualification for the job.  Many who tell us that they do in their cover letters are later revealed to only be qualified for fiction writing (or worse).  And many of those that make it to the interview make you wish you’d never given them a shot.  And far too often, we actually need to hire some of these people anyway to keep the business running!

So what’s the problem?

The people you’d like to be interviewing already have jobs and most of these aren’t looking at help-wanted boards.  According to LinkedIn, 75% of the people reading job postings are unemployed.  And since we now have a 5% unemployment level, the unemployed (i.e. your job applicants) are probably the least likely folks you’d ever want to hire.  Of course there are people who’ve recently moved, or picked the wrong job for them back when times were tougher, but it’s fair to say that the folks answering your job postings probably aren’t a competitor’s best employees.

And those are exactly the people you’d love to hire.  But how?  Head hunters can cost 6-20% of the position’s salary – if there are headhunters for that position at all. You can, and should, directly reach out to these people if you know who they are.  But what if you don’t?  How do you get the word out?

Have you considered other ways to get the message out?  The message that you’re hiring, the message that you have a great work culture, salary, or benefits?  Read on if you’d like to know how.

Your Next Great Employee Is A Passive Job Seeker

The killer hire is someone who has the skill and experience to contribute quickly.  Someone you can reasonably expect to stay with you, and grow as you grow.

The problem is this person already has a job.  For starters, this person was much less likely than the rest to get laid off in the first place.  And even if he or she did get pink-slipped, a great employee tends to make it back into the workforce quicker than most.  So the person that we’d all love to hire is probably at work this very minute.

This person is what HR professionals call the “passive job seeker” (PJS).  PJS’s are typically under-employed – people who are not achieving as much, earning as much, or growing as much as they could.  PJS’s are often perfectly happy in their current job, but would move to a new company if they felt that there was higher growth potential or greater potential satisfaction from the work itself.

PJS’s are notoriously hard to recruit through employment web sites and newspaper/print ads.  It isn’t just the fact that the PJS’s don’t seek and use these sites, it’s that in the odd chance that they do, they’re much less likely to act when they see something interesting.  They’re also less likely to post blind resumes online (having run a national employment website, I know this first-hand).  In the end, the job application process is simply an unpleasant experience for everyone involved.  It takes some serious motivation or persuasion – an inside tip, some encouragement or reinforcement, or else a really compelling reward, to get the PJS to take the next step.

How To Reach Passive Job Seekers

This is why most HR pros encourage their employees to recruit for them via word of mouth.  It’s why firms pay referral fees to meet the next great employee.  It’s the first strategy that smart businesses should use to meet an important hiring need.

But referrals have their limits — even in the era of Facebook and LinkedIn — particularly when the position requires specific skills and there’s no relocation package involved.

There’s another alternative that most HR managers or business owners should consider:  advertising.  And on this topic I speak with recent experience.

After losing a great employee to a marriage & cross-country move, I spent most of the last three months trying find a mid-level web designer with a rare combination of classic graphic arts training, experience with user interface design, and a proven ability to work with CSS, Flash & video.  I used Craig’s, the larger (and quite expensive job boards), design school sites, and a couple of specialty sites for creatives.  I received over a hundred cv’s and portfolios, and met a lot of great candidates. But most of them were too senior and I knew they wouldn’t stick around for long.  Others lacked at least one of my specific requirements.  Three months wasted!

So I advertised.  Last week I purchased a modest radio schedule on the local alternative rock station.  My ads described the employee that I was looking for, the environment that they’d work in, the specific things that they’d be working on. Knowing the station’s audience, their production department gave the spot some attitude and I have to say it was a very persuasive message (listen).  It made my position sound inspiring.

It Worked!

As I sit here today, I have 8 great candidates to interview (and I didn’t get flooded with a lot of random and unqualified applicants like I had posting online).  The right skills, the right experience, and the right comp expectations.  In one week! They’re all currently employed.  They were Passive Job Seekers.  My ad persuaded them to take the leap. There’s no doubt in my mind that one of these eight will be enhancing this site sometime soon.

You may not be hiring today, but you probably will sometime in the near future.   If you can’t get what you need through referrals, try something that your peers and competitors haven’t; advertise to get your next great employee.

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