How to Get Passive Candidates to Call You Back

Recruiters spend so much time leaving voicemail messages for passive candidates. Every day, every week, every month of the year – and many continuously use the same version of their message. But is the ROI there?  Passive Candidates are hard to reach. Most of the time they don’t pick up the phone. So voicemails can serve a purpose, but only if done effectively. Top candidates receive phone calls from recruiters almost daily, so what is it that you can do to at least get on their radar when they aren’t picking up your calls?

Tone and Confidence

Anyone who has ever worked in recruiting knows the importance of great communication skills in order to be effective. You won’t make it long if you don’t. However, the difference between being good and great at recruiting can often be the skill of determining the proper tone to use with candidates, both in conversation as well as in written communication. First and foremost, confidence is critical.  May be cliché but it’s true -- confidence is key to many successes in life and when it is genuine,  it is hard not to succeed.  Avoid sounding like you are bothering a candidate. Don’t use words like “sorry” or phrases such as “I know you are busy but…” or “My apologies for calling again....”  Avoid introducing yourself through voicemail. Ideally, you want to try to reach a passive candidate through email or LinkedIn before calling them, so that they are somewhat familiar with your name. When you do leave a voicemail, instead of saying “My name is John Smith and I am calling you because…” Say “This IS John Smith from XYZ Company, I wanted to follow up with you from an email….”  You aren’t a used mattress salesman -- don’t forget that. You have something potentially valuable to offer someone.    

 

Personalize

Cannot compute. Cannot compute.  Don’t be a robot!  Personalize what you are saying!  We hear a lot about the importance of personalization of written messages.  Voicemails should have the same focus. Do some quick homework on the candidate.  If you read a blog they wrote, tell them.  “I was reading that blog that you wrote recently ‘how to get passive candidates to call you back’ and I have to tell you – I can totally identify with that point about confidence.”  Or maybe they have an award or an interesting hobby listed on their LinkedIn profile that you can mention – genuinely of course.  Or maybe you have common friend or went to the same college. Great ways to start building that relationship that will help make them feel like they should call you back. 

 

Keep it Condensed and Compelling.

Rambling voicemails will get you nowhere. The receiver will likely hit “3” before they have any clue why you’re calling.  Plan before you dial the phone so you use your 15 seconds effectively.  That’s right. No more than 15 seconds.  Focus on something to intrigue them. Speak clearly. Be concise.  And confident, of course.  How about what NOT to do? Do Not make it a puzzle by speaking in some code like you’re on a secret mission. Tell them something that will prompt them to return your call.  Maybe it’s the name of the company. If you know where they live, perhaps it’s the location. Is it a potential upward career move?  Say something that matters.  Do Not say you have “a job that’s a perfect fit.” How on earth would you know that if you’ve never spoken?   

 

Follow-Up. Don’t Stalk.

There can be a fine line between being persistent and “stalking”. Try a variety of different channels to reach a passive candidate. Email, LinkedIn, work phone, cell phone. Help them connect the dots by making each point of contact intriguing and a bit different. If they are not getting back to you after an appropriate timeframe and multiple attempts, create a “last ditch” message to let them know you are going to assume at this point they are not interested and look forward to connecting in the future.  Then stick with that. Hey – sometimes that’s when some candidates finally call back. 

On a final note, try to keep track of what you are doing so you can develop some best practices.  This will certainly vary by industries, roles and levels of seniority, but can help you from recreating the wheel each time you start to work on something new.