Active recruiting all about relationships

Creating a pipeline of solid candidates key to success

Active recruiting is sometimes thought of as a last resort in hiring — a plan B in case an employer doesn’t find the calibre of applicants it’s seeking after posting a job listing. However, if an employer doesn’t have an active staffing strategy in place, it could be missing out on professionals who aren’t necessarily looking for another challenge but could be persuaded to join a new company.

The facts

When more than 400 office workers in Canada were asked what they would do if a recruiter approached them with a potential new job opportunity, 64 per cent said they would likely entertain the opportunity while only 36 per cent said they probably wouldn’t consider it, according to an October 2016 survey by Robert Half.

This is good news for HR professionals. It means there’s an untapped pool of talent open to making a move, for the right offer. The problem? Most candidates are unlikely to know about the vacancies as they’re not browsing job boards or talking with recruiters. The takeaway? This could be a good time for employers to consider active recruiting.

It’s also a great way to get out in front of the competition when it comes to attracting skilled talent. Many companies don’t take advantage of opportunities to actively recruit, according to the same survey of more than 270 Canadian CFOs. In fact, 50 per cent of the CFOs said they are more likely to wait for replies to job descriptions than to get out there and court potential candidates.

Tips for active recruiting

Traditional recruiting channels may be fine in industries with a high unemployment rate but if an employer is having trouble hiring, here are some ways to put active hiring into practice:

Be present at industry events: Trade shows, conferences, professional organization gatherings — some companies don’t regard these events as recruiting opportunities because most attendees already have a job. As the survey suggests, however, a majority of workers would consider a job offer if the right one came along. So it’s about going to industry and networking events with hiring in mind.

Stay in touch with ex-employees: There are many advantages to so-called “boomerang” or former employees. They know the people and the workplace culture, thereby minimizing the chances of a bad hire. They also require less training than brand new staff.

Boomerang hires are somewhat uncommon, though — while 87 per cent of HR managers said they have no problems hiring a former employee, only 30 per cent of the workers would likely come back, according to a 2015 Accountemps survey of more than 300 HR managers and more than 400 workers in Canada. A common reason for this sentiment is they feel bridges have been burned. By staying in contact with former staff members, an employer can make them still feel welcome — and stands a better chance of having them to return for open positions.

Make use of referral bonuses: A referral program — giving bonuses to employees who recommend a candidate who is eventually hired — can help increase the number of quality applications who apply. But do all staff members know your company has such an active staffing strategy? For an employee referral program to work, it needs to be publicized regularly. Mention the cash amount, and then remind employees to reach out to passive candidates as well as active job-seekers.

Right message, right channel: Don’t waste opportunities. When you have a short-list of people to consider for a job vacancy, don’t spam them with a generic email. Instead, contact them individually. A phone call is an effective way to connect immediately, but personalized emails and LinkedIn messages are also good. A publicly visible method, such as Twitter, should be used sparingly, especially if the person is currently
employed. Whichever way you reach out, explain why you feel they’d be a good fit and the reasons they may enjoy a new challenge.

Active recruiting is about strong rapport and relationship-building. Find people, keep a line of communication open with them, and reach out when there is a position they might find appealing. It’s a proactive way to create a pipeline of solid candidates.

Dianne Hunnam-Jones is the Canadian president of Accountemps in Toronto, a Robert Half company. For more information, visit or

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