Your Candidates Gone Fishing?

If it suddenly feels like hiring is getting harder, you’re not alone.

And new data helps to explain why.

A ton of candidates have gone fishin’ … permanently. Today’s Wall Street Journal explains:

Several Million U.S. Workers Seen Staying Out of Labor Force Indefinitely

Survey shows many labor-force dropouts plan to maintain social distancing after pandemic, raising implications for economy.

Translation: an even-shorter supply of great candidates.

So, why are they picking up a rod and reel instead of your Zoom call?

According to the Journal, three million people aren’t coming back to the workforce due to physical impairments from COVID and/or fear of COVID exposure. “Our evidence is the labor force isn’t going to magically bounce back,” said Nicholas Bloom, the Stanford University economist who led the study. “We still don’t see any change in these long social distancing numbers, which suggests this drop in labor-force participation may be quite enduring.”

execunetselect-man-fishingThis isn’t a load of carp.

Let me school you on what to do about it…

I grew up on Florida’s Gulf Coast, so I learned a thing or two about how to reel in the fish of your dreams.

Recruiting is no different.

Just beneath the surface is a smorgasbord of delicious candidates. But they’re not going to just jump up into your boat. You’ve gotta hook’ em and land ‘em, before you can savor ‘em.

Here’s how:

1. Fish Where the Fish Are

Sounds like common sense. But as my mama used to say, ‘common sense ain’t so common’

Before even starting to recruit, picture your perfect candidate (the equivalent of defining your target customer in Marketing). Then be sure you devote the disproportionate amount of your effort in places where you’ll find them.

(Hint: It’s likely not on ZipRecruiter or Indeed)

2. Use the Right Gear

Get clear on why that ideal candidate should even nibble at your job opportunity. That means writing down in advance the five things they’ll want to know:

  • Why should I work in this industry
  • Why should I work in your company
  • Why should I work for this manager
  • Why should I take this specific role
  • What comes next after I nail this role

3. Prepare Your Bait

Develop a compelling hook, which these days is around impact and challenge.

Show candidates the difference they can make in this specific job, at this specific time. The best candidates can choose from a ton of lines that are in the water, so convince them at your company that any fin is possible.

If you expect them to bite, give ‘em what they crave most: a meaty, challenging, yummy role.

4. Watch for the Nibble

I use a floating bobber because it shows you when the fish is just starting to nibble on the bait.

Same in recruiting.

Passive candidates don’t just chow down…They nibble. So watch for clues that they might be interested in a conversation. Think like a great salesperson who listens for buying clues – the questions a candidate asks can be revealing. And when all else fails, ask them their level of interest in pursuing a discussion. You want to find out if they’re an active job seeker or passive.

5. Hook ‘em

Set the hook by setting a 15-minute low-pressure phone call (or Zoom video). Ask questions before grilling the candidate.

For cod’s sake, understand where they are in their job-search mindset. That’ll help you position your company and job opportunity in the most relevant way.

6. Be Patient

Don’t just gobble down the first fish that comes along. It can be tempting, when the job market is this hot. But you’ll quickly regret settling for a B-Player.

Know what type and size of fish your recipe calls for. And then when you catch one that’s fintastic, reel it in and don’t let it get away.

7. Handle With Care

Candidates can be fickle. Assume nothing. Show them the love. And use the “trial close” technique at each stage in the process. You want to ensure that you’re moving towards a “Yes” as the process unfolds. Don’t wait until the end to be surprised by what the candidate decides.

8. Take a Photo and Share It

Snagged an amazing hire? Great. Tell the world. Do a press release to demonstrate momentum. Tell all your current employees and ensure they welcome the new catch with open arms. These days, a record number of candidates are flopping around in the boat and diving back into the water i.e. reneging on their “Yes” – don’t let it happen to you.

9. Don’t Be Afraid to Cut ‘em Loose

I’m not perfect at hiring and I’ve been at it for 25 years. The moment you realize you’ve made a mistake is the moment it’s time to exit the new hire. Typically it’s because they don’t share your company’s non-negotiable DNA. And you’ll know that within four weeks (often, within four days.)

Let minnow if you have any questions.



Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman launched his recruiting career at Heidrick & Struggles and Spencer Stuart, the preeminent global executive search firms. Today, he’s Chief Talent Officer at Chicago-based Strong Suit Executive Search. Along the way, Jeff created four companies, backed by $50 million in venture capital. He currently teaches the MBA course about recruiting at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and hosts the five-star Strong Suit Podcast. Jeff has been featured by Inc., Fortune, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Bloomberg, and other media outlets. He holds a master’s degree from Kellogg School of Management and a bachelor’s degree from The Wharton School.

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