The “No Application Required” Recruiting Strategy (Providing employed top talent with “job search deniability”)

Top employees are reluctant to apply for external jobs because it makes them appear disloyal. “Getting caught” would not only be embarrassing, but it would likely result in some career damage at their current company. However, this “no application required” strategy delays any formal job application. It allows a currently employed (and not actively looking) top talent to build a relationship with a potential employer while maintaining what I call “job search deniability,” allowing an employee to honestly say they haven’t applied for a job.

The Benefits of the “No Application Required” Recruiting Approach

This approach is designed specifically to encourage employed top talent to pursue job opportunities with your organization informally. By delaying any formal job application, the individual can avoid being labeled “actively looking for a job.” The benefits of this strategy include:

  • The currently employed are the best recruiting targets – it’s an established recruiting axiom that “the best have already been taken, so they must be fought for,” even though they are harder to recruit. Because these potential recruiting targets have been fully employed for a period of time, their knowledge, skills, and experience are all up-to-date. So they can hit the ground running if they join your firm.
  • You can get the attention of employed talent while minimizing any appearance of disloyalty – employed top talent are extremely reluctant to apply for a job. Even being suspected of “actively looking” can cause an employee to be labeled disloyal and lacking commitment. However, by proactively approaching them and initially avoiding the formal application process completely, an employed recruiting target can honestly say that “they haven’t looked for or applied for a new job.”
  • Job postings don’t work on employed top performers – it’s a fact that 85% of top performers find their jobs through referrals and not job postings. And because top performers are accustomed to being “found by others,” some employed top talent simply won’t formally apply for jobs because they think that by doing so, they will appear desperate.
  • The recruiting competition will be low because every company uses a recruiting strategy specifically targeting these employed individuals with a formal application or an updated resume. Any company that postpones the need for a formal application will face only minimal recruiting competition.
  • Some recruiting delays will be avoided – my research has revealed that a top factor that lengthens your time to fill is waiting for the targeted employed individual to find time to update their resume (because why would a non-job seeker have an updated resume?). So, this resume update delay can be eliminated by initially relying only on their LinkedIn profile.
  • Some employed targets are flattered by “being asked” – a significant percentage of all employed top performers are treated well, so they don’t often see the need to apply for another job. However, some of these individuals consider it a form of flattery just to be approached and asked to consider a job that they believe is tailored to them. Many will grant your consideration request to review the job when they see that you have thoroughly reviewed their background.
  • You get stronger, and they get weaker – this approach is particularly powerful because, in the end, not only will your company get stronger with the addition of your competitor’s top talent, but because they have lost top talent, your competitors will simultaneously get weaker. CEOs like that.

Key Elements Of The “No Application Required” Strategy

If you are considering implementing this no-application approach, below you will find a list of its key components.

  • The primary goal – is to approach successfully and, subtly and informally, build the interest of currently employed “passive” top talent. The strategy works when others don’t because most employed top talent are extremely reluctant to participate in any traditional recruiting process.
  • Identify employed top talent in your targeted job families – have your top direct sourcers focus on the best employees currently working for your competitors. Also, consider the names of top talent your employees have referred, which never became a formal referral. Finally, consider the names of your top former employees who might return as a boomerang rehire.
  • They approached me out of the blue on a professional matter – by proactively approaching them. Make it easy for your target employee to say they never approached this competitor. And when they are approached, make sure that the initial discussion is strictly professional. Because it was based exclusively on mutual learning and benchmarking (don’t mention recruiting during your initial contacts).
  • Provide application deniability – don’t require your target to apply or to submit a resume. Instead, simply ask the target to give their permission to review their LinkedIn profile and online work. The goal is to make it easy for the target to say (and actually believe) honestly that they haven’t applied for a job at another company.
  • Join our subject area community – after reviewing their profile and praising their background and accomplishments, the next step is subtly requesting that they become part of your community. After some time has passed, only then should you begin notifying them about any “perfect match” potential job opportunities.
  • Eventually, make them an employee referral – as an additional final step in making this process appear as independent as possible from the recruiting function, don’t ever ask them to apply formally. Instead, ask one of your employees to formally submit them as an employee referral so that it is an individual employee, not a recruiter, that finally makes them an applicant.
If you only do one thing – ask one of your most persuasive employees on a team that desperately needs recruits to begin “capturing names” during their standard benchmarking activities. Then, ask the employee to try this “no application required” strategy on a few of their benchmark contacts. Gradually expand and formalize that effort when it proves to be successful.

Final Thoughts

Obviously, when recruiting active or unemployed job seekers, you won’t encounter the same “reluctance to apply” or the need to avoid any appearance of disloyalty. However, if your goal is to successfully recruit employed top talent who are reluctant to enter job search mode, emphasize the relationship and what the individual and your company have in common.

Early on, don’t ask them to do anything they would consider an element of applying for a job. At least initially, that means there is no mention of a job opening or requests for a resume or references. And nothing that even slightly appears to them to be a job interview.

Note to the reader

This is the latest in Dr. Sullivan’s 25 continuous years of weekly talent articles. Access his thousands of articles here.

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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