Behind the Scenes: This Is How I Pick Who to Poach

Recruiting top talent is a lot harder than it sounds. In a perfect world, a recruiter would be able to post an open position, and their ideal candidate would immediately apply. Unfortunately, it’s rarely that simple.

When I’m recruiting for a new opportunity, I spend the majority of my time proactively sourcing passive candidates. This is, of course, in addition to posting an open position on my favorite job boards and soliciting referrals from my network.

Since a staggering 70% of the workforce is made up of passive job seekers, I’d be crazy not to dedicate most of my day to poaching these qualified prospects.

The challenge is that I never really know who will be responsive and who will ignore my attempts to connect. Rather than waste time blasting boiler-plate messages to every eligible person I come across, I’m selective in my approach. This allows me to write a compelling, customized message to each person I get in touch with and increases my chances of getting the person to speak with me.

Deciding who to reach out varies depending on the role, industry, and experience required, but if you want to get poached, consider the following key factors.

1. Searchability

If I can’t find your name, job title, or current employer anywhere on the internet, it’s as if you don’t exist. I can’t poach you if I can’t find you.

Increasing your searchability is easier than you might think. Simply creating or updating your LinkedIn profile or creating a personal website is enough to establish an online presence.

Want to go the extra mile? Be sure to enhance your profile by highlighting your skills, experience, and achievements, and using relevant keywords. This will help paint a compelling picture of your qualifications and inspire recruiters to reach out to you.

2. The Right Keywords

I don’t expect your profile to be an exact match for each and every skill I’m recruiting for, but I’d like to see relevant keywords somewhere in your profile. For example, if you work in sales, be sure to mention your strong business development, client service, account management, lead generation, negotiation, or revenue-generating skills.

Need some inspiration? Spend some time browsing postings for roles that are similar to what you currently do or opportunities you’d be interested in pursuing.

3. Profile Details

If you have a professional photo, an engaging summary, and a detailed overview of your work history, chances are I’m going to contact you. A completed profile signals that you care about your online presence and are probably checking your inbox regularly. Sparse or inactive pages, on the other hand, suggest that you aren’t interested in getting poached and that any attempts to get in touch with you will be futile.

I also keep an eye out for hints in your summary or headline that suggest you may be open to new opportunities. Going the extra mile to customize your profile and detail your areas of expertise could mean that you’re passively looking.

For example, if you include a line in your bio about the types of projects or roles that are most interesting to you or use a headline that highlights your specialties like, “Marketing Coordinator Specializing in Social Media and Branding,” I’ll take it as a sign that you may be interested in a new job.

Including information about how best to get in touch with you is also a surefire way to let recruiters know you wouldn’t mind hearing from them. It’s as straightforward as, “Interested in getting in touch? I’d love to hear from you! Connect with me here or say ‘hi’ at [email protected]

4. Activity

Crafting a compelling outreach message can be time-consuming, so I don’t want to waste time blasting out inquiries to every semi-qualified candidate I come across. I need to be strategic. I’ve come to find that people who are active on social media (and more specifically on networking sites like LinkedIn) are much more likely to read and respond to my messages promptly. If you have a bare-bones profile and no recent activity, I’ll assume you aren’t interested in hearing from me.

Staying active on networking and social media sites should only take a few minutes out of your day. Start following relevant industry blogs, news sites, or thought leaders for inspiration. Completing a daily activity can be as simple as liking someone else’s updates or sharing an thought-provoking article. You’d be surprised how quickly your profile views will increase.

5. Tenure

If you’ve been with the same company for 15 years, I’m probably not going to spend much time trying to lure you away. My assumption—right or wrong, but based on experience—is that it would take a lot of convincing to get you to seriously consider leaving an employer that you’ve had such a long, successful relationship with. I’ve found that I have better luck poaching candidates who tend to move around every couple of years.

Obviously, you can’t change your length of employment, but there are other ways to challenge my hunch. Be sure that your profile is complete and includes relevant keywords, a professional headshot, a unique headline, and tips for getting in touch with you. Curating an active online presence helps, too. All of this will signal to me that you could be persuaded.

6. Company Name and Industry Relevance

I was once tasked with recruiting an HR manager for a fish market. Not only did this person need to have a solid human-resources background and culinary-industry experience, but they needed to be OK with working in a warehouse that smelled, well, fishy. Needless to say, this was a challenge. I had to get really specific about my poaching strategy.

Thanks to some serious industry research (and the magic of LinkedIn Recruiter), I identified several qualified candidates. I was able to find these people because they’d taken the time to update their profiles, include relevant food industry keywords, and provide detailed overviews of their experience.

I also found a few prospects who didn’t necessarily have a ton of industry experience but who had used their summaries to indicate an interest in the culinary space. I have a feeling there were plenty of qualified candidates who didn’t show up in my extensive searches because they had incomplete or outdated profiles.

The lesson here? At any given moment, there may be a recruiter looking for someone with your experience and skills, but they won’t be able to find you if you haven’t taken the time to feature them in your profile.

7. Current Events

When I hear that a company was recently acquired, went public, or is going through a round of layoffs, this usually means that there are going to be some motivated job seekers at that organization.

You obviously can’t control whether your company is going to IPO or if you’re going to be caught up in a reduction in force (and I sincerely hope you never are), but this a compelling reason to keep your public profiles current. If you haven’t added your current employer to your LinkedIn page, I’m not going to be able to find you when I’m searching for people who work at your company.

The formula for increasing your chances of a recruiter trying to poach you is really pretty simple: establish a presence, keep your profile(s) current, use common industry keywords, and stay active. Adding a note about opportunities of interest, using an engaging headline, or featuring the best way to get in touch with you helps, too. If you have the experience I’m looking for and a decent profile (assuming I can find you!), you’ll probably be hearing from me.

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