1. Get to know your targets
Passive candidates, by definition, aren’t actively applying for jobs, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t jump at the right opportunity. So if you have your eye on someone, reach out about lunch.
Before introducing your company, get to know her as a person. Keep it casual. It’s OK to ask how she’d handle certain situations, but don’t make it into a formal interview. Your goal is to pique her interest and get a feel for whether she’d fit your culture. Plant the seed and then step back to see whether it grows.
2. Share the right content
After lunch, that person will probably go home and Google you. What’ll she see at the top of your company’s blog and social profiles? A dry, boring press release?
Content is a great way to get the word out — but only if it’s human. Infuse humor and helpful tips into every blog and social post you create. Tap current employees who might want to write about day-to-day company happenings. By providing an honest, ground-level look into your business, you encourage passive candidates to take the next step.
3. Appeal to their sense of adventure
People who rise to the top of their fields generally have eyes for adventure and challenge. The chance to be a part of the latest and greatest tech project — self-driving cars, AI, tomorrow’s proactive web — can be a powerful lure.
Think of every conversation as a chance to get your target excited about a new, challenging project (even if it’s not quite as lofty as self-driving cars). You might be surprised by how willing she is to leave her comfort zone.
4. Meet them where they are
Passive candidates aren’t in job-hunting mode. They’re not going to tolerate a lengthy, tedious interview process. Consider vetting them at events like codefests and hackathons instead. Deloitte calls this “extreme recruiting.” The international consulting company employs an entire team to attend these events, meet candidates they feel are a good fit and make offers on the spot.
If all this sounds too spontaneous, remember that people attend hackathons for the fun of it. They love what they do, and they want to spend their time taking on technical challenges. I don’t know about you, but that’s exactly the kind of techie I want on my team.
5. Look outside your network
It’s not just about who you know; it’s about who your teammates know, too. Dropbox’s recruiters, for example, regularly peruse peers’ LinkedIn profiles to find potential candidates among their connections.
The beauty of this strategy is that you’re exposed to a whole new crop of tech talent and you already have an “in.” What’s more, your team member may have insights to share on connections’ work styles, strengths and weaknesses. If someone seems like a good fit, ask your employee to make the introduction.
6. Don’t cold-tweet
Just because social media makes it possible to fire off direct messages to total strangers, that doesn’t mean you should. While it might seem like a hip, modern way to meet professionals, it’s no better than a cold call in most cases. And we all know how effective those are.
You can (and should) still leverage social media as a research tool, but recruit a technical team member to help you vet your options. Once you’ve narrowed down your list, reach out via email and try to set up a meeting to feel them out. Not only will it save you tons of time, but it’ll also come across as more authentic to the targets you’re truly interested in.
7. Keep a little black book
So what if someone isn’t interested right now? Don’t write her off. Connect on social media. Most importantly, touch base regularly like you would with any other professional connection. The more often your paths cross, the more regularly that person will think of you (and the opportunity you can offer).
Plus, by making it a priority to stay in touch, you communicate to her that you’re genuinely interested in her skills. It tells her that she’s more than a name you picked out of a hat.
The bottom line is this: Finding and hiring a tech team is a hands-on job. You can’t just wait for the right team to come to you. Yes, tracking down talent takes time, but when your startup is thriving, you’ll see that it’s time well spent.