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Reactive vs. Proactive Recruiting: What Your Company Needs To Know

Does your company wait until you have an opening to start looking, or do you have a steady pipeline of talent ready when a vacancy opens? Your recruiting strategy can impact productivity and the quality of the employees you hire. Learning the difference between reactive and proactive recruiting can help you rethink your practices to improve your hiring practices.

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What is reactive recruiting?

Reactive recruiting happens when you wait until you need a new employee to start looking for candidates. It’s the traditional recruiting model that many businesses follow. You’re reacting to your hiring needs in the moment instead of planning ahead and creating a talent pool before you have an opening. If an employee quits or retires, you react at that time by looking for a replacement. If your company suddenly grows, you use reactive recruiting to expand your team. You’re essentially playing catch-up with no prospects waiting in the wings.

The process typically looks like this:

  1. Your organization identifies the need for an employee.
  2. You post a job ad.
  3. Job seekers apply for the position.
  4. Recruiters or HR staff review the applications and narrow the list of candidates.
  5. You initiate the interview and selection process.
  6. You extend a job offer to the selected candidate.

What is proactive recruiting?

Proactive recruiting happens when you look for job candidates before you have a vacancy. You’re building a candidate pool before you need them to be proactive in your hiring process. Your recruiters are constantly looking for prospective employees and helping them discover your organization. This relationship building helps grow interest in working for your company so candidates are excited to apply when you have a vacancy.

The process can vary, but it might look like this:

  1. Identify possible future needs for your company, including specific roles or skills that could benefit the organization.
  2. Search for people who have those skills and qualifications.
  3. Reach out to those candidates to introduce them to your company.
  4. Continue communicating with them to build a relationship and keep their interest.
  5. Encourage them to apply when you have a vacancy that fits their qualifications.

It’s an ongoing recruiting process that helps you keep fresh prospects in the pipeline, waiting for potential vacancies.

Differences between proactive and reactive recruiting

Both strategies result in new hires for your company, but they have several differences. These differences can help you better understand the approaches. Here are some key things that separate the two:

  • Timing: Proactive recruiting takes place all the time, while reactive recruiting doesn’t happen until you know you need a new employee. The proactive process can be slower-paced since there’s no urgent need. Reactive hiring is often rushed to find a candidate quickly because you have a gap in your team.
  • Approach: When you wait until you have an opening, you typically post a job and wait for applicants to approach you. Proactive hiring is more like marketing, where you seek talent that could fill a future position. Recruiters are more like salespeople trying to entice talent to your company.
  • Relationships: Proactive recruiters spend a lot of time building relationships with prospects. They don’t have an immediate opening, so they need to get the talent interested in the company so they’ll still want to work there when you have a vacancy. Filling positions as you need them doesn’t require any nurturing of the candidates since they’re applying immediately.
  • Candidate quality: While you can find a candidate who meets your needs with either method, proactive hiring typically makes it easier to find exceptional employees. You have more time to source and screen candidates. When you have an urgent need, you might not have the time to do a thorough check.
  • Candidate type: Proactive recruiting often targets passive job seekers—the people who aren’t actively looking for a new job but are open to opportunities. A reactive method often attracts active job seekers who are watching for ads that match their preferred jobs.
  • Time to hire: Once you have a vacancy, you can usually get someone in the position faster if you already have a candidate pool. You have people who are ready to apply, and you don’t have to spend as long promoting your vacancy. If they’re highly talented and havelots of experience in the field, they might also get up to speed faster to improve your productivity.
  • Employee satisfaction: When you nurture candidates and build relationships, they learn more about your company and its culture. They’ve already decided it’s a good match and want to work there. They also have connections with staff members, which can help them assimilate better if they get hired. This can help them feel more satisfied and increase the chances of them staying with your company.

Which is better?

Proactive recruiting can help you find a good match for your vacancies because you have time to look for the right skills. Since you’ve built connections with those candidates, they’re already excited about your company. You’ve also done at least some vetting to save time during the hiring process. Overall, proactive hiring is typically less stressful and can net better results.

However, proactive recruiting takes more work upfront. You need the staff to find prospective employees and nurture them long-term. The recruiting position requires a person with sales and marketing skills to grow those relationships effectively. Smaller companies might not have the resources to dedicate to proactive recruiting.

If you have low employee turnover and don’t anticipate massive growth, you might not need a large pool of applicants. Those candidates might lose interest if you never have job opportunities for them. Assessing your hiring trends and anticipating future needs can help you decide which approach is best.

Moving toward proactive hiring

Taking a more proactive approach to hiring new employees can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re stuck in a reactive cycle to keep up with your hiring needs. The following processes can help you move to a proactive strategy.

Analyze your current situation

The most effective way to become more proactive is to understand what you’re doing now. Meet with your HR staff and managers to get feedback on your recruitment and hiring practices. Look at analytics like how long it takes you to fill positions and your turnover rates. Identifying your biggest issues can help you focus on those crucial areas.

Anticipate your needs

When you’re reactive, you wait until a need is in front of you. To break that cycle, you need to anticipate what your company will need, even if it’s months or a year down the road. Here are some things to consider:

  • Review your growth, upcoming projects and the market in general to anticipate possible demand increases that could require additional staff.
  • Perform a skills gap analysis to see if your organization is missing key skills that might require a new position.
  • Evaluate your current roles and job descriptions to make sure they’re accurate and still meet your needs. Consider changes you might make in roles the next time you fill them to determine if you need to look for different talent in the future.

Without a crystal ball, you won’t know exactly what you’ll need, but using data and sitting down with various participants in the hiring process can give you a good idea of what you might need.

Implement HR technology

It’s much easier to create a pool and stay connected with prospective employees with the right technology in place. An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a robust software option that lets you build a database, communicate directly with prospects and document your interactions. You can include notes, ratings and other information about candidates, which can help the entire recruiting team interact effectively with them. When a position opens, you’ll already have the candidates in your ATS, so the application and screening process can be more efficient.

You can also use Indeed’s matching and hiring technology to easily expand your candidate pool. When you sponsor a job, you’ll get instant access to a list of candidates whose resumes are aligned with your job criteria. Select your preferred candidates and extend invitations to apply, or let us generate personalized invites on your behalf. Also, Indeed continuously refines its selection of high-quality candidates based on your preferences.

Hire the right staff

Switching to proactive recruiting might require additional staff in your HR department, or you might need to change the duties and responsibilities of your current recruiters. You’ll need at least one staff member who seeks out candidates that meet your anticipated needs. They should know how to interact well and nurture relationships to pique and maintain the interest of the top talent. They also need to work well with your hiring managers to ensure they stay ahead of hiring and don’t have to revert to a reactive approach.

Clarify your recruiting strategy

If you don’t have your recruiting plan on paper, it’s time to create one. A recruiting plan highlights key details like your anticipated needs, budget, timelines and candidate sourcing methods. If you already have a recruiting plan in place, rework it to reflect your proactive approach. Get your entire recruiting team involved in reworking or developing the plan to ensure it’s feasible.

Expand your recruiting sources

Since your goal is to create a large talent pool, you’ll want a variety of candidate sourcing strategies. The ideal sources depend largely on your industry and the type of talent you need. Some options for finding your talent pool include:

  • Social media
  • The career page on your website
  • Employee referrals
  • Professional organizations related to your industry
  • Networking with your industry contacts
  • Industry conferences and events
  • Collaborations with local universities and colleges
  • Job fairs and recruiting events
  • Content marketing through your website or blog to help prospective employees find you

Review your efforts

Once you start taking a proactive approach, monitor the process constantly. Watch the talent pool you create. After you hire for a few new positions, determine if those hires were part of your proactive recruiting efforts. Getting feedback from the people in your talent pool and your new hires can also help you measure the effectiveness of your new strategy.

Use that information to make adjustments as needed. If you’re not having as much success as you want or still find yourself using reactive hiring, determine where your recruiting efforts are falling short. Looking for new recruitment sources and improving the way you nurture your leads can give you even greater success.

Proactive recruiting can alleviate the stress of filling a position quickly. Transitioning to a proactive approach could help you increase the caliber of your employees and find talent that stays with your company long-term.

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