Talentry Explainer: What is proactive recruitment?

Why are job advertisements not working like they used to? How can recruiters build a relationship with candidates who are not even looking for a job? And why is a talent pool an absolute must-have in proactive recruitment? We have the answers.

Proactive recruitment refers to …

… all recruitment activities that are not aimed at filling an immediate vacancy in the short term, but serve to build long-term relationships. It is the opposite to the 'post & pray' method that has been practiced in social media recruitment for many years: instead of placing a job ad or going through a recruitment agency in the event of a vacancy and waiting for applications to arrive, the recruiter initiates and maintains contact with promising talent using a wide variety of measures and methods. In order to reach as large a talent group as possible within the framework of this talent relationship management, the direct approach focuses not (only) on candidates actively looking for a job, but above all on passive candidates who are not currently considering a change of job. This explains why in proactive recruitment the initiative comes from the company and not from the applicant. The employer is looking for new employees and not necessarily an applicant for a new job.

What is the aim of proactive recruitment?

Proactive recruitment is not primarily focused on filling individual vacancies: its aim is to be able to draw on suitable candidates with whom the recruiter is already in contact with. This makes talent acquisition more efficient and successful in the long term. The linear recruitment process, which begins with searching for candidates for each new vacancy and ends with hiring someone, is transformed into a cycle (or Recruiting Wheel) that ideally creates a constantly updated pool of applicants or talent pipeline.

Why is proactive recruitment necessary?

Because the German job market has become an applicants' market mainly due to the country's aging population. The result is that skilled workers are rare and Generations Y and Z approach employers with a different self-image. Here, “post & pray” or linear recruitment has long since ceased to produce the desired success in the hiring process. Supply and demand have virtually switched sides and this shift of power from employer to workers and applicants makes it increasingly difficult for employers to find qualified staff. It is therefore only logical that the protagonists, i.e. employers and potential candidates, also switch roles. Employers are now the (job) seekers applying for new employees. Only a very small percentage of employees on the market are actually planning to change jobs or occasionally inform themselves about new opportunities in personal networks. The large majority of employees are passive and do not actively follow job advertisements. Companies can only get their attention and interest with proactive recruitment measures and long-term talent relationship management.

Who benefits most from talent relationship management?

Proactive recruitment and investment in long-term talent relationship management are not a question of company size. Much more decisive are the positions that need to be filled. Proactive recruitment is therefore above all:

interesting for companies that

  • have to fill job profiles that are difficult to match and for which there are often no incoming applications. The applies, for example, to engineers, programmers and experienced managers. Successful talent sourcing and the associated personal approach come into their own here. To attract this critical talent, networks must be proactively developed and all touchpoints carefully tracked until it is the right time to hire
  • have high demand for identical profiles, so that maintaining contact with second-choice candidates from previous application rounds via a talent pool pays off. This allows the company to approach promising candidates who have already been screened without having to repeat the application process
  • struggle with high turnover rates and therefore not only depend on fast and flexible recruitment via a talent pool, but also need to strengthen their own employer brand. In proactive recruitment this can be achieved, for example, through employee recommendations or a strategic referral programme
  • have to cover seasonal peaks through high volume recruitment and consequently usually have to fill many positions with a similar profile at short notice and for a limited period of time. Classic examples can be found in the logistics industry, hotel and catering, retailing, tourism and the event sector. When, for example, thousands of temporary drivers are need every year prior to Christmas, it is not possible to place job advertisements every time, sift through applications and conduct interviews. The company needs an active pool of suitable candidates that the recruiter can automatically contact the next time demand increases and ask whether they wish to work for them again. This requires efficient relationship management, where candidate profiles are maintained even during times of inactivity.

What are many companies doing wrong?

  1. Companies do not adapt to the new roles and continue to search for new professionals with outdated methods. The job ad may be much more colourful, amusing, or provocative and also published in social media channels, but the recruitment mechanism remains the same and therefore will not work. Just because the job ad has a different appearance and is distributed via a new medium doesn't mean there will be floods of applications.

  2. Proactive recruitment becomes a permanent corporate advertising campaign. This means that the company supposedly puts the candidate at the centre of its many new recruitment efforts, but does not really address their interests in terms of content. Instead of creating credible and informative content, the company adorns itself with superlatives. However, authenticity is very important to applicants and, thanks to platforms such as Glassdoor or Kununu, they will quickly realise if the image the employer presents is just a pretty facade.

  3. Recruitment has a low priority in the company and the search for personnel is often only done "on the side". But is has been shown that staffing shortages are now the biggest bottleneck in economic growth. Companies, therefore, need to accept that a proactive recruitment strategy is a critical success factor in corporate strategy and for the employer brand. What is alarming is not the recruitment costs for filling a position, but rather the costs incurred because a position remains unfilled. Successful recruitment, therefore, secures the economic health of the company.


What are the measures and methods in proactive recruitment?

Candidate relationship management offers numerous possibilities for companies to establish and maintain contact with ideal candidates. We are only presenting a selection of the most important measures here. Ultimately, proactive recruitment encompasses all activities - both online and offline - that serve to build and maintain relationships.

#1 Maintaining contacts in a talent pool

The heart of proactive recruitment is a candidate or talent pool. In this database, all contacts are collected, sorted, classified, and grouped in a meaningful way. It is also possible to set up contact histories and automate GDPR consent. The contacts themselves may come from very different sources: e.g. second-choice candidates from completed application processes, participants from recruitment events, visitors to your career pages, employee referrals, speculative applications or contacts sourced from internet forums, blogs, business networks such as LinkedIn and Xing, job boards, etc. It is important that contacts are not just collected and occasionally updated, but also actively maintained and developed in order to be able to contact potential candidates with details of a suitable job at the right time. A central database also has the advantage that all staff involved in the recruitment process know the current status of each contact, use the same contact details and are able to access dashboards and reports at any time.

#2 Offer a point of contact via a career page

The career website is the company's flagship as an employer and the linchpin of HR marketing. It is usually the first point of contact for candidates to not only find out about current vacancies, but also about working conditions, company culture, working atmosphere, career opportunities, and much more. The career site should appear in every candidate journey as a touchpoint and ideally lead to a direct application or registration for the talent pool. To achieve a positive candidate experience, the site needs to be programmed in a user-friendly way, be well structured, and designed to suit the target group - with informative content, a personal, motivating style, and easily accessible ways to apply.

#3 Use employee referrals

Employers can reach on average 341 potential candidates via the social networks of just one employee. But it is not just the free reach that makes employee referrals so attractive in recruitment. HR departments also value the cultural fit and loyalty that referred employees often bring. Referral programmes are therefore considered to be the best source of recruitment in many companies. In addition to a well-stocked reward shop, they offer employees the possibility to easily share job profiles and application links by email or on their own social networks. For HR professionals, the software provides useful analytics for measuring success. This is just as important as the system's interaction with all relevant social media platforms, its intuitive usability, and the direct link to the applicant tracking system.

#4 Secure talent early through on-campus recruitment

On-campus recruitment is a proactive approach to secure talent strategically – especially in sectors with an increasing shortage of qualified staff, such as STEM professions and IT, but also in the care sector and among lawyers. It is worthwhile for employers to establish contact with students and graduates here at an early stage, e.g. through internships, placements, jobs for working students, holiday jobs at trade fairs and events, but also through training sessions and workshops at universities. The goal is to turn graduates into applicants at some point. This requires a recruitment strategy and a suitable candidate relationship management (CRM) platform, capable of storing comprehensive details of education and training and tracking careers over a period of years.

#5 Regular communication with email campaigns

Whether graduates, blue-collar workers, digitization specialists, engineers, or other professionals and managers – everyone can be inspired by the right content. A structured candidate pool with smart filter and search functions is the basis for target-group-specific email campaigns and ensures that communication is targeted and convincing. Sensible automation, for example for birthday or Christmas greetings, allows email campaigns to be planned in advance and keeps the time and effort required to a minimum without losing the personal touch.


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#6 Getting to know each other at recruitment events

Whether in a virtual space or live and in colour: recruitment events are an excellent opportunity to build and maintain relationships with candidates in a personal way. As a result, they have a strong impact on the employer brand. Popular events are, for example, career days at universities, expert panels or fireside chats, hackathons, job fairs or networking events. Here again, the question of the target group is a decisive factor in the choice of event: experienced managers will be less enthusiastic about a hackathon than an expert panel. Irrespective of the type of recruitment event, it is important to enter any data collected or new contacts into the database. The individual steps, such as the invitation, registration, sending documents or follow-up, can be automated as far as possible with the help of a talent management system.

#7 Dialogue in talent communities

Interaction is an important component in proactive recruitment to intensify dialogue and bind candidates to the company. Platforms such as talent communities lend themselves to a lively exchange. Here, companies can facilitate discussions and encourage people to ask questions, which need to be answered in a timely, concise, and informative manner. This ensures two-way communication and makes the talent community a dynamic platform where potential candidates feel noticed. A talent community can include internal applicants, passive candidates, active job seekers and also former employees. Diversity enriches the community and increases the range of topics.


Employers who continue to focus on filling vacancies through reactive recruitment waste valuable potential. Proactive recruitment, on the other hand, allows you to attract and inspire promising candidates even without offering them specific job opportunities in your company. As soon as a suitable vacancy arises, recruitment teams can then approach candidates without a lengthy, expensive search and suggest they apply or make them a job offer. Smart CRM software combined with a talent pool reduces the time and effort required for long-term candidate relationship management.


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