Nurturing talent today for future hiring: how we do it at Gem
Senior Technical Recruiter
July 26, 2023
The big question on many recruiters’ minds right now is: When will my team start hiring again? At Gem, we’d encourage you to modify the question and focus on the things you can control. Instead, ask yourself: How can I set myself up for a successful partnership with my hiring manager for when we DO start hiring again?
The role of the recruiter is to hire, and you want to prove your value and effectiveness by engaging and hiring talent as efficiently as possible. Building out your top-of-funnel pipeline during a slowdown gets you a head-start for when hiring starts up again. Building trust and relationships with that talent in the meantime further strengthens the candidate experience when those reqs open again—and could result in an even higher chance of them accepting an offer. This more proactive, forward-thinking approach to hiring increases your chances of filling the role more quickly.
What is candidate nurture?
Candidate nurture is defined as building and engaging a passive pipeline. It focuses on increasing the top of the funnel and building connections with potential future hires. Candidate nurture is a long-term strategy, and a shift from transactional to relational recruiting. It recognizes that recruiting top talent is a long game, that hiring and team-building is a human endeavor, and that people want to feel trust and connection before making decisions—especially big ones like career moves.
When you’re actively hiring and at capacity with req load, it can be challenging to invest in building those long-term relationships. But if the teams you support aren’t actively hiring, we recommend engaging with passive candidates now who might be interested in considering your company down the road. (The added bonus of making these connections now is it allows you and your hiring manager to finesse your pitch for the teams you support.) For candidates you’re establishing and maintaining relationships with, you’ve now put—and will keep—your company front-and-center stage.
Gem’s Talent Acquisition team, in partnership with our hiring managers, is leaning into nurturing talent for future hiring. This is a no-brainer for us—especially since we’ve built a platform to do precisely that.
Prior to working at Gem, nurturing talent was frustrating for many of us—recruiters and hiring managers alike. The workflow usually consisted of creating countless spreadsheets with lists of candidates we hoped to hire someday, and sending messages out to hiring managers regularly, reminding them to reengage with select candidates. When nurturing candidates becomes too cumbersome, it tends to fall to the bottom of the priority list. But with Gem, our team builds projects with prospective candidates and picks up conversations right where we left off with candidate rediscovery. We understand that the top talent we want to hire requires us to foster longer-term relationships. The ability to do this easily with our own product is a win!
We piloted our own nurture strategy in Q1 of 2023 in partnership with our Engineering, Product, and Design teams. On the recruiting front, here are some strategies we deployed and will continue to iterate on:
Clearly define the nurture processes
At Gem, we began with defining two nurture “buckets,” along with their processes:
“Classic” nurture: This is for roles for which there’s no hiring in sight, but we’re proactively preparing for future reqs anyhow. Or maybe we’re getting ahead of building a pipeline for roles for which we know there’s a limited talent pool. Once a role becomes active, candidates move forward with the interview process—assuming there is mutual interest.
“Urgent” nurture: This is for roles that we anticipate will open up within the next two months. If a nurture plan is already in place, we start increasing the top of the funnel. If it isn’t, the recruiter and hiring manager schedule a kickoff call to start building a pipeline. This is also a time to get ahead by creating guides and sequences, and reviewing the job posting.
The recruiter and hiring manager should be aligned on which role(s) to start building a passive pipeline for and whether it’s deemed “classic” or “urgent” nurture. Then, the recruiter and hiring manager align on the goals that they’d like to achieve.
Set nurture goals you want to achieve each quarter
Since it continues to remain unclear when the market will correct itself, our Engineering, Product, and Design (EPD) teams committed to setting attainable goals on a quarterly basis. Keep in mind this was our first time piloting a nurture strategy, so goal-setting conversations with recruiting and hiring manager partners consisted of the following:
Understanding factors that could impact our goals
Bringing data and anecdotal numbers about how many leads we could add to a project every week, multiplied by the number of weeks in the quarter
Determining recruiter and hiring manager bandwidth
When it came to determining and allocating bandwidth, Gem’s recruiters and hiring managers considered such things as: What other work/projects are happening and how do they rank in priority? Since active roles will always be a priority, how many active roles are you working on and how much time does that leave for you to focus on nurture? Remember, no nurture strategy is exactly the same; it’s important to keep an open mind and iterate as you go. Below is a snapshot of what our EPD teams came up with:
The recruiter will own sourcing for the role(s)
The recruiter will create a nurture project labeled ‘Nurture-[role]’ (e.g., ‘Nurture-Product Manager’)
The hiring manager will review the leads in the project, keep the promising leads and delete the others on a bi-weekly basis
The recruiter will send email sequences on behalf of (SOBO) the hiring manager on a bi-weekly basis (coinciding with when the leads are reviewed)
The hiring manager is responsible for doing all exploratory calls with candidates (phone call, Zoom, or in-person coffee chat) and will log feedback via Gem
The recruiter and hiring manager will be in constant communication and commit to meeting live on a monthly basis to discuss findings and learnings, or iterate on the workflow if needed
At the end of the quarter, the recruiter and hiring manager will create a short-list of candidates the hiring manager is most excited about based on the exploratory conversations. The recruiter will send out a campaign to these select folks so Gem stays on their radar.
As candidates responded to our nurture messages, one thing that stood out was how appreciative they were that the hiring manager was open to making an introduction, yet setting expectations upfront that we weren’t actively hiring for the role. It was important for us to be transparent with candidates, and to stress that we still saw the value in cultivating the relationship. While on exploratory calls, our leaders put themselves in candidates’ shoes: What would candidates want to know about Gem or about the role? What would keep them excited to stay in touch? Leaders committed to touching base on a regular cadence—especially if there was mutual interest and the candidate could be a potential future hire.
Setting candidate nurture goals
Goals will look different between roles depending on the complexity of the role (talent pool: niche v. generalist), limitations to location (remote, hybrid, or in-office) or the level of experience required for the role. Understanding the priorities for the roles being nurtured is also important for goal-setting. For an urgent nurture, we set more aggressive goals. We also considered whether we’d sourced for these roles before. If not, we could anticipate some level of calibration with time spent seeking to understand what the hiring manager was looking for. We created this goal-setting general best practice sheet for guidance:
Create a goal for number of candidates to be sequenced in one quarter
Create a goal for number of exploratory calls to be completed in one quarter
As part of our diversity strategy, aspire to a goal for engaging URGs for at least the first two months of the search
Determine how we can leverage upcoming events or happy hours to invite passive candidates that we want to nurture (e.g., 3-4 external candidates will be invited to every monthly EPD social; 50% URG representation for the total number of external attendees per quarter)
Bringing data about leads
While anecdotal numbers on how many leads we can add to each project isn’t the most accurate data, it’s directionally-correct: whatever numbers we landed on meant that we headed in the right direction! A very simple way to approach this was to ask ourselves: From my experience in my own recruiting career, what have I goaled in previous organizations? We gut-checked those numbers with our peers as a way of making sure we were in the ballpark—but knowing that we’d finesse goaling for subsequent nurture strategies (or even active headcount) because we’ll have more historical data to leverage.
Below are the goals Gem’s EPD teams came up with as part of our first nurture strategy pilot:
Engineering: 500 candidates in a project ready to be sequenced; 10 exploratory conversations with candidates (SF & NY)
Product: 250 candidates in a project ready to be sequenced; 5 exploratory conversations with candidates (SF)
Design: 250 candidates in a project ready to be sequenced; 5 exploratory conversations with candidates (SF)
DEI focus to aspire to:
100% URG focus for the first 21 days of pipeline build for each project
50% of all exploratory calls to be from URG
3-4 external candidates invited to monthly EPD socials, and aspire to 50% URG representation for the total number of external attendees per quarter
Agree upon a nurture workflow with hiring partners
Lucky for us, Gem’s talent engagement platform enables a multitude of things when it comes to nurturing talent:
Source top talent and automate personalized follow-ups. Recruiters send email sequences on behalf of (SOBO) hiring managers. We can create different sequences based on our target audience (e.g., passive leads v. referrals v. folks the hiring manager has reached out to in the past that they want to re-engage).
Use data to plan and operate more strategically. At the mid-point in the quarter, the recruiter leads a meeting with the hiring manager to determine how they’re tracking against goals, and to align on the best plan of action for the rest of the quarter based on findings and learnings.
Measure diversity throughout the hiring funnel automatically. Simply put, how are we and our hiring managers holding each other accountable to increasing inclusion and fairness across the hiring process?
Put your talent brand front and center. At the end of the quarter, the recruiter and hiring manager create a short-list of candidates the hiring manager is most excited about based on the exploratory conversations. The recruiter then creates a campaign to send to these select folks so there is continued momentum, and Gem stays on their radar.
All in all, the nurture strategy Gem piloted in partnership with our EPD leaders was fun, meaningful, and insightful. We strengthened our partnerships with hiring managers while building connections with top talent! Here were some highlights:
We identified 964 leads across EPD
Hiring managers took 28 exploratory calls with engineers, PMs, and designers
We moved a candidate into the onsite round within one week of opening a new role in EPD!
EPD leaders led with transparency, letting candidates know that we weren’t actively hiring but wanted to make an introduction, and we received positive feedback from candidates
100% URG focus for the first 21 days of pipeline build for each project
We surpassed our goal of 50% of exploratory calls to be with URG talent
75% URG representation for the total number of external attendees for our EPD social
For our engineering roles, we achieved 74% outreach for gender representation—meaning 74% of the folks reached out to were female engineers
Building relationships is at the core of what we do as recruiters. We see the value when we work in unison with our hiring managers to nurture those relationships. We often hear about a candidate accepting an offer because of a “great candidate experience” and “connection with the team.” That’s why nurturing passive talent is always worth your time.
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