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Recruiting, Fast and Slow: Lessons from Human Psychology

In the world of talent acquisition, recruiters are often faced with the dilemma of choosing between active and passive recruiting methods.

Active recruiting involves proactively seeking out candidates through methods like job postings, networking events, and outreach campaigns.

On the other hand, passive recruiting relies on attracting candidates who are not actively seeking employment through methods like employer branding, social media presence, and employee referrals... and nurturing those relationships.

Interestingly, this dichotomy bears a striking resemblance to the concepts of fast and slow thinking proposed by Daniel Kahneman in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow. Let’s explore how these processes align with recruiting strategies.

Fast Thinking: Active Recruiting

Fast thinking, as described by Kahneman, is characterized by quick, instinctive, and often subconscious decision-making.

Active recruiting embodies this approach because it is all about prioritizing immediate action to fill job vacancies. Recruiters employing active methods will use strategies that, theoretically, yield rapid results.

Posting job ads on job boards, company websites, and social media platforms: Recruiters cast a wide net, hoping to attract a large pool of applicants in a short amount of time.

Attending career fairs, industry conferences, and networking events also allows recruiters to engage with potential candidates directly. This swift interaction enables them to assess candidates’ suitability on the spot.

Actively reaching out to candidates via email, phone calls, or social media messages exemplifies the rapid decision-making characteristic of fast thinking. Recruiters make quick judgments based on candidates’ profiles and responses.

Slow Thinking: Passive Recruiting

In contrast, slow thinking involves deliberate, analytical, and methodical decision-making. Passive recruiting aligns with this approach by focusing on long-term relationship-building and strategic talent acquisition efforts.

There isn't an immediate role to fill. The goal is to find quality candidates to add to your pipeline. Job ads work fill roles, but they don't work for this kind of recruiting. Here, proactive sourcing is the answer.

  • Cultivating a strong employer brand, which requires patience and consistency. Slow-thinking recruiters invest time and resources in showcasing their company culture, values, and opportunities to attract passive candidates over time.
  • Building a robust presence on professional networking platforms like LinkedIn, which means gradual engagement with potential candidates. Slow-thinking recruiters create meaningful connections and foster ongoing dialogue with passive talent.
  • Leveraging employee referrals as a recruiting strategy, and nurturing relationships within the organization. Slow-thinking recruiters understand the value of fostering a culture of employee advocacy, which pays dividends in the form of high-quality referrals.

Finding the Balance

While the the fast and slow thinking approach is one way of understanding different recruiting approaches, the most effective talent acquisition strategies often incorporate elements of both.

Just as individuals rely on a combination of fast and slow thinking in various situations, recruiters can benefit from blending active and passive methods to achieve optimal results.

Ideally, your company should use a blended approach that includes some strategic pipeline building. This helps to future-proof your company, and ensures that you are well stocked with talent for future roles.

Strategic Agility

Combining active and passive recruiting allows recruiters to adapt to changing market conditions and talent demands swiftly. They can leverage active methods to address immediate hiring needs while nurturing long-term relationships through passive strategies.

Candidate Quality

While active recruiting may lead to a large volume of applicants, passive recruiting tends to attract higher quality candidates who may be more aligned with the organization’s culture and values. By striking a balance between the two approaches, recruiters can enhance the overall quality of hires.

Long-Term Success

Building a sustainable talent pipeline requires a nuanced approach that considers both short-term objectives and long-term goals. Recruiters who integrate active and passive methods cultivate a diverse pool of talent while fostering lasting relationships with potential candidates.

Ultimately, success lies in embracing diversity in strategies and leveraging the strengths of both approaches to attract, engage, and retain top talent.