Connect with us

Fishing in the Dark Pool – Baiting Out the Passive Job Seeker

Recruitment is painful. Admin, agencies, interviewing, offers… It’s a headache for everyone. Getting the right people into the roles at the beginning lowers the chance of having to recruit all over again. 

Research shows that around 79% of the working population is not looking for a new role, but would respond to an approach if it were made in the right way. 10% are actively looking for a new role. Assuming that all of them see your advert and/or talk to your agent, this doesn’t give you great odds of success. Use a line in a pool with not many fish and you’ll be waiting a while… use a worm just after feeding time when you’re trying to hook a tuna and you really will struggle. 

So how can you find and hook that elusive full-up tuna? Be seen in the right place and use the right bait. Candidates need to come to you because they are interested in your business, not just because they’re hungry.

Why should SMEs hire from the Dark Pool?

Big businesses usually have a better known brand name compared with SMEs, so if you’re fighting for the active candidates you’re likely to lose out. By fishing in the Dark Pool, you immediately widen your choices. You contribute to marketing. You have more candidates to choose from. They probably won’t be considering anything else, so your offer is likely to be accepted quickly. They can recommend other candidates. The question isn’t “why should I fish in the Dark Pool”, it’s “why on earth wouldn’t I?”!
Where do you start? 
Get as much information as possible at the outset. Talk to high performing employees; take a survey to draw out cultural similarities. Consider personality profiling. Ask external experts about compensation and understand which skill sets fit together. Can the role be done remotely? You may need to revise your requirements over time. Know where you can compromise with training and development for the successful candidate.

Who are you looking for?

First, understand what you are looking for and what is essential versus what is desirable. The three main attributes of a candidate are Skills or Aptitude; Experience; and Character or Attitude. Of these, only the last cannot be taught or acquired. There will always be a “missing tick” for candidates in the Dark Pool, otherwise why would they choose to leave their employer? Work out where you can compromise and what support you can offer. 

Second, understand what message is attractive to your target. Gen Z is more interested in experiences; Gen X is more concerned about their career prospects. Very rarely is salary the key.

The right proposition

Design the role and your attraction approach. Take into account what your business needs and what will attract the right candidates, so spend time thinking about the ideal candidate. What stage in their career are they at? What are the next steps for them in your organisation? Do you truly want or need the highest of fliers? What does success look like?

You now have a pretty strong idea about what "good" looks like. Exciting! So now it’s time to get the message out there.

What are the various channels?

There are three classic primary routes to the candidate market: using agencies; promotional attraction; and referrals or networking. Here’s how you can exploit them to their full potential.


Agencies generally access the people that you would ordinarily attract through a strong advertising campaign. However, if the skills you are looking for are rare or highly sought after, a specialist agency’s network can be useful. Assess this through performance analysis and strengthen your partnership with the best performers. Bear in mind though that you need a strong, carefully maintained Employer Brand to bait candidates out of the Dark Pool, and agencies are rarely able to reflect your business accurately. They don’t tend to do anything positive for your brand and won’t contribute to long term talent warehousing.  

Promotional Attraction and Recruitment Marketing

This forms a fundamental part of your Employer Value Proposition. Dark Pool candidates need to be excited about your company and you need to get in front of them. Dark Pool candidates tend not to be looking at job boards; they are reading online and offline trade publications, browsing LinkedIn, updating their social media sites. Think along the lines of Forums, social media, sponsorship, PR and digital marketing, and when you’re discovered make sure there is a consistent message across your employer branding materials. 

Make sure your website looks the part and appeals to your target audience. If a candidate in the Dark Pool is interested in finding out more about your company – they may have seen you at a trade show, or read an article about you – they may look at your careers page. Get your marketing team involved in crafting the right messages and shout about what makes you a great employer.

If you are advertising roles, make your role stand out. Be natural, confident and expressive. Don’t just copy and paste a similar role from elsewhere and expect to bring in top talent, particularly if your business isn’t the biggest in your space. In return, you will receive applications from candidates who really want to be a part of your business.

Networking and Referrals

People like to work with people they like, and your highest quality source of new recruits is probably your own community. So exploit it as much as you can. Ask for recommendations and act on them. Make your employees your stars. Pick some culture heroes and give them a day to make some videos; have some examples of great work on your website; shout about the achievements of your team. A great example is Innocent. Their careers website shows a fun, creative place to work, but that they also value achievement.

If you know you want people from competitors, it is relatively straightforward. Map your competitors and get in touch. Email or call them. Know their background, people you have in common (ask for an introduction) and how you can excite them. 

Success breeds success as people see the business listening to them and valuing their opinions.  Combined with the rest of your candidate attraction strategy, you can create a Talent Warehouse. When you need to fill a role, you will already know the best candidate. Imagine that!