Proactive recruitment: Definition, benefits and 8 strategies to try this year

Last updated:
February 24, 2021
October 6, 2022
min read
Sim Samra
proactive recruitment
Table of contents

As far as we know, Robert Baden-Powell didn't work in HR or recruitment—he was an officer of the British Army—but given the motto, he applied to the Scouting movement back in 1907, we think he'd have done a pretty good job if he had.

Be prepared.

Why do we think he'd have been successful in recruiting? When it comes to finding new staff, there are two ways of filling roles as they come available: proactive and reactive recruitment. His motto fits perfectly to the former.

What is proactive recruitment?

Proactive recruitment is hunting out the prime employees for roles within your organization that aren't yet available. It's picking out ideal employees ahead of demand.

Reactive recruitment is finding new employees for the jobs that have just opened up.

What difference does it make?

The time and resources that go into filling a newly available role put your recruiting team under pressure to fill them as fast as possible. Advertising for suitable applicants, vetting them to see if they're fit for purpose, interviewing them, picking and fine-tuning the best options from the limited information you've gathered all takes time.

Can you do all of that within your departing employee's notice period and keep the role operational during the transition?

What are the benefits of proactive recruitment?

Saving time and money

The longer a role is empty, the less efficient your business process is. Alternatively, you may be putting extra pressure on your existing teams, and there's a strong chance that they won't thank you for that.

For roles directly involved in sales, then the loss of income is easier to calculate. Anticipating roles that may need filling in the future could result in huge cost savings for financially savvy recruiters.

Better employee experience makes for happier candidates

We talk about employee experience a lot, and with just reason. Building brand strength, creating happy relationships, and earning respect from your staff and customers, both existing and potential, converts into profit or damaged reputation.

Delivering a better experience at any part of your system helps you to convert. If the conversion is filling a position, it counts in just the same way. Remember that your candidates are interviewing you and your organization just as much as you're investigating them. Be sure you exceed their expectations; it will help them decide to join you—whenever that might be—far easier when you need it to happen.

If you've got replacements ready to go or almost ready to go, it reduces the time you need to fill those positions because over half the jobs on your list have already been covered. Doesn't that sound like a better way to handle the situation? Of course, it does. So, how do you do that?

How proactive recruitment strategies work

Proactive recruitment uses a few simple steps to build your bank of new possibilities.

Typically, we see them as:

  • Finding key players
  • Engaging with them
  • Nurturing relationships
  • Attracting them to roles
  • Converting them to employees

Finding your ideal candidates

Given the opportunity to carry out searches in advance, you're not just looking for any candidate, but the best fits for the positions you anticipate need filling.

Where do you find these people? The first place you should start is with your existing teams. Ask them who would be a great fit for the company if they were available. Employee referrals are fast and efficient. After all, they know the job better than anyone.

Check out your competitors' websites, social media, and news articles to see who's making waves in your area and who'd be an excellent acquisition.

Join online and offline communities relevant to your operations, attend the events of your field, join discussion forums that lead you to fresh talent—in fact, dig into anything that opens doors to the people that could be your next star players.

Relevant: How to use online events to expand your recruitment pipeline

Engaging in conversations that lead to relationships

When you start talking to your possible new candidates, treat them like real humans. Don't go in for the kill too soon. Woo them, much like if you were dating. You want to show them all the benefits of your company without it looking like a hard sell.

That means building real relationships and building on personal, engaging, and relevant communication.

Nurture your new-found friends

Once a connection is established, it's up to you to build on it at a comfortable pace. If the candidate feels like they're being primed for some kind of kill, they'll feel uncomfortable about your intentions and methods. If you're playing the long game, they won't feel bullied but valued.

Emotions play a big part in the candidate experience, and we know how important that is to the hiring process.

Attracting them to the company and its array of possible roles

Having a newly opened role in drawing them into is our attraction step. This is the bait on your hook. You've done the work luring them deeper into your talent pool, segmenting them into those you believe are ready for something new—and something with you—now is the time to reel them in.

Converting the candidate

If they apply for the role after your attraction, then it's up to you to make sure the next steps of their experience are up to the job. Will your hard work pay off? If handled correctly, then it absolutely should.

Our proactive recruitment strategies for the 2020s

1. Utilize excellent candidate experience

Your candidates are real people and want to be recognized that way. Okay, so you've spent a lot of time implementing AI systems and software to do your heavy lifting, but when it comes to building a talent pool, you want your candidates to feel heard and important. You can only really do that with a personal connection.

Create a real relationship by connecting with them authentically. If you use automated solutions, make sure they read as personally as possible, and always offer an opportunity to reach out for a human interaction where required.

2. Build a talent pool

Building a talent pool or talent community delivers a selection of bodies ready to fill roles as and when they become available. They are the very definition of proactive recruitment.

But how do you go about creating these wonderful human stockpiles?

However you come across any potential player, you must have a way to collect their details. If they apply for another position, ask if you can keep their information on file for further opportunities and use it as a starting point to develop a relationship.

Use your job sites or career pages to invite people interested in your company to leave details for future opportunities, and direct anyone via your social media or press releases to such portals and methods.

3. Develop your online presence and visibility

Being online and available to chat is a great way to reel in interested parties—even if they don't realize they're interested yet.

Is your business visible to those you want to find you? Working on your SEO, engaging in social media, being unmissable is imperative. You need to be the face that is everywhere they look.

To attract specific workers, start discussion groups over social media, hold your own on- and offline network events, or release more information that potential candidates will be looking for. They're all avenues to candidates you aren't getting enough out of at the moment.

4. Appeal to a better cultural fit

For employees of other companies who have suffered a poor experience or don't feel they're a good fit, this could be your best chance to practice some staff poaching.

Your values, mission—and let's not deny it, your teams—can be a huge pull for anyone who isn't happy where they are at the moment.

Your careers pages and website are great places to advertise the type of people who work within your company. Promoting your work/lifestyle balance through your company culture opportunities is a great way to attract your business's right kind of person.

Posting the fun and friendly parts of what you offer can be just as attractive as the job or its salary to the right people.

5. Network, network, network

It's the oldest trick in the book, but with so many options now on the table, are you doing everything you can to meet your prime candidates? How many missed opportunities go begging under your current system?

We've already mentioned delivering discussion groups or inviting engagement and ideas over social media; can you see an opportunity for your business there?

There are so many apps and systems to get people talking; all you have to do is utilize them to see where your most aligned thinkers are and start building relationships.

6. Make applications as easy as possible

The harder you make it for anyone to engage with or apply for a role, the less likely you are to create the contact you need. In those first important steps, just ask for basics. You can deep-dive further down the funnel.

Asking for the information you need when you need it makes the process less cluttered for your applicants and easier to carry out at each step. It all points back towards candidate experience.

7. Build relationships through engagement

We've already touched upon social media to connect with candidates, but are you using the right media for each platform? And is your message one that your candidates can react to?

Video content is one of the biggest players over all of the platforms at the moment; can you personalize your content to specific roles and areas of operation where your candidate pool is low on numbers?

And for those of you already utilizing video content, never underestimate the power of subtitles. Active job-hunters could well be scrolling their feeds at work with the volume off.

Relevant: Best recruitment videos (and how to make yours awesome too)

8. Direct possible talent to a better career site

If you're considering candidate attraction strategies, you should already have a career page on your website or a standalone site pushing your latest positions.

Are you using it to its full potential? What happens to the visitors who turn up and there isn't a job they can apply for? Have you got a method in place to capture their details for when you do?

Steer all visitors towards a mailing list outlining updates, new positions, and company news. You can ask if they want to add their details to your system to have their information stored for further upcoming opportunities.

Always make sure there's an easy way to contact you about existing opportunities, upcoming options, or even those you might not have thought about yet.


We're going to tie up this loop by finishing where we started. Being prepared for what comes next is far more efficient than reacting to situations as they happen.

We've provided here merely a few ideas to get you thinking about the methods you should have in place to limit employee downtime and its associated losses.

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