After 35+ years of recruiting outstanding senior staff, mid-level managers and company executives, there is no question that the first 30-minute phone call with a passive candidate is the single most important step in hiring stronger people. And since 85% of the people you want to hire are passive, you want to ensure you attract your fair share.

Here's why the 30-minute exploratory interview is such a game changer:

  1. You will engage with 5-10X more passive candidates. Asking people who aren't looking if they'd like to chat for a few minutes about a potential career move is far more productive than selling lateral transfers. Just about everyone is willing to talk for a few minutes about an upside opportunity. However, how the conversation is framed will determine if you'll ever hire the person or not.
  1. By listening more than selling, you'll be able to convert a job into a career. When you start the phone screen, don't tell the person much about the job. Instead suggest that the purpose of the call is to determine if one of your openings represents a true career move to the person. For the next 5-10 minutes review the person's LinkedIn profile. In order to create a possible career move you'll need to find at least 4-5 stretch gaps between the open job and the person's current position. You'll use these to suggest the conversation should be continued.
  1. Going slow allows you to shift the conversation from compensation and convenience to growth and impact. As long as your job offers a combination of less pain, some short-term stretch, and significant long-term growth, you'll be able to get the person to agree to focus on the career opportunity, not compensation maximization, as the reason for continuing the conversation. This is not possible unless the first call is exploratory and without any preconditions.
  1. An exploratory call increases interviewing accuracy by minimizing the impact of first impressions. Knowing something about the person's past performance before you invite them onsite for an interview naturally minimizes the bias due to the impact of first impressions. Bias is the #1 cause of hiring mistakes and the errors cover hiring the wrong people and not hiring the right people.
  1. You will be able to get more people open to considering the idea of relocation. Asking people if they'll relocate on the first call is like asking someone to buy a house without seeing it. It takes times for a person to fully appreciate the idea of a relocation as part of a significant career move. The exploratory call allows for this repositioning first step.
  1. By shaping the job to the person, performance and job satisfaction will increase. The idea of force-fitting a person into an ill-defined job is akin to a "one size fits all mentality." This is the primary reason 68% of the U.S. workforce is disengaged. Many hiring managers are willing to modify the scope of a job when given the opportunity to hire a top performer. An exploratory call increases the probability you'll get to this point.
  1. Respecting how top people evaluate opportunities will raise your company's overall talent level. If you want to hire people who are looking for career moves, you can best demonstrate this by having the exploratory interview as the first step in your hiring process. Forcing people to submit an application and filter who you talk with based on their level of skills and salary requirements is how you fill jobs with the neediest people who apply, not the best people available.

The process used to hire passive candidates is far different than the one used to hire active candidates. However, if you want to hire the best people available--including those who are not actively looking--you'll need to start the conversation with an exploratory phone call. All it takes is 30 minutes.