Friends of attract: Aaron Friedman from Pana Partners

Aaron Friedman started Pana Partners with Denisse Guenoun in 2022. They specialise in using proactive recruiting — and believe more people should adopt the strategy.

Learn more about proactive recruitment, how to do it, and why here:

Attract: What inspired you to start your own recruitment agency?

My history is exclusively as an in-house recruiter. I found that in-house you are at the mercy of the company’s leaders when it comes to culture, decision-making, biases and that sort of thing. I’m very passionate about how I recruit.

Having our own agency where we can work with a plethora of different clients in more project-oriented ways means we can make a big impact on the hiring process. We like to say that we’ll fish for you, we’ll fish alongside you, but ultimately we’d love to teach you how to fish because that will only benefit us if more people out there are applying our brand of proactive, and therefore, diverse recruiting.

Attract: So what is proactive recruiting?

We don’t like the fact that passive talent is labelled as such. We hate the active versus passive candidate lingo because it’s backwards. Relying solely on active applicants is the easiest type of recruiting you can do, it’s the post-and-pray model. This is not going to breed diverse pipelines. It’s one-way sourcing and it’s only active talent.

We’re going after primarily ‘passive’ talent by doing proactive recruitment. The methodology of it is something you’ll hear every other webinar talk about, but very few people can execute proactive recruiting because it is a lot of work, it’s very meticulous and it’s constant.

For us, proactive recruiting starts at the beginning with an intense intake process. So really understanding what our clients need. For every client that we have, we create a bespoke coral reef (talent pipeline) for. A lot of agencies have a talent network and a database of 10,000 people that they hit up. That to me is incredibly disingenuous, because what are the chances of a candidate in your database being willing to take the particular job at that particular moment in time? It is slim to none.

Instead of saying “we’ll find you a starfish in our coral reef,” we’ll create the reef with you. We’ll create a custom talent profile, and create outreach messaging specifically for them. We’ll find 200 to 300 people and each of those people are getting a four-touchpoint sequence. They’re getting a personalised email and a LinkedIn message. If they don’t respond, they’re getting a follow-up email three days later, and another follow-up three days after that to mark the final touchpoint of the sequence.

We’ve seen that the sequence yields a 30% response rate and an 18% positive response rate. For every search we do, we have between 40 and 50 exploratory calls within 2 weeks of starting a search.

It’s intense.

attract: Has the advancements in HR Tech made this easier for you?

It is incredibly tech-focused to scale myself because I believe in being a strategic grinder — you need to be executing talent acquisition strategies, not just coming up with them. I need to be the one doing exploratory calls.

The most important piece of the puzzle is a talent communications management platform, which is what is. Back in the day, I had to work exclusively on LinkedIn or over email. I set reminders for myself and built templates in Google Docs and copied and pasted them, it wasn’t sustainable.

The talent communications management platform we use is HireSweet, it’s what we use to build out all of our sequences and templates. We use ContactOut to hit up the best personal email addresses, and we also use Apollo for sales enablement.

Having integrated systems is key — it’s part of our workflow that once people reply they are interested they go into our ATS (we use Lever.) Now they’re in my haystack, and more importantly, they’re connected to our interview scheduling system, GoodTime, which is the prize jewel of our tech stack. It’s our secret weapon, we wouldn’t be as effective if we didn’t have it.

Attract: are there certain industries that don’t suit proactive recruitment?

For the most part, being a proactive recruiter and the general methodology is transferable. Certainly, there are some fields where this style wouldn’t work, like nursing. You could still use the sequences from HireSweet it’s just that you’re not getting the talent profile from LinkedIn, you’re going to certain nursing schools and might even do some in-person recruitment.

I think proactive recruitment is more or less universal. That’s why I want more exposure for it because when agencies say “we’re the best when you need investors for your venture capital firm,” I think no, you are just focused primarily on that. You’re still going to be more of what I would call a ‘passive recruiter,’ even though you’ve mastered the space in some ways.

You’re not doing what we’re doing.

Even going up against a specialist — they’re not going to hit up the 300 people we’re going to hit up. They may have 20 of those people in their network, but that’s what they’re relying on. We’re going to hit up those 20 people, and another 300.

Let’s flip it the other way — what roles can’t you do passive recruiting for? I would say a lot of them. If the company is not well known and you’re relying on candidates to apply to an email address or a Google form, you’re not going to bring in the top-tier talent.

Attract: What would you say to recruiters who feel daunted by the idea of proactive recruitment?

Don’t be.

Honestly, I think recruitment, like sales, is an industry that is oversaturated. We saw that a lot with the layoffs in the States where the recruiters were the first to go.

Anybody who has the initiative and the love of this type of work can do proactive recruitment. I think the challenge is executing it well, and staying consistent.

If you’re a recruiter you may not have the opportunity to use proactive recruitment, based on the leadership group. If you posted a role that has 950 applications you’ll need to go through that. But, Lou Adler‘s various books and lessons on recruitment taught me that 93% of the best talent in that talent pool will be passive talent. You can’t discount active applicants, but they’re only 7% of your top-tier talent. That 93% is what you should be spending your time on. What I would recommend to people who want to employ these techniques is to make the argument from a dollar and cents standpoint to your leaders.

I encourage everyone to employ as many proactive recruitment techniques as they can. Talent Acquisition professionals are not just laid-back robots where they take these candidates who have applied and filter through them. TA’s are legit talent acquisition professionals, so the leaders need to allow them to be talent professionals, otherwise what are you paying them for?

If you want to hear more from Aaron, you can follow him on LinkedIn, or check out Pana Partners website.

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