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Recruiting Trigger Events: Taking Advantage of the Unexpected

Recruiting Trigger Events - Taking Advantage of the Unexpected

Are the good ones really all taken?

One of the many frustrations of recruiters is that really, really good employees are usually happily employed by somebody else. That is why a strategic sourcing strategy that addresses passive candidates is so important.

However, you don’t always have to just sit and wait for your nurture campaigns to eventually bring these passive candidates to you. You can also watch for what we call “recruiting trigger events”.

Why recruiting trigger events matter

Well-planned sourcing strategies aimed at converting passive candidates always have a positive effect in the long-term. If nothing else, they improve the market’s perception of the employer brand. Most of the time, they fill up talent pipelines and give recruiters pools of candidates to start from when they are filling an opening.

However, they are proactive by design, and don’t necessarily take advantage of opportunities that come up unexpectedly. That is a gap that can be filled using recruiting trigger events.

What are recruiting trigger events?

Some events in the life of a company can profoundly disturb the careers of its employees, no matter how talented or qualified they are:

Mergers and Acquisitions

Private Equity firms often purchase companies with the intention of “restructuring” them and improving their profitability at an accelerated rate. This means sometimes closing or merging entire divisions, moving plants, or bringing in new management.

The same applies to mergers, for example, or to what is called a “strategic acquisition”, when one company gobbles up another and tries to save money by keeping only one Marketing team, for example, or closing one of the two headquarters. Large-scale firings and leadership changes like those can put a candidate’s job in danger.

Change in leadership

When a company hires a new executive, the new hire sometimes bring in team members from their last position, which means either firing or blocking the growth of the existing team members of their new role, regardless of how well they performed in the past.

This is an excellent opportunity to approach high-caliber candidates who are looking to keep their growth prospects open.


It can also be useful to keep an eye out for companies who are struggling and in danger of filing for bankruptcy. Their top employees are almost certainly looking for new opportunities right then.

Remember Toys’R’Us last year? Other retailers virtually pounced on the company’s employees the minute the news of bankruptcy were out, in some cases leaving business cards in the staff’s break room.

ToyRUs recruiting trigger event

PR incidents or lawsuits

Some employees might grow uncomfortable in their current role if a PR incident reveals values or practices they do not agree with in the company, such as pervasive discrimination, unethical work practices, or dishonest leadership.

A resourceful recruiter knows to keep up with business news exactly for that sort of opportunity. Uber, for example, saw a mass exodus of its executives and employees last year because of the appalling number of scandals and lawsuits it was involved in.

How do candidates react to these events?

Some of the best employees usually take matters into their own hands and start looking around at the first sign of trouble. They know what they are worth on the market and would rather not wait until they are booted out, or stuck under a new boss that will hamper their career progression.

Others, by inclination or circumstances, don’t see the bad news coming. They find themselves with a narrow timeframe to make an important career decision, and that is the best time for a recruiter to reach out and learn how they can help.

Setting up alerts for recruiting trigger events

How do you then take advantages of these time-sensitive opportunities? By setting up your own personal intelligence system.

Start with building a list of companies that can provide interesting employees to hire from. You can of course look at direct competitors, but also at companies that are similar on a more narrow level, such as

  • Functions that have the same drivers of success: If you are a fast-food delivery company, you can look for a Director of Operations from other companies that need to master the logistics of direct-to-customer deliveries, such as courier services for example.
  • Companies that are up and down the value chain from your organization: you can find Business Development representatives or Customer Success managers among your enterprise clients, for examples, or Procurement directors among your suppliers.

Once you’ve set up target companies, set up search alerts around them - see how to set up Google alerts here- for any news related to bankruptcy filings, IPOs, mergers and acquisitions by another company or by a PE firm, and any big changes in strategic direction, expansions in new geographies, or any sort of lawsuit.

You can set up similar alerts around individuals, such as executives and C-suite leaders, and be immediately aware of any interesting leadership change.

Adequately taking advantage of recruiting trigger events requires some preparation. Recruiters need to know exactly why a target candidate would be interested in their company, and have cold emails ready to go.

It’s also not a comprehensive recruiting strategy- even with a robust system in place, tracking every event that could be relevant to your recruiting activities, this remains a somewhat reactive technique. A proactive, long-term strategic sourcing strategy is still very much needed.

State of Recruitment Marketing 2018

Dive deeper into each of the takeaways in this article, and explore other insights about analytics, challenges, and best practices in Recruitment Marketing in 2018.

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