How I Hired My Newest Employee Before She Even Started Her Job Search

One hiring manager at Dropbox shares his approach to recruiting so-called “passive job-seekers.”

How I Hired My Newest Employee Before She Even Started Her Job Search

It’s the end of the year. Everyone on my team is getting ready for holiday travel and planning to spend time with friends and family. But before we hang it up for the year, I’ve got one more thing left to do: find and hire two business development reps for my team here at Dropbox.


December isn’t the hottest season for recruiting and hiring, but in the waning weeks of 2016, I had two open positions on my team and a pretty thick pipeline of candidates, typical of the season. But determined to find my top hire before breaking for the holidays, I reached out to our recruiting team, and they suggested I check out the “Apply Starters” feature in LinkedIn Jobs, which rolled out late last year. The tool lets hiring managers find candidates who’ve started applying to their companies’ job postings, even if they don’t finish. That led me straight to my newest hire, Veronica Velasco. Here’s how.

Related: One LinkedIn Employee’s Insider Tips For Job-Hunting On The Sly

I already use LinkedIn pretty regularly to look for job candidates. From time to time, I’ll see someone whose experience could be a good fit and will reach out using InMail. Many times, though, I have no idea if they’re actually looking to move.

Veronica appeared to be a happily employed high performer who wasn’t actively searching for a new job—putting her in the growing ranks of so-called “passive job-seekers.” In fact, she was helping a friend job-hunt when she first spotted our listing for the opening. Intrigued, she clicked “apply.” But after being redirected to Dropbox’s site, Veronica reminded herself she was getting off-task and abandoned the formal application—after all, it was her friend who needed a new job, not her.

But from her partially completed application and what was on her LinkedIn profile, I could tell Veronica had very similar background to some of the best people on my team. I noticed her previous set of work experience was diverse, which showed her potential. So when I reached out, I thought it was important to first congratulate her on her accomplishments. My InMail went a little bit like this:

Hi Veronica,

Congrats on all your success in your current role!

I’m reaching out because I lead the business development team over at Dropbox in Austin and I’m looking to grow my team.

Your background is similar to those of our current top performers, and I wanted to reach out to see if there are any folks in your network who are in the job market and have a background similar to yours.

Does anyone come to mind?

Unless someone directly applies for a role on my team, I usually take a passive, positive approach to reaching out—asking for referrals first, rather than saying, “I have the perfect job for you!” right off the bat. I start by highlighting their successes, then ask if they know anyone who’s looking, so as not to come off like I’m trying to aggressively poach them away; after all, people like to help out their friends.


But because I knew Veronica had already given the opening some firsthand consideration, I wasn’t too surprised when she responded the next day saying she’d be interested in speaking to learn more. That’s the exact outcome I’m looking for with messages like the one I’d sent her—just a chance to chat. While I’d certainly take a call with somebody’s qualified friends, I’m ideally looking for an opportunity to talk with the candidates whose profiles caught my eye in the first place.

Veronica and I scheduled a call to talk, where she told me what she was currently doing and explained the growth opportunities she’d have at Dropbox. I did my best to use that call to get to know her better and ask about her recent performance and experience. Veronica stressed that she wasn’t actively looking for a job and had been doing great where she was.

But what struck me was her strong grasp of technology sales and her understanding of why companies are moving to the cloud—a level of insight I didn’t expect given how early she was in her career. I remember being pretty sold on her candidacy quickly and was eager to bring her on-site so she could meet the rest of the team.

After the call, I worked with our recruiting team to set up an interview a few days later, which Veronica agreed to. This was an important step, not just for her and I to meet up in person but also so she could spend time with the group who she’d be working with. They needed to get a feel for her work style, experience, and personality, just as much as she needed to feel welcomed.

The rest was history. Passive job-seekers have been cited as evidence of an HR crisis, where job dissatisfaction is rampant and recruiters struggle to hire the right people for the right roles. But in my experience, candidates like Veronica are actually in the perfect zone, just as long as you can identify them: happily working and at the top of their field, but open to considering new opportunities, if not actively looking for them. And just as we’d hoped, Veronica is already proving to be a phenomenal hire.

Kevin Nothnagel is a sales development manager at Dropbox.