Once you’ve identified who to engage with, reached out, and started to have initial sell conversations, you’ll need to nurture these relationships to get them excited about your startup. Nurturing can be applied to anyone you’re interested in hiring, but is especially important for those 1st and 2nd-degree connections from your network.

Some people you talk to may already be looking for a job and will jump straight into an interview process (active candidates), but most won’t be considering new opportunities (passive candidates). Your goal with passive candidates is to build momentum and excitement over time through multiple touchpoints (texts, calls, coffee chats, lunches, happy hours, etc.) while continuing to get a read on their interest level & timing.

Types of nurture touchpoints

The key to nurturing passive talent is to be armed with a broad spectrum of touchpoints depending on the situation. At a high-level, you want a mix of indirect vs. direct touchpoints and low-touch vs. high-touch.

Indirect touchpoints

Indirect touchpoints are ways to spend time with passive candidates that aren’t necessarily in the context of a recruiting process (e.g. regular happy hours, game nights, coffee catch-ups). The more passive the candidate, the more you’ll deploy indirect touchpoints. After all, it can be off-putting to jump straight into a “recruiting” conversation before someone’s ready. Catching up over coffee chats, calls, emails, text messages are great indirect touchpoints.

Consider setting up a recurring indirect touchpoint with your entire team, such as a happy hour or game night that you can invite passive candidates to. This accomplishes two things:

At Gem, we hosted social events every 2-4 weeks. While there was usually wine & beer, we never made drinking the focal point in an effort to be inclusive. Instead, we had creative themes around food, like chocolate/cheese/hot-saucing tastings, or make your own pizzas/sundaes. We did a lot of game nights and even hosted a puppy petting event, which was a huge success. To spread the load, different team members took turns planning each social event. A big part of making these successful was sitting down with the team for 30 minutes a week in advance to invite friends & referrals (via Facebook events) and then 2 days before to follow up with invitees.

Not only was this a great way to spend time together as a team, but social events also ensured that we always had a low-pressure excuse to spend time with 1st-degree connections & referrals. This was especially important for referrals where our team wasn’t always comfortable having a recruiting conversation with their friends out of the gate. These were also a great opportunity to spend more time with candidates in our interview process. And, the fact that passive candidates met active candidates that were also interviewing was good social validation, because it showed candidates were taking our startup seriously.

Note: if your company is remote, consider a virtual game night over Zoom. At Gem, we love Jackbox Games, Codenames (online version here), and Scribble.

Direct touchpoints

Direct touchpoints are touchpoints where it’s more clear that you’re trying to recruit a candidate. These can be things like coffee with another co-founder/founding engineer or lunch with the team. Deploy direct touchpoints if you learn that the candidate is actively interviewing at other companies or if you start to feel them lean in during an indirect touchpoint. The goal with direct touchpoints is to get them excited enough to start interviewing with your startup.

Low vs. high touch engagement

Deploying a variety of touchpoints across spectrum is also a good idea to keep candidates engaged. Illustrative examples include:

Nurture cadence