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Diamonds in Disguise: The Untapped Potential in Passive vs. Active Candidates

Michelle Han-Taylor
6 min read

Talent acquisition. The bedrock of assembling an exceptional team equipped to take a company where it needs to go. At the same time, it’s an increasingly challenging endeavor that seems to change faster than the ink dries on an offer letter.

Recruiting is no mere numbers game anymore, and the race for top talent today looks nothing like it used to. It’s evolved past casting a wide net and cold emailing as many candidates as possible. Even flashy salaries and titles aren’t as influential as they used to be.

That’s because in today’s nuanced world of recruitment, we’re dealing with so much more than a person’s paycheck or title. Instead, we’re navigating the powerful impacts a career can have on a person’s family. Their mental health. Their quality of life. The stakes have never been higher, and this has ultimately made it harder and more complex for even the most attractive companies and savviest recruiters to land the talent they need.

What does this all boil down to? To unearth some of the best talent and find opportunities that make sense for everyone, we must rethink how we source talent from not just active candidates, but passive candidates, too. 


Why Play With Half the Deck When the Winning Hand Involves Engaging Active and Passive Candidates?

Companies that exclude passive candidates in their sourcing strategy operate with a massive blindspot, overlooking up to 80% of potential candidates. In this competitive job market where critical vacancies must be filled amidst a growing skills gap and talent shortages, overlooking passive candidates seems like an unnecessary gamble. 

Don’t leave such a valuable resource untapped. 

So what can companies do to ensure they have access to the widest and most curated talent pool? Before building your strategy, it’s important to understand what separates passive talent from active as knowing this can help determine next steps and how you approach the talent you need.


Active vs. Passive Candidates — Know the Difference Before Building a Recruiting Strategy

Active Candidates

Passive Candidates

Can be either employed or unemployed, and ARE actively seeking a new job opportunity or career change.

Can be either employed or unemployed, and are NOT looking for a new job opportunity or career change.


Active job seekers look for new opportunities, requiring minimal proactive targeting — they come to you. For this reason, it’s often easier to engage active candidates. With active candidates, companies and hiring managers can leverage the standard talent acquisition tactics, such as:

On the other hand, passive candidates require a much more nuanced approach, focusing on creating value and oftentimes leveraging a direct referral to capture their attention as they’re not actively looking to leave their current position or reenter the workforce. In other words, you have to go to them. And you have to go to them strategically.


Passive Candidates Require Different, More Thoughtful Recruitment Strategies 

But how exactly do you engage someone who isn’t even looking your way?

Passive candidates typically don’t frequent job boards, and LinkedIn and social media pitches rarely have the effect you want. Cold emails, too, are hit or miss, with the potential to do more harm than good by pushing away qualified candidates and even tarnishing your employer brand as unsophisticated and disingenuous. 

Finding that sweet spot for reaching passive talent can be complicated. Point blank. Candidates aren’t just faceless profiles anymore. When we approach humans with unique skills and experiences that would be perfect for a role, it requires a thoughtful and authentic strategy. It also often requires a warm introduction.


1. Leverage Trusted Introductions to Passive Candidates — They Yield a 55% Higher Response Rate

A trusted introduction and referral can take what’s typically a cold and impersonal interaction, and turn it into a wide-open door to new opportunities. While cold outreach for jobs has an open rate of 33%, Hunt Club data shows warm intros to passive candidates yield a much higher 55%. 

HR professional in Chicago, Adam Perry, for example, was not actively looking for a new role at the time an email from an old friend landed in his inbox. “I tend to delete all the cold emails soliciting me for new jobs in my email. But when a Hunt Club email read ‘Lindsay Knight has recommended you for the VP of HR at PerkSpot,’ I immediately took notice,” explained Adam.

“If someone I respect and trust as much as Lindsay took the time to refer me - and if she trusts I can do the job, I was extra motivated to take a look, and ultimately, more excited to invest time in the process.”

Partner at Chicago Ventures, Lindsay Knight, helps PerkSpot land their VP of Human Resources. Read the full story about the power of a trusted introduction and how Hunt Club’s Expert Network can be the key to unlocking access to top-tier talent, even when they’re not looking. 


2. Eliminate As Much Friction in the Hiring Process & Create a Positive Candidate Experience

If you need top-tier passive candidates to enter your funnel, you have to remove as many hoops as possible. Passive talent may be less likely to sit through multiple interview rounds, frustrating and time-consuming application processes, and unnecessary steps that span weeks. 

The hiring and interview process is notorious for being impersonal and lengthy. These are two qualities that are counterproductive to reaching passive talent.

headshot portrait of randie douse, vp of employee success at treasury4“Be very conscientious about the people you’re interacting with. Be considerate of the humans on the other end. You’re getting to hear people’s stories. If you have a way to help, help. Offer a warm introduction. Provide specific feedback. Extend that olive branch. We can’t forget about a level of service that simply helps other people, not just our businesses. Why? It’s the right thing to do, says Randie Douse, VP of Employee Success at Treasury4.


3. Leverage AI Where You Can

Speed is the name of the game when recruiting for a critical role. It’s a race for top talent, and many in-demand passive candidates are not only currently employed, but are approached by several companies sometimes on a daily basis.

In the same line as removing as many obstacles to the hiring process as possible, top companies are also leveraging AI tools in their recruiting to ensure an expedited and seamless experience.

headshot portrait of dave faulk, sr. director of talent acquisition at G2

“From entry-level to VP roles, we’re seeing far more inbound and active candidates than ever. We’ll continue outbound sourcing for great passive candidates, too. For both workflows, it’s top of mind for us to find AI tools that will help us sort, prioritize, and identify the best profile matches, quicker,” says Dave Faulk, Sr. Director of Talent Acquisition at G2.



4. Stay Organized & Vigilant With an Applicant Tracking System

Companies can combine tactics two and three by using a powerful applicant tracking system. From overseeing up-to-date job candidates’ details, automating timely follow-up, and streamlining the recruitment process, a high-powered ATS is pivotal in recruiting passive talent.

5. Make Your Employer Brand a Key Differentiator

In a fiercely competitive market, where passive candidates have a level of choice that often surpasses that of active candidates, a strong employer brand becomes not just a key differentiator, but a make-or-break factor. 

These passive candidates aren’t just choosing a job. They’re deciding where to invest their time and distinct skill sets. When the stakes are this high, a strong employer brand isn’t just a competitive advantage, it’s a non-negotiable. Highlight your company culture, prioritize providing a healthy work-life balance, and treat candidate recruiting more than just simply “staffing”.


Get Access to High-Quality, Passive Candidates 

Incorporating passive candidates into a recruitment strategy alongside active job seekers is a way to broaden the talent pool during times of shortages and skills gaps. The most important objective is to match a role not just with any available candidate, but the right candidate for the position.

Sometimes, this person is a passive candidate. 

Our network recruiting model can help you reach them.

Access to passive candidates is just one of the benefits of how the Hunt Club model reaches top talent. While traditional recruitment methods often fail to reach the talent you need, the Hunt Club model excels in recruiting passive candidates and is carefully designed to remove recruitment obstacles, leverage authentic relationships, and streamline the candidate experience.

Hunt Club's Model

Traditional Recruiting Model

20,000+ Well-Connected Industry Experts  

Green Hunt Club branded icon of people in magnifying glass Our Expert Community connects and refers us to top candidates in their inner circle for open roles. And thanks to our technology, we can do it at scale.

A Single Recruiter's Book of Business

Green Hunt Club branded icon of a businessman silhouette holding a briefcaseIn the world of talent, it comes down to who you know. Why limit your talent pipeline to a single recruiter's phonebook?

Warm Introductions = 55% Higher Response Rate

Green Hunt Club branded icon of two hand shakingA trusted introduction from a well-respected peer makes all the difference and cuts through the noise, resulting in more successful outreach.

Cold Calls & Unopened Emails

Green Hunt Club branded icon of unopened letterIn today's competitive world, cold calls go unanswered and traditional recruiting emails gather dust in an inbox, failing to reach the talent you need.

Tech-Driven Search Platform

Green Hunt Club branded icon of laptop and a person icon in the cornerOur Search Platform leverages matching technology to identify bullseye candidates and automates recruiting tasks to hire 6-8x faster.

The Old Rolodex

Green Hunt Club branded icon of paper scroll with symbols on itTime is of the essence in the race for top talent. Manual recruiting processes and outdated contact info hold back a growing company.

Recruiting Specialists With Functional Expertise

Green Hunt Club branded icon of three people and stars underneath themHunt Club recruiters are equipped with the deep industry knowledge, market insights, and functional expertise it takes to find the best candidates.

Recruiting Generalists

Green Hunt Club branded icon of four people silhouettesYou are looking for exceptional, one-of-a-kind talent with specialized skill sets.

Your recruiters shouldn't be any different.


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