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Recruiting Passive Candidates (without scaring them away)

Kristin Bachman
5 min read

The term passive candidate has become a popular buzzword throughout recruiting today, and for good reason. Passive candidates can make for better hires than active candidates, though they can be harder to reach.

So, how can you successfully engage passive candidates and entice them to learn more? Read on for strategies to recruit passive candidates that don’t scare them away in the process.

What is a passive candidate?

Unlike an active candidate who is currently searching for a new job, the passive candidate is not an active job seeker. Typically, passive candidates are already employed and tend to be content at their current companies and in their current positions.

This isn’t to say that they are unwaveringly loyal to their organizations, though. Many passive candidates may be open to a new employment opportunity if they can be convinced it’s the right one.

Things to consider when recruiting passive candidates

While you may have initial success in engaging passive candidates, they can be very difficult to recruit. Here are a few tips for recruiting passive candidates, as opposed to active candidates:

You may need to work for a response

Unlike the active job seeker, the passive candidate isn’t desperate for a new opportunity. They won’t make the first contact with you by calling your office, applying to your job post, or sending you a message. You have to make the first move.

With that said, even with you making that first move, you might find that you need to work to get a response.

While the active job seeker might be currently unemployed, and as a result, has plenty of time on their hands to respond to potential employers, responding to your message isn’t likely to be at the top of the passive candidate’s to-do list.

You may have to complete multiple rounds of personalized messaging before you hear from the candidate. Of course, you’ll want to strike the right balance between overaggressive and not-aggressive-enough communication, making the candidate experience one of the great challenges of the passive recruiter.

As relationships are key to recruiting passive candidates, ideally, you have the time to be able to make a connection with your prospect and develop a relationship with them. But the reality is that not all companies can afford this kind of time, making the task of passive recruiting very difficult for the average hiring manager.

They are more likely to be loyal to their current organization

Especially if you’re engaging a passive candidate who has been at their current organization for more than a couple of years, be mindful of the loyalty they are likely to feel towards their organization.

Given this level of loyalty, the wrong approach would be to compare organizations and attempt to one-up their current employer. This could easily come off as both insulting and off-putting.

Instead, provide a strong candidate experience by empathizing with the candidate’s situation, the level of commitment they likely feel towards their current employer and the uncertainties that come with leaving a stable work environment. Without drawing comparisons, advertise your company as one with a strong culture, solid compensation, and significant benefits.

There isn’t as much competition for their attention

Even with the aforementioned challenges in mind, there is one major advantage of recruiting passive candidates—there’s not as much competition for their attention. Unlike the active job seeker, who may have recently submitted a dozen different applications online and engaged with several recruiters regarding new opportunities, the passive candidate isn’t applying for jobs and is less often engaged by recruiters.

For this reason, if you’re able to nail the timing and strategically engage a passive candidate, you shouldn’t have to worry about another company barging through and snatching them up. Once you have their attention, you should be able to hold it—at least for a little while.

Where and how to source passive candidates

Because passive candidates aren’t exactly waving their hands in their air or making as much noise as active candidates are online, where do you find them?

Job boards and social networks

The first place you might think to look is job boards and social networks. There are dozens of different networks but two of the more popular options include Indeed and LinkedIn.

Of course, passive candidates aren’t going to come running to your most recent job post, but you can use these platforms’ advanced search tools to target passive candidates.

Referral programs

One of the greatest tools at your disposal is your team of employees. By implementing a referral program, you empower your employees to do some of the hard work of recruiting for you, while you reward them for their efforts. 

Referrals make for some of the best hires, as you’re bringing in someone already familiar with people on your team.

Recruitment networks

By building your recruitment networks, you can start conversations and build relationships with passive candidates long before you need to hire them—filling your talent pipeline in the process.

What’s more, you’re able to share information about your company over time, rather than cram information at the 11th hour. With existing relationships built and time on your side, you’re not forced to rush the outreach process and can achieve better response rates as a result.



Passive candidate email templates

If you’ve spent some time searching for potential passive candidates online, you may be ready to engage them. But how?

It’s wise to have a solid email template that allows you to recruit passive candidates—one that is scalable enough to save you time, but personalized enough to capture the candidate’s attention.

Unique ways to attract passive candidates

While the majority of passive candidate recruiting will require you to be the one initiating conversation and spearheading communication, there are a few unique ways to attract passive candidates:

Use paid ads on social media

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as other social media platforms, offer ways for your company to place job ads in front of your target audience—which, in this case, is passive candidates.

There are a few ways to achieve this. Target users who work in specific roles or fields, or at certain rival companies and competitors.

Introduce candidates to your culture through content

The more you can expose passive candidates to your work culture and environment, the better. Consider featuring on podcasts or creating YouTube video content that gives casual viewers a better idea of the following:

  • What your business does
  • Who your business is for
  • Your company culture
  • Your team environment
  • Your company’s office
  • Your company vision, goals, and objectives
  • Your company’s impact
  • … and more!

This is one way to potentially attract an entire segment of passive candidates without having to employ time-consuming, individualized messaging.

Host industry events that draw in passive talent

One of the most effective ways to get face-to-face interactions with passive candidates and give them a better introduction to your company and brand is to hold an industry event. You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) advertise your event like a job fair, as this will draw in active job seekers—not passive candidates.

Instead, advertise your event as one for all professionals in your industry and offer value for being there—whether it’s a workshop with a reputable guest speaker, a convention with a round of golf, or a more casual get-together with lunch included.

You can also become a speaker at these events to make even more connections with passive candidates.

Let recruiters do the work for you

Recruiters can provide value in many areas—helping you create a hiring plan, reducing your hiring workload, and much more. But one area where recruiters can have the greatest impact is passive recruiting.

Recruiting companies have incredible access to passive candidates. (At Hunt Club, we have a pool of more than 5 million passive candidates.) Because recruiters are constantly engaging new prospects and developing relationships, often independent of any job opportunity, their passive candidates are much easier to engage when a hiring need arises.

For this reason, you will often find that a recruiter can pique the interest of a passive candidate, even after you may have failed to engage them. What’s more, professional recruiters can leverage their own recruiting networks to get strong referrals—often for candidates who aren’t on most companies’ radars!

Attract the best passive candidates to your organization

If you’d prefer not to risk a great opportunity to attract a top passive candidate to your organization, leave the recruiting in capable hands.

By working with a professional recruiting agency, you’ll be able to engage more passive candidates and strategically position your business to engage top talent—even when they’re not looking for a new role.

Learn how Hunt Club's network recruiting model can connect with you top, often passive talent leaders. 

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