What Is a Passive Candidate?

Passive candidates are individuals who are currently employed and not actively looking for new opportunities. According to LinkedIn, only 30% of the current workforce makes up active candidates, which means that 70% of the workforce is not currently looking for a new job opportunity. However, over half of passive applicants are open to hearing about new opportunities.

Passive Candidates Versus Active Candidates

Active candidates are actively searching for new opportunities and actively applying to jobs. Active candidates may be unemployed, but not always. Many active candidates are currently employed but feeling burned out, at a plateau in their current role or feeling unsatisfied in their current role for any number of reasons.

Passive candidates are currently employed. They are not searching for new opportunities and are also not applying to new jobs.

Passive candidates are valuable because they offer a larger pool of prospects to source through which gives you more opportunity to find the right person for your open role.

Why Recruit Passive Candidates?

Not only are passive candidates the bulk of the workforce, they are also likely the individuals that you want to be talking to. Think of it this way: if someone is happy in their current role and not looking to make a change, it is likely that they are doing well, which means they are the exact kind of person you want in your organization. Listed below are a few additional reasons to recruit passive candidates.

  • Since they are not actively looking for another role, passive candidates may not be interviewing with other companies. Don’t count on this 100% of the time. There are plenty of companies looking for passive candidates. If they are a good candidate, another company may have reached out to them as well, but many times you may be the only other organization they are talking to which gives you an advantage.
  • You expand your candidate pool from 25% of the workforce to nearly the entire workforce. Expanding your pool will help you include the most qualified candidates that will not be included in the active candidate population alone.
  • Passive candidates are generally high performers. Research shows that passive candidates are more engaged in their current roles than active candidates, which means they are usually the ones currently making an impact. If you want your next hire to be a high impact performer on your team then you need to be looking at passive candidates.

How to Go After Passive Candidates

The key to recruiting passive applicants is getting their attention.

Since passive candidates are not currently seeking a new opportunity, you will have to approach them. The tricky part of sourcing passive candidates is getting in front of them in a way that will allow you to engage in meaningful conversation where you can build relationships.

The good news of sourcing passive candidates is that you have nothing to be timid about. As long as you have an opportunity to offer that is better than what they currently have, the odds are in your favor that they will want to talk with you.

Here are a few methods you can use to start going after passive candidates:

Method 1: Previous Applicants

Reference your ATS as a database. If you have an ATS where you house all your current and previous job applications, then you already have a place to start your job search. A candidate who applied in the past may not have been a fit for that role at the time, but they may be the perfect fit for your current role now.

The best part of using your ATS as a candidate pool is that you don’t have to pay any additional fees for this database. You have already paid for these applications, so using your ATS as an applicant sourcing pool allows you to recycle your marketing dollars.

The people in your ATS will likely already have their accurate contact information included. This allows you to speed up the rate at which you are able to effectively reach out to them.

Method 2: Your Customers

Source your customers. Think about buying a box of pizza — many times they attach a “now hiring” flyer to the box. This is another method of recycling marketing dollars. Your marketing team has invested money to bring in customers, and marketing to your customers allows you to further capitalize on money you have already spent.

Marketing to your customers also connects you directly to a pool of people who are engaging positively with your brand and therefore may be more interested in working for your brand.

Method 3: Automated Tools

Invest in tools that allow you to search and reach out to prospects. Job search boards and social media tools like Indeed, ZipRecruiter and LinkedIn have databases of millions of individuals that you can reach out to for a premium. These tools are expensive, but they open doors and are invaluable because of the wealth of collective profiles they contain.

82% of recruiters say they primarily use social media to recruit passive talent

Hiring Statistics

Method 4: Community

Get involved in the community. Outside of work, be with the kind of people you want as part of your passive candidate pool. There are many community events you can be involved in that range from volunteer opportunities and networking events to social gatherings and career fairs.

When you get involved in the community, you place yourself in a position to interact with passive candidates you might not normally be able to reach with traditional recruiting methods.

Method 5: Employee Referrals

Ask for employee referrals. When you make an employee referral process part of your passive sourcing strategy, you turn your recruiting team from a team of one to a small army. Let the employees in your organization do some of the recruiting for you. They are closely connected to people in their industry, they know your company culture and they can usually provide a rich source of qualified leads.

Other Tips for Sourcing Passive Candidates

As you get started sourcing passive candidates, here are a few additional tips to keep in mind.

  • Don’t mass message. Personalize your outreach messages. People can tell when a message is personalized and they can tell when a message is a generic template in a drip campaign. It takes more time to personalize each outreach message, but you will only get to those hard to reach candidates with a catchy personalized message.
  • Build long-term relationships. You may be targeting the right person but at the wrong time. Building relationships will create a talent pipeline that will help you in the future. Think of your hiring efforts in longer terms than your immediate hiring needs. When you build relationships with prospects you create a talent community you’ll be able to draw from in the future.
  • Ask for referrals from those passive candidates that turn you down. When you reach out to passive candidates, you are going to get responses from many people who are not looking for a new opportunity at this time and that is fine. Just because they are not looking for an opportunity right now doesn’t mean they don’t know someone else who might be. They are probably more closely connected to the professionals in their industry than you. The prospects that respond they are not interested are a perfect pool of prospects to ask for referrals from.

What It Takes to Convince a Passive Candidate to Consider a Role

Passive candidates are open to new opportunities. It often takes less to convince them than you might think. With that being said, you have to be able to offer them something that will be mutually advantageous. If you can’t honestly offer them something that will be better for them than their current role, then you haven’t targeted the right passive talent. Don’t focus solely on money. Although money is a large part of the decision-making process for any candidate, it is still only one piece.

Here are a few other elements to highlight for passive candidates::

  • Company culture. Everyone wants to work for a company with a great company culture. Highlighting specific elements of your company’s culture will help you capture the interest of passive applicants.
  • Work environment. Many people are interested in a better work environment. This benefit is extremely valuable today as people value flexibility in their work environment. If your company offers competitive work environment features like remote work, then this will catch the eye of many passive prospects.
  • Work-life balance. Anyone who has been in a role where they did not have the right work-life balance knows that money isn’t everything. A role that offers a great work-life balance is already worth its weight in gold. Highlighting a great work-life balance is going to attract those top performers that feel they are trapped in a toxic, unbalanced work-life cycle.
  • Connection to an overall mission. When people feel their work has a connection to the overall mission of the company they feel more engaged in their work. People who feel engaged in their work are happier, and sometimes even willing to accept a pay cut in order to have that engagement. Keep in mind that your goal should not be to give someone a pay cut. Your goal should alway be to give someone a pay bump, but this is something to keep in mind if your budget absolutely won’t allow for that.
  • Company benefits. When reaching out to a passive candidate, it is important to convey what the total compensation package will look like and not just the starting salary. Highlighting your company’s benefits helps the passive candidate paint a holistic picture of the role you are reaching out to them about. Knowing the whole picture may increase their interest.