A passive candidate is a person who isn’t currently applying for jobs but who may be encouraged to come work for your company if you make them a compelling offer. Finding and recruiting passive candidates can enhance your recruiting efforts and pay off by bringing the best talent in your door.
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We’ll share how 25 business experts do it.
David Waring, Co-founder & CEO, Fit Small Business
Indeed’s resume search option is one of the best places to look for passive job candidates. I like to tailor my resume search by location as well as search for individuals who have worked at top companies or graduated from top schools.
They might prefer to work in our startup environment rather than in a larger corporation. We offer flex hours and remote work, which makes it easy to recruit talented individuals who are burned out on a traditional 9-to-5 job or one with a long commute.
2. Sell Candidates on the Unique Benefits You Can Offer
Steve Durham, President, EnviroCon Termite & Pest Control
Pest control can be a hard industry to recruit for — it’s not something that people go to college for or grow up thinking they’d like to kill bugs. One way we’ve been able to rise above that is by having an incredible team who goes out there and represents our company and shows people what it means to work in pest control.
The other has been marketing our open positions with a focus on the benefits we have to offer. Great teamwork, flexibility — these are things you can’t get just anywhere! The kind of person who thrives in pest control has great problem-solving skills, a customer service mindset and enjoys getting to work outside and with their hands. We can’t teach you that, but we can train you on the rest.
3. Tap into Your Network of Instructors for Younger Leads
Carrie Morgan, Vice President of Culture & Leadership, LunchboxWax
Our franchisees are savvy at making alliances with instructors and staff at esthetics and cosmetology schools. Instructors become familiar with the LunchboxWax brand, understand the importance of a positive workplace culture and frequently refer quality applicants to us.
We’re also able to visit schools and introduce LunchboxWax to the students through presentations, service demonstrations and recruitment materials that all help convey the message of who we are and why we are a unique company to work for.
4. Embrace Social Media to Find Passive Candidates
Kate Gorman, Founder & CEO, Fort Mason Games
One of our recruiting “secrets” for finding great passive job candidates is to use LinkedIn. We take time to build and care for our personal LinkedIn networks so that when we have recruiting needs, it’s easy to reach out to people we think would be an amazing fit.
It’s also good to be able to post in the LinkedIn feed when we have company news that people in our network might find interesting, so we start to build their interest in our company as well. It’s best to start to build relationships with top talent before you need them, and in that way, it’s easier to secure top talent.
5. Target Business Athletes — People Who Have Been on Teams
Chris Edwards, Chief Marketing & Experience Manager, Conversa Health
We look for athletes. I’m not just referring to business athletes, but we look to people who’ve been on teams throughout their lives. That might be a sport, band or drama club. These types of folks understand discipline, teamwork and executing toward a common purpose. People who “get that” succeed at Conversa.
6. Tell a Compelling Story
Jose Laurel, Director of Recruitment Services, G&A Partners
Recruiting passive candidates is both an art and a science and is best performed by professional recruiters. The utilization of social media, AI [artificial intelligence] tools, established networks and an array of proprietary databases are the main ingredients of a successful passive sourcing strategy.
An employer’s ability to recruit passive candidates also greatly depends on the company’s brand as well as its reputation and market position. Otherwise, why would these candidates be tempted to leave their current positions? When reaching out to passive candidates, recruiters must have a compelling story to tell that includes how they fit into the global picture.
7. Communicate Your Rewards to the Candidate Better
Mike Cox, President, Cox Innovations
Convincing somebody to make the move is a matter of convincing them that the rewards package you offer is more attractive than their alternatives. Whether the rewards package is objectively better or not is often immaterial. Candidates rarely make the effort to consider the value of two options comprehensively.
By anchoring the candidate to one or two key aspects of our offer where we’re obviously more compelling than our competition, we could excite the individual to make the move even if on a comprehensive basis our offer was probably not significantly different.
8. Keep Your Eyes Open for Talent Everywhere
Adam Binder, Founder, Creative Click Media
If you see someone at another company providing the type of exemplary work that would be an asset to your business, use it as an opportunity to offer something better. Prior to joining our team, our executive assistant worked at the front desk of a yoga studio where I would regularly take classes. Great customer service is rare, and I knew her friendly personality and professional demeanor would lend themselves perfectly to handling client interactions.
An unprompted job offer is a risky move, so it was important to demonstrate the value of joining our company — in this case, regular hours, better pay and a path for career growth. Finding the ideal employee to fill a role is one of the greatest challenges of running a business, so a business owner should never let top talent pass by without making an effort to gauge their interest and provide what they are lacking at their current position.
9. Get on the Phone and Ask Questions
Carrie-Anne McGrath, Partner & Manager, WinterWyman
I ask questions around what types of opportunities they might be interested in and ask if they would be open to a brief phone call. Once on the phone, I ask if there is a certain role that would be worth leaving their current job — I listen and take good notes.
I then ask more questions about their current role to see if there might be other “pain points” that would be important for me to know when presenting a future opportunity. I take all of that information and present my opportunity. Everyone is looking — it’s just a matter of the right role being presented to the candidate.
10. Provide Something That Employees in Your Area Really Want
Gene Caballero, CEO & Co-founder, GreenPal
I am CEO of GreenPal which has been described as Uber for lawn mowing. What we offer is a unique perk to all of our employees or future employees — a music room.
Headquarter in Nashville, Tennessee, most of our employees are either musicians or play music for fun. Playing an instrument has been scientifically proven to engage practically every area of the brain at once especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices. The brain is a muscle and learning and playing music is like a full body workout strengthening those brain functions, allowing us to apply that strength to other activities … like productivity.
This has helped us hire talent that is above our pay scale. We’re offering something fun that is not offered in larger corporations that we’re competing against.
11. Sell the Candidate on Your Company’s Vision
Zach Townsend, PHR, SHRM-CP, HR Manager, Verified First
Every recruiter has to have the ability to sell a vision. Why are we in business and why, as a passive candidate, would I want to uproot my career to join you in said business?
For example, when I reach out to someone, I don’t tell them that they’ll help a growing company that conducts background checks. I ask them if they are interested in contributing to something bigger than themselves by helping employers make better hiring decisions, one relationship at a time.
I recently filled a tough-to-hire position from a referral that came from a prospective vendor. Always know when to put on the recruiting hat!
12. Set up a Recruiter Profile on LinkedIn
Diem Nguyen, Human Resources Generalist, Health Labs.com
Passive recruiting is how we’ve found most of our developers. According to StackOverflow, only 10 percent of developers are actively looking for jobs, so we are constantly on the lookout for developers who are passively looking. LinkedIn is the tool that we’ve found to be most helpful in that regard.
With a recruiter profile, we can see who’s open to new opportunities. We read through profiles, see what they’ve accomplished in previous positions and get a sense of what they can bring to our company. Then, we send a personalized message that relates their prior experience to what we’d like them to do for us. We’ve seen a lot more engagement with a personalized message than we did when we used a template.
13. Lead with Your Culture and Benefits
Ashley White, Executive Director of Human Resources, APQC
When you are a small company that doesn’t carry a “household name,” I’ve found that I have to lead with our culture, the generous benefits structure and the fact that smaller companies will offer more personalized attention than larger firms. That will usually at least give me a chance to get folks on the phone.
14. Appeal to Their Passions
Jada Davis, Media Staffing Manager, Maslow Media Group
Instead of leading with the job description or compensation, I like to have a conversation with candidates. I find out what they are passionate about beyond their current role and ask them to identify their “dream job.”
With their resume or LinkedIn page as a point of reference, I find out what it would take for them to make a career change. I also find out what they love most about their current role. Conversation is always key.
15. Post to Online Job Boards to Alert Passive Candidates
Janelle Bieler, Vice President Sales, Adecco USA
Most hiring managers understand that top talent doesn’t always knock on a company’s door. To fill open positions, it’s imperative companies take the initiative and seek out talent.
Often, the biggest challenge is making passive candidates aware of open jobs that they may be interested in pursuing. Be sure to leverage platforms that are heavily used by job seekers, like online job boards and social media.
According to Adecco’s Way to Work survey, Facebook and LinkedIn are the top two social media platforms respondents used to research the culture of a potential employer.
16. Utilize Your Most Senior Employees to Make a Connection
Holly Stehlin, Human Resource Manager, Walker Sands Communications
We’ve been most successful recruiting passive candidates when we tap into our own personal networks and utilize our most senior employees throughout the process. A message from a vice president comes across much stronger than a recruiter, and if we are able to work in a connection via former co-workers, same university and past working experience that tends to get us better results.
Customizing the outreach to passive candidates is a given, but if there’s a way to make that connection even more personal, the more likely we are to get a response.
17. Show How Small Company Size is a Benefit
Jessica Moser, Senior Vice President, Small Business Solutions, MetLife Group Benefits
Research shows that job seekers prefer smaller firms because they have access to leaders, they can see the impact of their work and because of the family feel of a smaller company. So, emphasize the close-knit and empowering aspects of your small business.
Also, employees spend almost half their waking hours at work, so they want to be employed by a company that creates a human connection. No two employees are the same, so employers that provide customized experiences, from flex time to milestone celebrations and individualized benefits, will turn passive job candidates into active employees.
18. Keep the Conversation Going, Even if They’re Not Ready to Move
John Waldmann, Co-founder & CEO, Homebase
Our secret to passive job recruiting is simple: stay in touch with people we think highly of. Our leaders all make sure to build relationships with people who impress us, and who we think could be stars at Homebase — even if they’re not looking.
We’ll schedule coffees, forward articles of interest or reach out via email. Sometimes, they’ll let us know when they’re ready to move, but many times they’ll introduce us to their equally talented friends and colleagues who are looking.
19. Focus on Department Level Employer Branding
Tomáš Haviar, Recruiter, Bynder
The key to recruiting passive job candidates is to focus on employer branding on a department level. In this way, you can make the company seem appealing to a specific profession.
20. Know Your Competition and What Makes You Different
Amy Hyde, Director of Operations, Outspoken Media, Inc.
The digital agency world seems big, but it’s rather small, especially in New York’s Capital Region. Employees jump from one agency to another whether it’s to improve work-life-balance, career advancement or client experience.
In building our talent pool and throughout the hiring process, I’ve learned that some agencies work specifically with one type of industry clientele and after a while, their employees look to explore other client industries. I find competitor/client knowledge to be a great tool to have and use when trying to recruit a passive candidate.
21. Work Hard to Get Candidates the Extras
Jan Hudson, Biotech Recruiter, Surf Search
Work hard for your candidates to get the “extras” — an extra week of vacation, signing bonus. Keep the candidate engaged. Keep them warm with contact from the hiring manager. Time kills deals. Do your absolute best to keep things moving.
It’s not just about the job specifications or the compensation. Company culture and workplace environment are very important. Younger candidates are more focused on work-life balance.
22. Provide them a Growth Trajectory
Ketan Kapoor, CEO & Co-founder, Mettl
Although we discourage the practice of mass recruiting qualifying as poaching, we do hire people actively seeking jobs. You can find the candidate through job boards, social media and professional networks.
Candidates with a desire to grow and excel in their career give more weight to fast-track opportunities while shifting jobs. Making them believe that the growth trajectory in your organization is better and the odds of reaching an authority position is more fruitful and less time-intensive, and you are already a step ahead of the game.
For instance, what’s a better bet? Reaching a mid-management position in 10 years or six years? A four-year fast-track promise can make all the difference to attract highly ambitious and potential candidates.
23. Be Persistent, Not Annoying
Dee Lonn, Director of the Finance & Accounting Search Division, Versique
Be persistent, but not annoying. Don’t assume that just because you sent an InMail or left a phone message that the person will respond. My response rate goes up significantly if I reach out a second time with a bit of additional information.
Know your target audience and understand why a particular role would be of interest to them. Then, be sure to highlight that in your message to them and make it as personal as possible.
Top Echelon helps recruiting companies. They encourage professional recruiters to search for passive candidates by cold calling. However, they’re realistic in asserting that many people won’t be interested. They offer this helpful tip:
“Before you hang up the phone, ask, ‘Do you know anybody who might be qualified and interested in an opportunity like this?’ Top passive candidates likely know other top passive candidates. They travel in packs.”
The No.1 reason employers engage in recruiting on social media channels is to attract potential candidates not yet looking for a new job, according to new research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM):
About eight in 10 HR professionals (82 percent) said recruiting passive job candidates is the primary reason their organizations use social media for recruitment. Increasing employer brand and recognition (77 percent) and targeting job candidates with a specific set of skills (71 percent) were also top reasons given.
The Bottom Line
Mental Health America reported that 71 percent of employee survey respondents reported that they were thinking about or actively looking for new job opportunities. That means that even if you recruit in the least productive way possible (cold calling), you may have a good chance that the person you contact is open to talking to you about a new job opportunity.
Indeed is a free job board that lets you post jobs online. You can also search job seeker resumes for free. It provides applicant tracking tools to stay on top of those applicants in your pipeline. With Indeed, you’ll know which candidates you’ve emailed, interviewed or are considering making a job offer to.