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A Guide to Excelling at Recruiting Passive Candidates

Written by

Kristina Martić

Reviewed by

VidCruiter Editorial Team

Last Modified

July 4, 2019
Hiring Passive Candidates


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70% of the global workforce is made up of passive talent who aren’t actively job searching. How to find, attract and hire top candidates who aren't even looking for a new job? You need to apply new, advanced recruiting methods. Learn the best practices for recruiting passive candidates in this practical guide!

Passive vs. active candidates: What’s the difference?

Let’s start by explaining the difference between active and passive candidates. Active candidates are individuals who are actively looking for a new job. They may be unemployed or employed. Either way, they are taking certain actions in order to find a new job. These candidates are checking job boards, visiting career sites and utilizing their social networks to learn about the new job opportunities. They have updated their CVs and they are applying for open job positions.

On the other hand, passive candidates are not actively looking for a new job. Typically, passive candidates are already employed and relatively content with their current positions. This is the reason they are not actively looking for another job. However, if approached in the right way, most of these passive candidates would be interested in hearing about new job opportunities. According to LinkedIn’s research, an overwhelming majority (87%) of passive candidates are open to new job opportunities!

Why do you need to excel at recruiting passive candidates?

These days, if you want to fill your open job positions, you must excel at recruiting passive candidates. Why is that? Well, because of the current state of the job market. 70% of the global workforce is made up of passive talent, according to LinkedIn’s report. Other sources also confirm this finding. On the current job market, there is simply not enough qualified candidates to fill all open job positions. A McKinsey Global Institutestudy suggests that employers in Europe and North America will require 16 million to 18 million more college-educated workers in 2020 than are going to be available.

There is simply not enough talent to go around. As a result, candidates are now in demand. They are the ones who have the power. They get to choose where they want to work. A Recruitment sentiment study by MRI Network reports that 90% of recruiters say the market is candidate-driven. As a result, 76% percent of hiring managers admit attracting top talent is their greatest challenge, as reported by Glassdoor . If you want to thrive in the current job market, you need to change the way you recruit. You need to excel at recruiting passive candidates! So the big question is: How to do it?

How to recruit passive candidates?

Recruiting passive candidates is quite different than recruiting active candidates. Recruiting active candidates is quite straight forward: They visit job boards, find your job descriptions and apply to your open job positions. On the other hand, recruiting passive candidates is much more complicated. You need to attract their attention and offer them something better than what they have at their current jobs. You need to put your best foot forward and use effective, proactive recruiting methods.

Here are the 5 steps to excel at recruiting passive candidates:

Step #1: Know exactly who you are looking for

First of all, you need to know exactly who you are looking to hire. Yes, you are looking to fill your open job positions. But with what type of candidates? Who is your ideal job candidate? If you want to be successful at hiring passive candidates, you need to think beyond your job description and job requirements stated there.

This is why recruiters use candidate personas. A candidate persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal candidate for a specific job position. It encompasses much more than education, years of experience and skills. You need to find a person who would be a great fit not only for your open job position, but also for your company culture. Who is your ideal candidate? What makes them tick? What values do they hold? What motivates them? Dig deep and try to define your ideal candidate's work preferences, hobbies, values, etc.

Step #2: Prepare to sell your job

Creating your candidate persona is important because you need to be able to really sell your job. Not only job, but also your company culture. Remember, passive candidates already have a job. Why would they leave it and come work for you?

You need to differentiate your job offer and present clear, convincing arguments for winning over passive job candidates. What can you offer them that other companies can’t? Passive candidates won’t leave their current job unless they’re confident they’ll love working somewhere else.

According to a recent research conducted by Work Institute, top 3 reasons why employees leave their jobs are:

  • Career development – No opportunity to grow in a preferred job and career.
  • Work-life balance – Better work-life balance, which includes more favorable schedules, shorter commute times and scheduling flexibility.
  • Manager behavior – Unprofessional or unsupportive managers.

Keep this in mind and use it to your advantage when defining your unique employee value proposition.

Step #3: Attract passive candidates’ attention

If you followed the first two steps, by now you should have a clear picture of your ideal candidate. You also have a compelling employee value proposition. But how can you reach passive candidates and present your offering to them?

Since passive candidates aren’t actively looking for another job, they don’t visit job boards. You’ll have to use different channels to find them. One of the best ways to reach passive candidates is through social media and employee referrals.

Did you know that 73% of millennials found their last position through a social media site, according to Aberdeen Group? Younger generations use social media extensively, so this is the best place to reach them. Another great way to reach passive candidates is through your existing employees. Your current employees are your best brand ambassadors! Each of them has a wide social network and can help you spread the news about your company and the job position you are looking to fill.

Step #4: Create content and organize events

Once you find and target passive candidates through social media or through your current employees, you need to attract their attention. Showing them your job descriptions won't get you very far. Why should they care that you’re looking for awesome people to fill your open job positions?

You need to turn your approach upside down. Focus on your candidates’ needs and wants, instead of your own. What interests your candidates? What value can you offer them? This is where recruitment content and recruiting events come in. Your recruitment content should highlight the benefits you offer and give your potential candidates a glimpse into your company culture. Share photos and videos of everyday life at your office. Make sure that you also present fun at work events and your employees’ testimonials in the form of videos, blog posts, social media updates, etc.

You can also gain a lot by organizing recruiting events. Passive job candidates don’t visit job fairs. However, if you organize an interesting meetup, conference or even host an online webinar that can help them improve their skills, you definitely attract their attention.

Step #5: Make your selection process candidate friendly

Finally, you need to make some changes and improve your selection process. Passive candidates are already employed and thus very busy. Even if you succeed at attracting their attention and they are thinking about applying for your open job positions, they can still back out from your hiring process at any moment - leaving you empty handed.

Did you know that CareerBuilder found that 60% of job seekers quit in the middle of filling out online job applications because of their length or complexity? Allow passive candidates to apply in just a few clicks. A good idea is to let passive candidates apply only by entering their LinkedIn profile. That way, they don't have to go through the tedious process of updating their CV.

You should also make sure that your interviewing process is flexible. Passive candidates often hesitate to apply for a new role because they don’t have time to go through the long, time-consuming interview process. Luckily, thanks to technological advances, you can easily meet candidates without requiring too much from them. Take advantage of video interviewing!

Finally, do your best to provide a pleasant interviewing experience for your candidates. According to the LinkedIn survey, 83% of talent say a negative interview experience can change their mind about a role or company they once liked.