What to Do When They Play Hard to Get: Using the Right Approach When Recruiting Passive Candidates

Young man smiling over his shoulder

The stereotype of the standard job hunter needs updating. The most desired candidates are no longer sitting behind their computers scanning LinkedIn and every job board they can find. The perfect candidates may be already employed and working hard at their current job, though willing to look elsewhere if the right opportunity presents itself. This is especially true in industries such as construction, manufacturing, and engineering, where, due to skill shortages, employers often have more job vacancies than skilled employees.

These people are called passive candidates, and it’s imperative that HR and recruiting teams understand the different ways in which these prospective employees are best reached. And reached they should be — passive candidates who are currently employed are guaranteed to have recent and relevant professional experiences and more likely to have a positive attitude and work ethic. Passive candidates are also 120% more likely to want to make an impact on your company, and are more willing to take on challenges while requiring less skills development.

Despite the benefits of recruiting passive talent, it’s shocking that a 2015 LinkedIn global report found that under two thirds of companies are making strides towards recruiting these candidates. Don’t make this same mistake.

Approaching passive candidates may get you your next qualified worker, but keep in mind that this will look very different from approaching someone who is actively looking. Read the tips below and keep them in mind when approaching passive candidates for your next job opening.

Active vs. Passive: Adapting Your Approach

You have to be willing to change your recruitment strategy if you’re going to be successful in attracting passive candidates. Here are four suggestions for what you can do differently.

Reach Candidates Where They Are

Passive candidates aren’t scanning job boards. That’s why your recruitment team needs to share opportunities in places where they are looking — namely, on social media. According to SkilledUp, 92% of companies use social networks to recruit candidates. Just as specialized job boards allow you to reach niche markets, social network advertising will also enable you to target passive candidates based on location, skill level, and interests.

The secret of using social media to recruit is to not just re-post the same job ad you’ve shared with active candidates. Instead, experts suggest having a steady flow of interesting content — videos, blog posts, and e-newsletters that naturally attract someone to pay attention to a social media post. Once you build a roster of effective content, and a group of dedicated followers that enjoy what you have to say, passive candidates are more likely to pause and ponder a job opportunity when it’s shared.

Trade One-Time Job Ads for Relationship Builders

In 2014, online shoe and clothing company Zappos stopped posting job ads once and for all. The Las Vegas-based company was having a rough time with recruitment, as it wasn’t attracting the right candidates. As a replacement, Zappos launched the Zappos Insider program, an initiative that made the recruitment process less transactional for both recruiter and candidate.

The Zappos Insider program works on the premise that candidates don’t apply for a specific job posting — instead, they apply to enter a talent pipeline that may eventually lead them to a position with the company. The program allows recruiters to collect a large pool of candidates, build relationships over time, and pull from that passive talent bench when an opportunity arises.

Candidates can submit their application at any time, and the unconventional and longer-term nature of the program can be just different enough to attract passive candidates to start the process. It will also give recruiters a longer period of time to woo these candidates to join their team.

Rely on Referrals

You have to be resourceful in reaching passive talent. That means tapping into every recruiting source you’ve got, including your existing staff. Here’s a suggestion: make recruitment the responsibility of every employee. Your current staff knows best what it’s like to work at your company, and about the skills that would be a good fit for your team. They also probably have some pretty smart friends and former classmates or coworkers.

Internet domain registry company, GoDaddy, has created one of the most successful employee referral programs, and 33% of the company’s employees were hired via referral — passive candidates made interested by existing GoDaddy staff. The GoDaddy program offers a $1,000 bonus for each referral that is hired.

A referral program offers an effective way to reach passive candidates, and has proven to be a faster process than alternatives.

Don’t Undervalue In-Person Recruitment

Meeting face-to-face with a recruiter can make all the difference in converting a passive candidate into one who wants to actively pursue employment at your company. Networking events and industry conferences are excellent places to reach passive candidates. Recruiters should head to these events, prepared to chat with people in all stages of the job search process. Online RSVPing through websites such as Eventbrite and Facebook means you can scout attendees in advance and target your efforts towards meeting them — and convincing them to get on board with your company.

Key Things to Remember

You now have four new tactics to reach passive candidates. As you incorporate those into your recruitment strategy, here are a few more important points to keep in mind:

  • An Applicant Tracking System can be a huge help in pursuing and keeping track of both passive and active candidates.
  • Company culture is important to passive candidates, so be sure to highlight this in any approaches. Make it easy for passive candidates to learn more about your company and its culture. Make sure there is enough enticing information online so these elusive candidates can find it and stay interested.
  • You should write up a job description for the position, even if you do not intend to post it publicly. You can then use this job description to inform passive candidates about what the role entails. Best job ad practices still stand, regardless of the type of applicant you’re trying to reach.
  • Personalization is an important part of reaching out to all candidates.

You’re now ready to get out there and join the ranks of companies looking for the best employees not just from the active pool of job hunters — but from the talented passive pool, too.