How to Engage Passive Candidates

By Astrid Wonderley on June 10, 2022

The United States is experiencing some of the lowest unemployment rates seen since 1969. While this may inspire positive outlooks for the economy, the lack of available labor is not great news for employers. Today’s labor shortage means you should include passive, as well as active candidates, in your staffing search.

Most candidates are passive.

Only 30% of the workforce is looking for new jobs. So while 70% of the members of the global workforce aren’t actively looking for a new job, according to LinkedIn 87% of those passive candidates are “open to new possibilities.”

Before you reach out to the passive candidate group, be sure you understand who they are and what will encourage them to consider your organization. Keep in mind that the top reason people change jobs is career opportunity:

  • Don’t try to lure them with a similar position.
  • Entice them with a role that provides increased responsibility.
  • Offer candidates opportunities which will help them learn new skills.

Use tech to source.

Thanks to technology, it’s now much more accessible for recruiters to find passive candidates around the globe. At their fingertips, talent acquisition professionals have the power to source and screen candidates by reviewing numerous online profiles, and it’s relatively easy for them to reach out to the most qualified candidates.

One way to go beyond connecting via email or other social media channels is to host a virtual job fair for your organization. Invite specific candidates with the skills you’re actively seeking (e.g., project managers or database administrators) or advertise and host an informational “open house” for which candidates can register to attend. When the virtual job fair takes place, attendees can connect via one-on-one chat to ask recruiters questions and understand more about what your organization can offer them.

Technology isn’t just about facilitating one-on-one connections. Make sure that your recruitment strategy harnesses the power of technology to make it easy for passive candidates to connect via your social channels, website, and mobile-friendly application processes.

Build and maintain relationships with passive candidates.

A commitment to relationship building is a must if you’re trying to engage passive candidates. Work to establish real relationships by actively networking with them in person at meetings and conferences that are relevant in their field.

“If you are looking for someone who can analyze big data, for example, target big data associations like the Data Science Association or the Association of Big Data Professionals, visit their job boards and attend their networking events and conferences,” suggests the Society for Human Resource Management.

Once you’ve made connections in person or online, continue to connect with passive candidates via authentic and personalized communication in which you:

  • Ask about their career goals and interests.
  • Send information of interest in their areas of expertise (e.g., white papers, articles, research, or other news).
  • Provide relevant updates about your organization that support your position as an employer of choice. 

Be sure your communications are genuine and of value—if they aren’t, you run the risk of scaring a candidate with what may feel like a sales pitch. Remember that by maintaining ongoing contact with candidates, you’re creating a valuable pool of people with whom you can reach out to when a job of interest becomes available.

By the time a passive candidate becomes an active candidate, you likely will have developed a bond and a preference for him or her. Asking the candidate to take a job fit assessment will help balance your gut instinct, to ensure that the candidate is, in fact, a good fit for the role.

Engaging passive candidates takes more time, effort, and commitment than sourcing active candidates. To do so effectively requires knowing your audience, using technology to support your sourcing efforts, and focusing on building and maintaining candidate relationships for the longer term. While it requires more determination, an investment to nurture passive candidates will pay off when you have the perfect candidate for a hard-to-fill role.