How to Recruit Passive Candidates

Years ago, a passive candidate recruitment strategy wasn’t top of the agenda for us because there weren’t so many jobs floating around, meaning candidates couldn’t be too picky. But when unemployment rates are as low as they are now, recruitment becomes a real art.

Recruiting passive candidates isn’t the easiest part of the job, but if you practice the following behaviours every day, they will become your bread and butter.

1. Be a networker first, a recruiter second

Networking as someone genuinely interested in a niche industry rather than as a recruiter looking for a placement will help you build passive candidates into your online networks.

If a candidate isn’t looking for a job, they’re not going to connect with you on LinkedIn as a recruiter, but they might if you present yourself as an expert in your niche.

Really understanding your niche and taking part in group discussions will keep you at the front of candidates’ minds and help expand your own knowledge too. So get involved in online discussions on social media, make yourself known for adding value and only strike when the time is right.

And don’t forget to get involved in networking events related to your industry too (not to be confused with recruitment networking events – you won’t find any passive candidates there!). Industry events will be full of potential passive candidates and a chance meeting could be a future placement.

2. Sell your jobs differently

How we sell jobs to passive candidates needs to be approached totally different to how we sell to active ones.

If you’re serious about engage passive candidates, you need to first build an understanding of why someone in their position would leave their current role and use this to shape how you pitch your jobs to them.

You want to entice them by telling a compelling story about what they’d be doing on the job, how they’ll develop both personally and professionally and make their mark. If they’re not looking for a job, they need a good reason to even consider a move, so always focus your pitch on them, not the job.

Here are some extra pointers to consider when selling jobs to passive candidates:

  • Never speak to a passive candidate about skills and must-haves – if they’re not looking, why would they care?
  • Don’t be too sales-y – passive candidates will instantly become sceptical of your motive and shut down.
  • Keep your communication concise and to the point – you’ve got one shot at captivating their interest, so don’t blow it!
  • Be flexible - making demands is never going to go down well with a passive candidate. You need to be able to move quickly but also respect any flexibility they require.

3. Ask everyone for referrals

Referrals are an excellent passive candidate recruitment tactic, so keep them at the front of your mind when dealing with any of your candidates. If you service your candidates, place them in the correct job for them, they’ll have no problem recommending you to a friend or colleague.

In a passive market, this strategy could be the difference between billing and not billing, so be confident in your service and just ask!

We’ve got a great blog  on this subject with tips on how to get more candidate referrals, but one extra point I’d add to this list is that the perfect time to ask is when you’re following up on how your candidate’s first week is going in their new job.

Your candidate will be on a high at this point, you’ll be in their good books for placing them in a job they love and they’ll therefore be more likely to recommend you to their friends.

Make sure you maximise on this golden opportunity!

4. Align yourself with in-demand clients

If you're an agency recruiter, try to keep the following in mind when dealing with a passive market: A passive candidate’s interest needs to be sparked as soon as possible if you want to earn their time, and this is always going to be a lot easier if your client’s reputation is so strong that the candidate already knows who they are – and for the right reasons!

Presenting jobs to the passive market for companies that have a bad reputation will only damage your chances of building a strong passive-looking market talent pool. Building a partnership with key clients in your niche will make it easier to pitch to the passive market.

5. Stand out and be different

In order to stand out to in-demand passive candidates, you don’t only have to sell differently, you need to fish where other recruiters aren’t looking too. Passive candidates aren’t looking for a job, so why would they be hanging around on job boards, for example?

Ask yourself this question: Would you rather have a network of passive candidates that other recruiters know nothing about, or be sitting waiting for an active candidate on job boards that are already saturated with thousands of other recruiters?

You need to do everything you can to stand out from the hordes of other recruiters gunning for the same candidates you are. We've got an eBook with some great tips on how to source top talent in a candidate-driven market. You can download your free copy below.

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Alan McFadden

Alan is the Associate Director of Growth at Firefish. An agency recruiter in a former life, he loves helping recruiters find ways to recruit smarter.

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