How To Attract Passive Candidates

When it comes to external hiring, most companies approach the process in a similar way. But the standard process only attracts active candidates, and that's only one part of the talent pool. Here's how to start getting in front of passive candidates as well.

When it comes to external hiring, most companies approach the process in a similar way: publish a job posting, screen applications, conduct a series of interviews, and then bring someone on board. This approach only looks at the most common group of job candidates. But there’s a whole other group of potential hires out there, hiding in plain sight, ready to consider the positions you have available. And they might be exactly what you’re looking for.

Couple of quick definitions up front:

Active Candidates: Candidates who are putting out applications regularly, in the hopes of securing a job as soon as possible. These candidates might be currently employed but seeking new work, or may be out of work and looking for a job post-haste.

Passive Candidates: Not necessarily ready yet to change jobs, but might be kicking tires and could be swayed. These candidates aren’t regularly applying to open positions, but if the opportunity is right, they’d be interested in a conversation.

The recruitment marketing / employer branding strategy approach for active candidates is pretty obvious — or, at the very least, we’ve all done it hundreds of times.

You post jobs, pray the right people apply to those jobs, and then change nothing about your process for six to ten years even though huge chunks of it are clearly not working.

Oh sorry, was that too honest?

So what’s the recruitment marketing approach for passive candidates?

Seems there isn’t much of one.

Check out this stat from Smashfly:

The problem is that once they get candidates to opt in, they fail to send them anything of value. Get ready to have your mind blown: Of the organizations that captured candidate information for job alerts or a talent network: 48% of them never sent an email to them after confirmation. 48%!!!!!!!!

OK. So you land on a website and the place looks interesting. You give your email for “future job alerts.”

Well, in 1 of 2 instances, you won’t be getting a single email from them. Good for your inbox maybe, but why did you sign up for the alerts then?

48% of companies never send an email to the people populating those lists. Ha. What? Why even bother to collect those email addresses, then? Just to tell someone up the chain you did it?

This is all somewhat similar to “We’ll keep your resume on file!” Most companies say it but never do it, in part because it’s time-consuming to parse through years of qualified candidates (but keep an eye out for ATS providers that can perform in-depth contextual searches).

What about the passive candidates, though?

The real talk would be this: very few companies have a passive candidates strategy, and here’s why: if you’re drowning in active candidates and open reqs, who has the time to craft a strategy around passive applicants? There are seats to fill!

The reality is this: if companies got smart and automated top-of-funnel hiring (AI, chatbots, etc.), the recruiters would have more time for relationship development and working on what to do about passive candidates. But, truthfully, this scares many recruiters — they realize that once top-of-funnel hiring is automated, they could be out of a job. The company won’t suddenly say “Hey, what about these passive candidates?”

Employer branding strategy is what we’re discussing here, and while some companies do it right, many companies try to manage it like a campaign — but it’s not that. It’s what people in the real world say about your processes and managers.

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If you have a culture of less-than-nice people, you have a bad employer brand — even if you artfully managed some campaign about how you “change the world.” Passive candidates won’t care, because every Glassdoor review says Marty Middle Manager is a major micromanager. There are many reasons Glassdoor just sold for $1.2B, but one of them is that transparency about workplaces is what forces your recruitment marketing and employer branding strategy to have to be authentic.

What would be an effective way to approach passive candidates?

Couple of ideas:

  • When they sign up for emails, actually send them emails.
  • Send your recruiters out to different types of networking events to build relationships.
  • Use LinkedIn wisely, as opposed to non-personal InMails.
  • Have a one-sheet ready about the benefits of considering your company, even if you’re super happy elsewhere.
  • Don’t let your ATS be a candidate black hole; actually communicate with candidates so they’ll care about you later.
  • Care about getting the best people.
  • Realize they often are better than active candidates (60-70% of applications for an open job don’t meet qualifications, according to The Muse).

Anything else you’d add on finding and nurturing those passive candidates within your recruitment marketing? Tell us what’s worked for you!

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