5 strategies for recruiting passive job seekers

Oct 14, 2019 - Cat DiStasio

There are a lot of passive job seekers out there.

How many? Nobody can say for sure. But considering that only 51% of U.S. workers say they are satisfied with their jobs, you can bet there are an awful lot of talented people wishing they worked somewhere else. Almost half of workers may be open to a better opportunity. And that’s the definition of a passive candidate. 

But even those who feel satisfied may still be searching. For example, only 8% of healthcare professionals are considered ACTIVE job seekers (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Across all industries and positions, 70% of the workforce is considered passive talent and 87% of workers (passive candidates and those who are actively seeking jobs) are open to new job opportunities.

Passive job seekers are perhaps the most difficult category to recruit. They’re difficult to find, challenging to connect with, and exacting in their expectations. But as with any segment of the talent pool, having a strong strategy in place can improve your results. Here are five proven strategies to help you source more passive candidates who could be perfect for your organization.

Lean into your recruitment marketing

If you already have a healthy recruitment marketing strategy in place, you’re in good shape to pivot and focus specifically on passive talent. Many of the same tactics that work to attract active job seekers and get them engaged in the recruiting process are also effective on passive candidates. Now is the time to infuse your recruitment marketing efforts with storytelling. Telling compelling stories through video is more likely to attract passive candidates than a boring list of job requirements, for starters. Refer back to your employer brand archetype and make sure you’re telling the real stories of your company, your culture, and your team, because all candidates can tell the difference. Look for unique places to tell those stories, too. Many companies - like Adventist Health - are finding success with passive candidates by advertising on channels that may be overlooked by the competition. (Learn how advertising on Pandora helped them source more candidates.)

The most important thing to remember about recruiting passive candidates is that it’s a long game. Angela Pointer, director of talent acquisition at the University of Maryland Medical System, has a great analogy that encapsulates the process of recruiting passive candidates. She likens it to being a farmer who spends time, energy, and resources to nurture crops over the long haul, to reap the benefits in the end. 

Rely on your candidate personas, stick to your recruitment marketing strategy, be consistent and patient, and the fruits of your labor will pay off. 

Sourcing candidates on social media

Since everyone is hanging out on social media these days, social networks can be a great way to connect with talent whether they are actively looking for a job or not. The key to finding passive candidates, though, is more proactive work on your part. Use the advanced search features on Twitter and LinkedIn to find people who are talking about the skill sets you’re hiring for or asking questions about careers in your industry. Posting job listings and application links isn’t likely to be enough to inspire passive candidates to take action. But promoting other types of content can get their attention. Post about your company culture, share invitations to your virtual career fairs (especially if they are immersive experiences), and offer free advice that your ideal candidates might be searching for.  

Much the way you should be using underutilized channels to advertise jobs, turn to often overlooked sites like Reddit and search for people looking for jobs and discussing career-related topics, especially if you can find subgroups that are specific to your industry or desired skill set. You’re likely to find talented professionals there who might be willing to chat about an exciting opportunity at your company.

Search the ultimate talent pool

Portfolio and resume websites that allow job seekers to enter or upload their information and then forget all about it are a perfect place to find passive candidates. Start by identifying websites specific to the type of candidates you’re looking for, such as Behance for graphic designers or Github for developers. Search these databases for the skills and experience you’re targeting, and then reach out to candidates who match the profile and start a conversation.  

Ramp up the referrals

Employee referrals are invaluable when it comes to recruiting passive job seekers. Your talented employees have talented friends and they know who might be a good fit for the company and, even better, who might be open to a conversation about job opportunities. Encouraging current employees to make referrals can make the difficult work of recruiting passive candidates much easier, too. Only 7% of all candidates are referrals but 29% of hires are employee referrals, and that higher proportion means recruiters are saving a lot of time and energy - and improving the quality of their candidate pool - by getting a little help from current employees.

Control the conversation

If you haven’t already, create a candidate persona before you begin recruiting passive candidates. Emphasize culture fit before diving into specifics like compensation and benefits. You want to sell passive candidates on the career opportunities and keep the details open for discussion. And it should go without saying that you want to manage conversations with passive candidates carefully in order to keep them engaged. 

Be proactive about recruiting passive candidates

Finding and building relationships with passive candidates may always be a challenge but, just like farming, it’s the kind of work that pays off big in the end. Get to know your ideal passive candidates, especially their preferences and online behaviors, and keep those insights in mind as you plan your approach. Mix up your sourcing techniques, put your most authentic foot forward, and think as far outside the box as possible to connect with your ideal passive candidates.

Interested in more ways to go out and source passive candidates? Check out this recorded webinar we hosted with the sourcing genius, Ryan Gillis, 10 Sourcing Tips.

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