Everyone has moments in their career where they are desperate to get out of their current role and move on to bigger and better things. They actively respond to job board postings and make their resume available for potential employers. They anxiously wait to hear back from the hiring managers for an interview that can rescue them from their current role. As for the rest of the workforce, it’s filled with happy employees who love their jobs and the company they work for, and have no burning desire to leave. Right?

Not necessarily. These employees who are not actively looking for a new job — passive candidates – are often of the most desirable candidates. According to Undercover Recruiter and Jobvite, up to 79% of working professionals are considered passive candidates, and at least 61% of them are OPEN to the idea of a new employer. Choosing not to pursue passive candidates means missing out on a huge amount of valuable candidates. Passive candidate recruiting can be highly beneficial for many reasons.

  • They Are Proven Reliable- Typically, they’re already employed in a good job that has equipped them with necessary skills and experience. And when a candidate is happy and comfortable with their current position, it can often mean they have earned a high degree of trust from their current employer and they have formed a strong relationship together.
  • They Have Nothing to Hide– Passive candidates can be more transparent than an active candidate due to the fact that they are not in NEED to find another job. They feel OK to speak freely about their flaws and not hide anything about themselves, or glorify their skills and qualifications. They are clear with what they can offer and what they expect in return.
  • They’re Not Leaving, They’re Joining– Additionally, passive candidates make a change for the right reasons. Their motivation is not to LEAVE a job, but rather they see the value in the new opportunity. They are more efficient because they have made a conscious decision to leave something they know for a new challenge.

So how exactly do you recruit these passive candidates?

  • Get Their Attention and Pay Attention– When you get a passive candidate to agree to speak, there is some kind of underlying motivation. Of course, what those are will vary depending on the individual. They may want higher compensation, faster growth opportunities, or flexibility in their schedule.  Passive candidates may also be unhappy with their current manager, work environment, or commute. The key is to ask open ended questions that will uncover this crucial information early on.  Then REMEMBER those points and continue to use that knowledge throughout the recruiting process.  If a candidate tells you that there is absolutely no room for upward movement in their current situation, continue to focus on how quickly this new role allows for promotions.  But don’t just say it.  Help them visualize —  Illustrate through success stories of employees at the company.  Once it is identified what it is that would motivate them to make a change, it is critical to capitalize on that factor or those factors.  
  • Remember WHO You are Speaking With– Don’t forget – if you are the one pursuing a potential candidate, there is “selling” involved. It is your job to create intrigue and interest. It’s unrealistic to expect a passive candidate to be ready to take an assessment or pine for the job before they are truly engaged and interested in taking things to the next level. Keep the right balance of selling and qualification.  Timing on this is crucial.  
  • Stay Connected– It’s important to stay in communication with passive candidates on a regular and consistent basis. Similarly to being in front of clients who are not interested in buying right now, being able to stay in a passive candidate’s mind and build a relationship with them can cause them to think of you when new opportunities are presented in the future. How? Connect on LinkedIn or create a quarterly email campaign to “stay in touch”. 
  • Build Trust– What happens when they say “no” right off the bat? Their unwillingness to talk about a new opportunity, doesn’t necessarily mean they are not interested but rather they are not interested in speaking with YOU. Often times they don’t want to make long-term career decisions right after receiving a call from someone they don’t know. That’s why it is important to build somewhat of a trustworthy relationship with them first by asking appropriate questions and leaving well-spoken voicemails and well-written emails. The candidate needs the necessary information before they can actually make a decision whether they are interested or not. 

There is no question engaging passive candidates is more difficult than active candidates as it requires sourcing techniques, persuasion and time, but the benefits are clear. Targeting relevant passive candidates means hiring long-term, quality candidates.