4 Tips for Recruiting Passive Candidates

LinkedIn estimates more than 60% of the global workforce is made up of passive talent who are not actively job searching. These are professionals who are not scrolling through job sites but are open to exploring opportunities if approached.

Passive candidates have consistently proven to be a challenging pool to recruit from. With active jobseekers, employers ‘pick’ the candidate but with passive talent, the candidate ‘picks’ the employer.

I often talk about the importance of pitching passive talent meaningful work. In this article I want to cover four additional tips to help you successfully recruit from this pool. 

Tip 1: Remember to sell and qualify 

You'll have to run a slightly different interview process with passive candidates. When dealing with active candidates it’s common to start qualifying candidates as early as the first screening phone call. With passive candidates you’ll have to spend the first few interactions selling your opportunity to the candidate. 

Good sales people practice empathy. Likewise, you'll need to invest time learning about what your passive candidates are looking for in a new opportunity. This will require you to have conversations about their career history, past achievements and future aspirations. The information you gather through these conversation will position you to sell them the role more effectively (because you’ll get to customise your pitch according to what they’re looking for in a role). It'll also help you to start qualifying the candidate because you'll be gathering information about past work experiences and achievements.

Tip 2: Manage risk right from the start

Passive candidates are prone to change their mind. Changing jobs is a big, risky, uncomfortable life decision. Active candidates have likely thought long and hard about why they want to leave their current employers. It’s the reason why they have confidently made the decision to look for a new job. Passive candidates on the other hand haven’t gone through this decision making process. They haven’t spent time weighing the pros and cons, they haven’t spoken to their current employers about their frustrations and haven't had the necessary conversations with their family members.

This is why passive candidates are more likely to entertain counter offers from their current employers and why they’re likely to change their minds during the recruitment process. As recruiters, we need to manage this risk right from the start.

For instance, when I have a passive candidate who is open to looking out because they're disappointed they haven’t received a long overdue promotion at their current company, I often advice them to speak with their current employer about their disappointment before moving forward with my opportunity. This helps me mitigate the risk of my candidate accepting a counter offer from their employer in the future.

Tip 3: Expect competing employers

It may feel like because you proactively approached a passive candidate, they’d only be exploring your opportunity. The fact is many passive candidates become active candidates once they decide to seriously consider an opportunity. They realise that if they’re going to leave their current employer, it makes sense to explore other opportunities in the market as well. So they start peeking into job sites and quietly put the word out through their professional network.

Manage the risk of competing employers by checking with passive candidates throughout the recruitment process on whether they’re considering other opportunities aside from the one you’ve presented them with.

Tip 4: Don’t expect an updated CV

Finally (this is a small but equally important tip), don’t expect passive candidates to send you an updated CV. The very fact that they’re not actively looking implies that they probably haven’t updated their CV. Requesting an updated CV so that you can qualify them for the role will either delay your recruitment process or it'll turn passive candidates off.

Instead, you’ll have to learn about a passive candidate’s career history through informal conversations and what you can find on their LinkedIn profile.

Navin Muruga