10 Tips to Recruit Passive Candidates


As an HR Professional, I can totally understand how difficult it is to find and recruit that “purple squirrel”.  Finding a top talent can be difficult and would require a lot of creative approaches.  Another threat what we as recruiters face has to recognize the Artificial Intelligence and Automation. Automation can identify the candidates, who are actually looking for a change actively and matching them with the most suitable job opportunity available.

However,  it will be less useful when it comes to attracting the passive job seekers.  Passive job seekers are the once who are not actively looking out for a job change and are not much active on any job search site. These candidates are those who are only interested in changing a job for true career reasons.

As per an article published by Lou Adler on passive candidates are,

  • For all roles, 75% of the people whom you want to hire are not looking for a change. They are Passive candidates.
  • For critical roles, 95% of people you want to hire are not looking out.
  • For your jobs, most of the people you want to hire won’t find you even if they are looking out.
  • People mostly don’t apply even if they are looking for a job because they find Job Description very boring and don’t represent a proper career move.
  • The best people you want to hire are all highly satisfied with what they are doing.
  • Most of the recruiters and candidates talk about wrong thing when they first talk.
  • It matters when you are contacting people.  Most of them prefer to be called from Monday to Thursday, while few will prefer a Friday or weekends.

To engage these Passive job seekers, I have found following methods really helpful:

  1. Write better Job Postings:

Just dumping the must-have skills and passive skills won’t work effectively when it comes to attracting passive candidates. Your Job postings must highlight what the role is expected to do. What is going to the roles and responsibilities? what are the key highlights of the role etc?

  1. Control the discussion.

Most of the time, recruiters keep on explaining the role even if the candidate is slightly interested.  And the other scenario Is, many candidates pop out of the conversation without actually understanding the role.  You must follow the otherwise, that is, let the candidate talk about the role and responsibility first,  understand what he likes the most in his role and what he would be interested in, then only pitch for the role you have for them keeping their interest in mind.

  1. Keep the candidates engaged & build relationship.

Some recruiters might feel the need of connecting with the candidate only when there is a hiring need. It is advised to stay in touch with the candidates even if you are not hiring actively at that point in time.  By engaging them and staying at top of their minds, you increase your visibility and trust among the passive job seekers and they would be keen on talking to you about details when approached.

  1. Keep presenting opportunities and let the response guide you.   

Keep presenting the opportunities and let the response guide you in what the candidate is actually looking for. But, ensure that while presenting the opportunities,  you are not making it a hard sell. Let them realize that you are trying to understand their mindset and preferences.

  1. Be Patient.

Passive candidates generally take an interest only when you press on the pain area. This means they would be interested in the role only when you have something to offer which is not met by the current employer.  So, be patient until that time and communicate a role which has a unique value proposition.

  1. Meet them in person.

The best way to engage the passive people and build a rapport is to meet them.  In person, meetings have maximum impacts. You can meet them over a  cup of coffee or invite them to the events which are mutually beneficial.

  1. Sell the job as per candidate’s preference.

Based on your understanding of the candidate on his motivating factor, sell the job. Those motivators could be Career Growth or Job Satisfaction or Money. It’s really important to sell mindfully keeping in mind what could trigger the candidate.

  1. Present yourself as an SME.

Passive candidate loves to engage with the subject matter experts and not recruiters. Ensure you behave like an SME to your candidates. i.e. you have a deep understanding of the industry,  the changes the projections, the growth path of the role and you are able to add value to your conversation.

  1. Offer 25- 30% non –monetary increase.

As suggested by Lou Adler in one of his articles,  If you want to hire a Passive candidate, offer him a non- monetary benefit of around 25-30%. This should comprise of bigger job stretch, rapid growth, more impact and more satisfaction.

  1. Apply Pareto’s 80/20 principle.

Pareto’s principle says that 80% of your result comes from 20% of your efforts.  According to Pat Sharp, Founder of The Talent Architect says, Focusing on 80% of disinterested people will have wastage of time and will slow down the hiring process. Smart companies should focus on finding the 20% of the talent that can make a difference. They should invest in their visibility as an employer. According to Sharp, better hiring approach is to spend 80%  of the time working with existing employees on referrals and 20% efforts in other areas.

All the efforts mentioned seem like time-consuming and it is. But the right effort in the right direction can actually put your efforts pay off.