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by Bridget Miller | BLR

As the unemployment rate inches further downward and positions are taking longer to fill, many employers are looking for new and innovative ways to reach the best talent. One option that is increasing in popularity is searching for passive candidates—individuals who may not be directly looking for a new job, but who would be open to switching jobs if the right opportunity arises. 

It Pays to Recruit Passive Candidates

You may be wondering why an employer would go to the trouble of looking for someone who has not even applied for a job opening. There are actually several good reasons employers are using this tactic: 

  • When a job is posted, employers sometimes find that the majority of applicants do not have the desired skills and experience for the role. By searching for individuals who have the necessary experience and contacting them directly, an employer can overcome this hurdle. 
  • Getting high-talent individuals can be a competitive advantage; some companies find that seeking out the “superstars” in the industry is worth the extra effort. 
  • Passive candidates represent an increasing percentage of the job market—in fact, they represent the majority of the available candidates. According to LinkedIn, passive candidates represent approximately 75 percent of the workforce. By opening up lines of recruiting and putting resources toward reaching out to passive candidates, employers significantly increase the potential talent pool. 

How Can You Find Passive Candidates?

Reaching out to passive candidates requires entirely different actions than getting the attention of active candidates. Active candidates are the ones that see a job posting on job boards and react. A passive candidate may or may not even be browsing job boards. Here are a few ways employers can begin finding and reaching out to passive candidates:

  • Use your existing employees.  Some employers offer referral programs, for example.
  • Be visible where your ideal candidate is already looking. While the passive candidate may not be looking at job boards, they are probably networking or otherwise involved in the industry. Be visible at industry functions, conventions, and other related events. 
  • Cultivate your online presence. Once you get the attention of a passive candidate (or any candidate, for that matter), you’ll want to be sure that your online presence provides plenty of information about the organization, including the company culture. Prospective employees should be able to get a sense of what the organization is like. Be sure your organization is presenting a consistent image across online platforms such as the company website, social media accounts, and other online touch points. 
  • Make it easy to contact you and to navigate the application process. In other words, don’t give potential employees a reason to run away before you’ve even brought them onboard. Review your process objectively and see if there are any hurdles or any gaps. 
  • Consider using a specialized recruiting agency. Recruiting passive candidates takes a lot more time, effort, and energy than recruiting active candidates. Some employers find it’s more cost effective to turn the task over to a recruiting agency that specializes in this type of recruitment. 
  • Analyze what you’re offering. By definition, a passive candidate is likely going to be tougher to bring onboard, so the job offer—including all of the associated responsibilities and benefits—has to live up to the hype. Consider whether your organizational culture and goals are such that your organization will be able to bring in and retain top talent, and if not, assess what needs to change. 
  • Review your social networks. Social media followers are an existing network of individuals who have already expressed an interest in the organization. This can be a great place to start a search. Also consider browsing extended networks and using talent pools that are publicly available, such as LinkedIn. 
  • Continually recruit. The perfect candidate is tough to come by, but can sometimes be found when you’re not even looking to fill a role. Have a mindset in which you’re always recruiting—even when there are no openings to fill. By doing so, you’ll be attuned to possibilities and may have a candidate in mind the moment a job is available. Build a pipeline of potential candidates to contact.