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April 2nd 2018

Jon-Mark Sabel

How to Recruit Candidates with Passive Interest

Recruiting Teams

In 2018, most job seekers are passive. With unemployment at record lows in 9 states (and 17-year lows across the board), most people who want a job have a job.

Engaging and hiring passive candidates is crucial for recruiting to fill the roles it needs to. Passive candidates are candidates who are already employed. They are not actively searching for a job.

What Makes Employees Want to Leave?

There are any number of reasons an employee at another organization would want to leave and join yours. Many of them - bad management, uncompetitive salary, long commute times - are outside of your control.

We’re going to focus on the things you can control - or at least take advantage of. Generally speaking, you can conceptualize passive job seekers as falling into one of two buckets:

  1. Passive candidates who are perfectly content at their current job.
  2. Passive candidates who are unhappy with their current work situation.

Intriguing Perfectly Content Passive Candidates

These candidates aren’t doing any new-job research whatsoever.

Recruiting content passive candidates requires specific, direct outreach. (Unlike discontent passive candidates, which we’ll look at in a bit).

1) Referrals

Referrals are consistently rated the best source of high quality hires. With record unemployment, they will be more important than ever.

Sites like LinkedIn make it easy to find employees in your organization who are already connected with the people you want to hire. If possible, ask them to reach out and open up lines of communication.

This becomes even easier if your company has a referral bonus program in place.

See the 5 Elements of a Top Employee Referral Program

2) Look at Nearby M&A Activity

If your organization has access to a service like Pitchbook or LexisNexis, you can track mergers and acquisitions in your area. Any M&A comes with some degree of uncertainty; it’s the perfect time to intrigue perfectly content high performers at these companies.

Employees at organizations undergoing a merger or acquisition are much more likely to consider a new role, even if they were previously very content at their current company.

3) Strong Mission & Value Proposition

At any given time, only 33% of employees are engaged at work. This means at least 66% of employees should hear you out.

There’s a big difference between a content employee and a fulfilled employee. All other factors being equal (compensation, benefits, etc), a strong company mission and value proposition will intrigue passive candidates who aren’t totally engaged at work.

Show that it’s more rewarding to work for you with a formal value proposition that advertises what sets you apart. This might include:

  • Opportunities for personal growth;
  • Opportunities for professional advancement;
  • Your unique emphasis on teamwork;
  • A dedication to forward-thinking management;
  • Ongoing employee recognition programs;
  • Community service programs;

Anything else that makes your organization unique.

According to a study by Universum, 67% of organizations with 10,000+ employees have a formalized employer value proposition. Articulating that value proposition is key to intriguing content, passive candidates. Your focus should be different depending on what candidate persona you’re trying to attract.

Helping Discontent Passive Candidates Find You

Discontent passive candidates are a little different.

Whereas attracting content passive candidates usually requires targeted outreach, discontent passive candidates can be brought into the funnel with a more “inbound” approach.

In other words: you can recruit these passive candidates passively.

4) Automated Sourcing Tech

There are numerous technologies that automate a great degree of the sourcing process. Tools like Entelo and hiQ pull data from social networks like LinkedIn to identify potential applicants and automate outreach.

Potential applicants are identified by a number of factors, like how well their work experience meets the position’s requirements and how likely they are to leave their current role.

5) Optimize for SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the art and science of ranking highly in search engine results (usually Google).

There’s a ton you can optimize here to ensure passive candidates find you:

  1. Site speed. How fast your website loads is one of the factors Google takes into account when ranking webpages. Use Google’s free PageSpeed tool to evaluate your site speed and troubleshoot any issues that could be slowing it down.
  2. Mobile optimization. If your career pages are not optimized for smartphones, they will probably be penalized in search.
  3. Create career page video content. Videos aren’t just a great way to introduce potential applicants to your brand, they also keep visitors on your website longer. This is another factor Google takes into account when ranking webpages.
  4. Determine the right Keywords and utilize Schema Markup tools. Google has recently rolled out a search function called, “Google for Jobs” where your job listing and much of it’s relevant information can appear right in Google’s search results. Our SEO for job postings tutorial walks you through a variety of listing optimization methods.

We put together a huge guide around optimizing your job posts for Google for Jobs - find it here.

6) Essential for Both: Decrease the Effort Required to Get into Your Hiring Funnel

What do gas stations, clothing stores, and Amazon have in common? They make it easy to buy on impulse.

Make it easy for passive candidates to apply on impulse. Maybe they find your job posting after a particularly frustrating day of work, or just received one of the aforementioned automated outreach emails. Just like a clothing store has a limited time to convince you that an impulse buy is justified, you might have a limited timeframe to convince a potential applicant that applying is worth it.

In the Talent Board’s survey of over 200,000 candidates, only 20% said their application took less than 15 minutes to complete. How many impulse buys would Amazon facilitate if buyers needed to complete a 30 minute survey before seeing the product?

Depending on your ATS, there may not be a whole lot of wiggle room to customize and refine your job application.

In these cases you can lower the barrier to entry by moving a recorded video introduction to the front of the hiring process. Rather than complete a long application, job seekers can introduce themselves, their skills & abilities, and why they are interested in working for you with a short video introduction. Your recruiters can then point them in the direction of the right application - by this point they should be more invested in you as a potential employer.

Recognize Where Efforts Overlap

Realistically, there’s some overlap here. While the most effective recruiting approaches for each type of passive candidate might be different, there is some crossover in their application.

For instance, automated sourcing tools will also reach out to content passive candidates - the outreach is just more likely to be ignored. Depending on your goals (time to hire, quality of hire, etc) and resources (number of recruiters actively sourcing, budget for recruiting tech, etc), the most effective combination of approaches will vary.

Understanding what type of passive candidate you want to prioritize is key to developing the right strategy to target them.

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