You already know how to recruit active candidates.

They’re easy to find. They’re the ones with the ready-to-go resume and up-to-date website. They’re attending networking events, following your company on social media, and applying for your open positions.

staffing and recruiting business developmentHowever, if your active candidates are not the right candidate, recruiters have to go beyond those seeking employment now to strengthen their company’s workforce – by building a pipeline of passive candidates.

Engaging with passive job seekers means actively courting potential talent who are not currently looking for a new job.

This may sound challenging, compared to the readiness of active job seekers – but passive candidates provide a great investment in a company’s talent portfolio. They tend to have in-demand skill sets, a successful work history, and are less likely to be interviewing with other companies.

DiscoverOrg Customer Success Manager

However, these positive traits also make it more difficult to actively recruit them to your opportunities. Passive recruitment means courting and networking with the right potential job seekers at a time when they 1) may not be seeking out a new job; and 2) may not know that your organization exists. (If that sounds like marketing – you’re right!)

In order to consistently hire the best candidates, a strong recruitment strategy must appeal to passive talent.

To see how a strong recruitment strategy is built, we talked to Director of Human Resources Brett Kindshuh, who oversees the recruitment efforts of an organization that has grown 400% in the past 3 years.

Read it: 10 Essential Biz-Dev Strategies for Staffing and Recruiting

1. Know your passive candidate

Get to know your potential candidate before reaching out. Review their skills, work history, and check out the blogs or networking groups they engage with. These are all great reasons to share why you are reaching out to them – and a good barometer that they’re a fit for your company’s culture.

Personal interviews are important for RaaS

Many recruiters look for people who have advanced at their current company within a few years – and that is often a good place to start searching. Good candidates should have potential and the motivation to grow with your company.

Kindschuh says: “Lack of mobility or stagnation within a company can be a sign of one’s lack of initiative. Or it might indicate that management has concerns about their ability to take on more responsibility. Or the individual might just be content with staying where they are at.

“Some employees seek to be an individual contributor while preparing to step into leadership roles, while others wish to remain where they are at and become experts in their current field. This may be a common career path for some technical skill sets such as software developers: Some developers just want to write really good code; others want to eventually manage teams.

“This preference is something that passive recruiters should seek to understand early in the relationship. If the role you are trying to fill requires a long-term individual contributor, then that’s okay. But if you’re looking for future leadership, this might be a red flag.”

Skills can be taught with training. But attitude and motivation can truly impact a passive job seeker’s success in a new position.

2. How to find passive candidates

If you’ve ever been approached by a recruiter yourself, you know that passive candidates aren’t always totally passive. We split up passive job seekers into a few different groups:

  1. Candidates who are content with their current job and are not looking for new opportunities
  2. Candidates who are unhappy but not currently looking to make any changes
  3. Candidates who are considering seeking new employment but not actively applying for new jobs
  4. Candidates who are content with their current job but are open to hearing about new opportunities

Because they are not actively seeking employment, these different kinds of candidates fall under the passive talent label.

Two people talking across the table from one another, representing passive recruiting.

Those who are unhappy in their current job, or on the cusp of looking elsewhere, will be easier to engage than those who are more content with their current position.

As a recruiter, this means you’ll need to leverage all of your resources when reaching out to new candidates. Passive job seekers can afford the time to think more thoroughly about their career – and what you have to offer them – than active candidates, who want a new job right away. Even if a candidate does not show interest, passive recruitment relies heavily on networking to create pipelines of talent. It can take months, even years, for candidates to be ready for a new position.

More importantly, passive recruitment works only if you know your own recruitment objective. Ask yourself what candidates fit the position, who will help the company grow, and what specific skill sets are needed for the role.

Here some data-driven techniques to kickstart your passive recruiting strategy.
Open communication and cautious outreach

Passive candidates are not looking for a new job – so proceed with caution when reaching out to potential talent!

Read it: Get your Pitch Perfect: Selling to Human Resources (HR) 

Best Recruiting Practices Quote: "Candidates are 25% more likely to respond to a phone call than a LinkedIn InMail."Call first. If you are able to find a phone number for your candidate, this is the preferred method of outreach. Candidates are 25% more likely to respond to a phone call than a LinkedIn InMail.

Take it slow. Woo candidates by asking for a longer phone call or lunch meeting, at their convenience, to discuss the position. Don’t feel like you need to pack your entire job description into your first message. (They’re working at the job you’ll be asking them to quit – so be considerate!) Your passive candidate might want to take extra time to think about it.

Ask questions. Once you’ve gotten a candidate on the phone, ask questions about the their career goals and interests. Be honest in what you have to offer. If it’s not a fit now, it’s okay.

That’s what these early conversations are meant for. Inquire about their satisfaction with their current job. Ask what’s missing. Ask what you can do for them. What would it take for them to consider new opportunities?

A little flattery doesn’t hurt. Something about the candidate’s skill set or job history made you want to reach out. Are they a master of the programming language you’re looking for? Do they work for a competitor? Is their experience perfect for your role? Let them know exactly why you chose to reach out to them.

Even if this passive candidate is not ready to move on to a new opportunity, you’re creating a connection and building a network with this candidate. Ask for referrals!

When they are ready to look for a new position, they will remember you.

Read More: How Do You Catch a Passive Candidate? [INFOGRAPHIC]

3. Talk about opportunities

For you, it’s just a job that needs to be done. But it’s a major life change for your candidate!

A woman flicking money in the air.When approached by a recruiter, the first question a passive candidate will ask themselves is: “What’s in it for me?”

There’s a reason people change jobs – and it’s not always money. In fact, according to a study by LinkedIn, compensation isn’t even among the top 4 reasons why people quit a job.

A little research on your prospect will help you understand what an “awesome opportunity” means to them.

So emphasize what’s exciting about the opportunity and your company culture. Now is your time to really push your employer brand. The requirements and job skills are important – but take time to explain how this position benefits the career growth of the candidate, and how it fits into the grander goals of the company.

Use the job’s possibilities to paint a clear picture for your candidate. Seek to understand what their current pains are. Could the opportunity benefit them with more recognition, greater challenges, a better work-life balance, potential travel, or more compensation? Are there other, similar roles that they have enjoyed smashing success, that you can offer as inspiration?

4. Build employee ambassadors and a strong brand

A man standing in front of a crowd at the DiscoverOrg office.After reaching out to a passive candidate, they will probably turn around and research you and your company!

Make sure your own company has a strong web presence, good branding – and great reviews. Employer branding is huge.

Your own employees are company ambassadors, especially on sites like GlassDoor and Indeed, where employee reviews can make or break a company’s reputation. When a passive candidate can see positive engagement from your company’s existing employees, they will find the opportunity a lot more attractive.

5. Develop a pro-employee reputation

As a recruiter, it is important to build a relationship of trust with potential job seekers.

If candidates know that you are working to benefit their careers, they will feel more confident leaving their job for the great unknown of a new opportunity. Make it clear to them through the branding on the “careers” page of your website, through your job postings, and through your employee reviews, that you’re a pro-candidate recruiter.

Being pro-candidate also means maintaining good relationships with past rejected job seekers as well. A candidate who didn’t work out last year might be the perfect contender now.

6. Stay updated on industry news

Staying on top of industry news can help you identify more potential passive candidates.

Two people researching on a computer, representing a search for passive candidates.Market uncertainty inevitably creates potential leads for passive recruiters. Recruiters use a tool like DiscoverOrg to create alerts for company events, such as mergers and acquisitions, hiring plans and layoffs, new projects, and any kind of change or uncertainty that might cause an employee to consider leaving the company.

Even if the news doesn’t affect the candidate personally, it lends credibility to a recruiter if they can demonstrate that they understand the industry and the candidate’s current environment.

Staying informed and up to date will make you a better recruiter.

7. Slow and steady wins the race

Passive recruiting isn’t about quickly filling positions, but rather wooing potential talent that will positively impact your company’s long-term goals. If the hiring process takes a long time, passive recruiting usually takes even longer.

Even if a candidate is not ready to leave their current position, networking and creating relationships with potential candidates will benefit you in the long run. The important part of passive recruitment is to establish a relationship of trust.

What to AVOID with passive recruiting?

1. Move on, but don’t burn bridges

A graphic showing a crowd of a gray people with one colored person in the middle. Represents finding the perfect passive candidate in a sea of job seekers.Passive recruitment is all about long-term networking and what you can offer that candidate. If they are not a good fit or make it clear that they have zero interest in future opportunities, let them go … but keep their number.

Establish them as a network connection, give the candidate room to breathe – and never burn a bridge! Great candidates often know others in the same field, so ask them to refer people in their network to you. Or after they have some breathing room, passive candidates might decide to consider your offer at a later time. You can always keep them in mind for something else in the future.

2. Don’t be impersonal

When communicating with passive candidates, share your own experiences and information. Warm, personalized messages and casual networking elicit better responses than a generic, impersonal email.

While passively recruiting top talent, it’s worth it to take the time to make your opportunity and position attractive. Flatter candidates with your knowledge of their accomplishments and honestly tell them how well they will fit in at your company.

3. Don’t flake

You wouldn’t move forward with a candidate who failed to follow through. So if you say you’re going to take the next step – do it.

Some conversations don’t call for next steps, but if you mention one, make sure to follow through. We’ve all been guilty of this, as the hours in the day are limited – but if you say you’re going to do something, then do it.

Creating trust and building relationships is a marathon, not a sprint. You’ve reached the finish line when your new hire is happy and your company is flourishing. And if you have a pipeline of passive talent, other great possible candidates are right around the corner.

Get more recruiting content from ZoomInfo’s post on top recruiting blogs.

On the job hunt? Read ZoomInfo’s guide on landing a B2B sales job.


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Amanda Kiyomi Uyesugi
About the author

Amanda Kiyomi Uyesugi

Amanda is a Senior Research Analyst on the Triggers Team at DiscoverOrg. She earned her BA in Creative Writing from Seattle University and is originally from San Jose, California. Go SJ Sharks!