7 Keys to Finding Passive Job Candidates

Ask any recruiter – some of their best hires were the passive candidate. What is a passive candidate? One career site defined it as this “A passive candidate is someone who is not looking for a job, but would be open to taking one if the right opportunity came along.”

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Job seekers may be completely dedicated and happy in their current role, but most would at least listen if a better opportunity came along.

According to a LinkedIn survey of 18,000 full-time employees across 26 countries and a variety of industries, most passive candidates are interested in better work/life balance, opportunity for advancement and of course the biggest factor: More money. According to the survey 85 percent of respondents would be willing to talk with a recruiter, with the other 15 percent saying they were completely satisfied and wouldn’t change jobs.

Translation? The passive candidate can quickly become active if the right opportunity comes along. They key now is, how recruiters, human resource professionals and small business owners attract the passive candidate?

They could start by thinking and acting like a passive candidate. In today’s world, that means utilizing both in-person networking events and industry mixers, combined with social media tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+, among other.

For example, searching the many groups and posts within LinkedIn groups is a great place to start, says Rebecca White, Area Director for Kavaliro, an award-winning staffing firm.

“Many passive candidates are members of one or more Linkedin Groups that are relevant to their field and skill set,” says White. “Posting messages about job opportunities in the relevant Linkedin group you are seeking candidates for is a great way to target passive candidates.”

By now most recruiters are well-versed at using the many social media and online tools to promote company brand, successes and events – another way to attract passive candidates. They are skilled at sending out a Tweet, or a Facebook post highlighting a company success, bringing to attention the positives of that company without even mentioning job opportunities. This branding can help get the word out about the company.

That’s a proven method. But to find passive candidates, it takes more than just using social media and tools. That’s why recruiter should go where the professionals they recruit routinely hang out. Such as at industry/association events. Professional associations are where talented professionals looking to network hang out to learn, discuss industry issues and network with other like-minded professionals. Notice the terms – network, not job search. At industry events those in attendance are typically from multiple companies, vary in their experience level, and most of them are predominantly employed says Lissa Weimelt, President of SearchPro Services, a search and executive coaching services firm.

“One reason attendees go is to network, so the atmosphere creates a receptive opportunity to talk to a recruiter about their job, their background and their work culture,” says Weimelt. “Although a recruiter may not actively recruit them at that point, getting their card and being in contact with them soon after the meeting is a great way to build a base of passive or working candidates to call upon for referrals, or to contact should there be a position that could advance their career.”

Another solution to tap the passive candidate base is to volunteer or to be on a board of an organization that could put you in contact with those who work in your desired recruitment field, says Weimelt. But she cautions – it’s important to give your time without the expectation of getting something back in return. But many organizations and boards seek non paid talent, or seek the talents of people like recruiters who know lots of other people in various companies and occupations.

“Being on a board can be a good blend between giving of your time and gaining increased exposure to those working and passively seeking,” says Weimelt.

What all recruiters need to do is think like the job seeker – not the recruiter according to an April 2014 article from the Society of Human Resources Management, titled Recruiters Turn to Niche Social Sites to Find Talent. If you want to find passive candidates, hang out where those professionals hang out.

Recruiters often miss opportunities when they use only mainstream social sites, said Katrina Collier of Winning Impression, a London-based social recruiting training company. “The question people should ask is, ‘Where are my top passive candidates likely to spend most of their time online?’ rather than just going to one of the big networks and expecting them to be there,” Collier said.

For example, despite the popularity of LinkedIn, passive candidates in some professions either don’t use the site or create only bare-bones personal profiles there.

“Most great software developers don’t spend much time marketing themselves; they’re far more interested in their technology,” said Jason Pistulka, director of recruiting for Asurion, a technology protection services company in Nashville, Tenn. “We’ve hired a number of developers who either didn’t have a LinkedIn profile or, if they had a profile, it wouldn’t have warranted a follow-up. These were passive candidates who were very much underground.”

But those software developers do spend time on industry-specific sites like Github, Stackoverflow or Bitbucket, where they create and store open-source code and respond to questions from their peers. To find promising candidates frequenting the sites, Pistulka uses the services of Gild, a San Francisco-based company that aggregates social data scattered across the Web.

What are some other ways to attact passive job seekers? Consider these tips:

  1. Become a speaker: By speaking at industry events, networking meetings and job clubs, you can make connections with professionals that are active and passive. Your presence and presentation can speak volumes about the company.
  2. Blogging: Writing a blog that gets picked up by social media and/or is published within forums/message boards and social groups within your industry is a great way to reach out to passive job seekers.
  3. In the news: Get your company to create an In the News section on your web site. Promote that page through social media. It serves as an aggregator of areas where your company expertise has been shared, positioning the company as a thought leader in the field.
  4. Press releases: Got a big announcement? Someone win an award or get a promotion? Promote that through your local newspaper (yes newspaper) and it can bring further attention to your company. Who hasn’t read about a company in the Sunday paper then went online to research them based on that type of announcement?
  5. Monthly newsletter: Create a monthly newsletter and send out articles that include thought leadership and industry news. In the newsletter, include a link to your jobs, or perhaps a “featured job of the month” highlighting a certain opening.
  6. Follow-up. Reach out to candidates you’ve worked with or placed in the past. Just continue to harness the relationship. They may be considering a move but haven’t put in the time to start a search. Reaching out to them can kick start that search – and put you or your company in the forefront of their search.
  7. Use your own employees: Take the time to tell current employees about an employee referral program in place – and how you rely on team members to help attract new team members. Reference any referral bonuses in place. Share this info on the company Intranet, and in internal communications, like a newsletter or blog.

What are other ways you have attracted passive job seekers? What methods work for you? Share below.

Written by

Matt Krumrie is a career columnist and professional resume writer who has been providing helpful information and resources for job seekers and employers for 15+ years. Learn more about Krumrie via resumesbymatt.com, connect with him on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/mattkrumrie/) and follow him on Twitter via @MattKrumrie.

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