14 Effective Tips for Engaging and Recruiting Passive Candidates

by Sarah Reyes

For many in the human resource industry, they know how to recruit active candidates; however, when they cannot find the perfect fit for their organization, some would try to recruit those already on the market – the passive candidates. Recruiting passive candidates is a long-time practice in the HR industry. It’s controversial and not everyone agrees to it.

But then, passive candidate recruitment is uneasy. If you’d talk to human resource professionals, they’d say that recruiting these passive ones is challenging – but maybe before the pandemic.

Many passive candidates are now on the market because of COVID or because they’re thinking of considering quitting their current jobs. More workers are now exploring new positions, that’s why, and looking for better ones.

If you’re in the recruitment industry, consider establishing a talent pipeline composed of passive candidates.  But before we move any further, what is passive recruiting, anyway?

Recruiting Passive Candidates: Passive Recruiting Defined

This recruitment means recruiting a professional, who at the moment, is not looking for a job. However, one has the experience and skills to qualify them for the position you are hiring for. Passive candidate engagement means courting the candidates actively.

Who are these passive candidates?

  • They’re the ones who may not be actively looking for a new job but are on the market. They’re considered for a role but they’re not actively searching for it.
  • Companies are interested in adding these people to their teams.
  • They may or may not know that your company exists.

Passive vs. Active Candidates

To explore this topic further, let me tell you about a passive and an active candidate who is seeking a job actively.

Active candidates may be unemployed or finding better opportunities. They may be anxious, expectant, or excited to discover a new job.

So, when recruiters connect with them, they’re willing to discuss or have a chat with them. They make themselves available to talk about the opportunity. Nevertheless, active candidates make themselves visible, hoping to find a job.

On the other hand, passive candidates are secure and they don’t look for jobs.  Even if they check social media, like LinkedIn, they’re not hunting for new opportunities. They use it instead in networking and connecting with fellow professionals or updating their skills. When recruiters approach them, they might respond but sometimes not. They’re not interested nor want to know more about the opportunity.

That’s why building rapport and establishing their trust is important if you want to capture and keep their attention. So, how do you find and nurture passive candidates?

It’s why you need a strong brand, social media presence and job boards integration because passive candidates look at them. And what you don’t need are cold calls – in where you might be expecting long chats because that won’t happen with passive candidates. Instead, you can send them an email and respect it if they don’t respond. But if they do, give them a quick call and tell them more about the opportunity.

You might also be interested: Hiring Temporary Employees: What You Need To Know

Passive Candidate Recruitment: Finding passive candidates

This is an important step if you would like to hire passive candidates. But then, be wise and use your time productively.  You don’t just find these people anywhere. Search for them in the right places. Let’s get started in the following.

Social media

There are many social media channels. We get it. However, you could be spending a lot of time or perhaps your entire day searching for passive candidates in all the platforms you can think of. Instead of doing this, you might want to strategize, and that means considering certain factors to look for your ideal candidate.

For example, you might want to search on Twitter and use relevant hashtags related to the candidate you’re looking for (e.g. #financecoach, englishtutor). Or you might want to use YouTube instead if you’re looking for creative individuals, for instance.  In short, use social media to your advantage, but strategize.

With the vastness of social media and using the right strategies, you would never run out of talents to find. Use social media wisely – with purpose.



Even if we’re living in a highly-technological world, you can still use the traditional method of meeting people in person to find passive candidates. You can meet these people in networking events, workshops, and other venues.

Use websites like Eventbrite to search for industry-related events near you.  Attend these events and meet professionals who may be looking to up their skills. They are passionate and dedicated that they spend their hours to enhance their talent.

Say, if you’re looking for candidates for your information technology team, chances are you would bump into someone for this in the event. And more importantly, you’d find one or two that are passionate about improving on their craft.

Alternatively, you can run an event for yourself and advertise it online to invite attendees, who can be either passive or active candidates. Nevertheless, you’ll be connected with talents that can be a part of your team sooner or later.

Employee referrals

Your current employees might have already been connected to professionals in the same industry. And what’s the best way to recruit passive candidates than do it with your current team. 

Plus, if your company has a good company culture, the more that your current employees would be more than happy to refer people into the team. Your employees won’t also be recommending unfit candidates because that will reflect on them. Referred candidates are also more likely to stay in the company for a longer time. This is a dream for hiring managers and recruiters.

To start, ask your employees for recommendations. Better yet, create an employee referral program. It can be a financial reward or other incentives like offering them a voucher, days off, or anything you can think of. Nevertheless, it doesn’t have to be a monetary reward.

Send your employees a short and sweet email discussing the role you’re looking to hire for. Think about the requirements and be very specific and add them in your message. This will help them recommend the right fit for your team.

Talent pool

Try sifting through your applicant tracking system and look for candidates who you might have rejected but fit the current role you’re trying to fill.  Check your talent pool and pipelines and look for candidates who might have been rejected but can be great additions to your team.

However, it can be a bit challenging to recruit rejected past candidates, but it’s worth trying. Especially if you’d given them an excellent candidate experience, you won’t have to worry about them getting back to you if in case you contacted them again.

That’s why in your recruitment and selection process, you must provide applicants with a good candidate experience that they can remember even after applying. It will be easier to close any gap if they’re pleased with how they were treated by your recruitment and hiring team even if they’re rejected.

passive candidate recruitment

Online resume platforms

You can also find passive candidates using resume platforms where many high-quality talents might be the ones you’re looking for.  Some websites allow you to contact, source, and hire ideal candidates; however, some of them offer these at a cost, but you can choose a suitable plan or package that is ideal for your budget.

Finding passive candidates on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a unique and powerful platform for recruitment. It opens plenty of opportunities to find both active and passive job-seeking candidates. You can use it to improve and speed up your recruitment effort. It allows you to connect with professionals in your industry and nurture them at the same time by keeping them engaged and interested.

Again, you can use social media in developing your brand and establishing your web presence. You can also use it to your advantage regarding posting relevant and valuable content for your audience.

Use the hashtag #OpenToWork to help you connect with potential candidates. You can also choose Open to new opportunities on the search tool you can find in LinkedIn’s Recruiter and other refinements depending on the needs of your company.

Use keywords and the search function to find relevant content and pinpoint ideal candidates in your industry.  And if a certain location is important, you can also search for specific locations on LinkedIn to connect with professionals in that target location where your ideal candidate is based.

Sell your company with a professional LinkedIn page. Review your profile and refine its wording and content. Use the voice and tone of your company to convey. Don’t forget to add information about company growth.  You should also add any quotes, statistics, or facts that can further highlight the benefits of working in your company.

Effective Passive Recruiting Techniques

  1. Know your candidate: Before you try contacting or reaching out to passive candidates, you must have their clear picture. Study about them well, including their work history, skills, and other important details.
  2. Where do your ideal candidates spend most of their time? Depending on your industry, your ideal candidate can be in specific places. For example, you can find them in online communities, forums, or social media. That’s why you must know your ideal candidates. This way, you can figure out where they are spending their time; like if they’re networking with professionals or trying to enhance their skills, they can be on websites like LinkedIn.
  3. Conduct research about your ideal candidates. For example, discover their interests and motivators. In this case, you’ll be able to create a custom message for them when conducting an outreach.  As a result, you might be able to gain a response from your passive candidates.
  4. Tell them about any growth potential and opportunities, one of the best approaches you can apply. If you were in their situation, you might also be wondering what benefits to get if they would join you. This can be a major break that they’re waiting for. What can be an amazing opportunity for these professionals?  What are their expectations?
  • Do they want significant challenges?
  • Do they need to be recognized?
  • Do they need a work-life balance?
  • Are they looking for higher pay?
  • Do they desire any potential travel?

So from the responses, try to figure out what opportunities your company’s offering – and this can be something that their current companies are not providing them with. Thus, the question, “What’s in it for me?”

  • Establish a strong brand. This is important. Your company culture, branding, and web presence – ideal candidates are looking for this information. By developing a strong brand, you can capture the attention of passive candidates.
  • Offer them a good candidate experience. Build trust with job seekers, either active or passive. Especially with passive candidates, you must make them realize that choosing your company over their current one is a good decision.
  • Make them feel that you are pro-employee or that your company provides a good employee experience. You can do this through employee reviews in GlassDoor or through job postings.  In addition, it pays off to develop, maintain, and nurture a positive relationship with former employees.
  • Work-life balance, it is. The pandemic has made this very clear.  Employees who had or are having the chance to do remote work know the importance of work-life balance.

Especially now that candidates receive multiple offers and want to work 100% remotely, recruiters must strike a balance to bring talents into their teams. In short, employers should look into offering fully remote work or more work flexibility to avoid missing out on top talents.

  • What’s going on in the industry? Stay on top of the latest industry developments if you want to find and attract top passive candidates. Some tools let you receive alerts for new projects, hiring plans and strategies, layoffs, and mergers & acquisitions.  By understanding your industry, you’ll better look more credible to potential additions to your team.
  1. Ask questions that can help you persuade these candidates.  What’s the most satisfying job you’ve had?  What do you like most and what do you hate the most about your current job? Is it your dream job?  Are you still happy with your job? Getting the right questions out there will help you engage and capture the attention of your ideal candidates?

More ways to recruit passive candidates

Again, recruiting these people is not the same as recruiting active job seekers.  It can be quite tricky to capture their attention and make them respond.  Be prepared to recruit these professionals.

Just like anybody else, they’d be asking for a salary, benefits, rewards package, and responsibility level.   Remember, many won’t be willing to receive lower pay than what they’re already receiving.  

  1. Connect with them on social media. Adding them to your social circle, you’ll make it easier to connect with them later. However, use social media wisely, as candidates won’t think twice about disconnecting with you if you’re not offering them any value. Don’t post only job openings; instead, use your social media channel to post engaging, informative, and valuable content for your followers.
  2. Hold their interest if they’re curious about the opportunity. To do this, ensure that the application process is quick and easy.  Email them with the job description, career prospects, benefits, and remuneration package in one go. Make it short, sweet, and straight to the point. If you’ve called them for a discussion, send this email right away, either during or after the call.

Were you able to keep their interest further? Suggest a meeting and its time and date rather than just asking if they’re okay for a video call. Do this before ending the call.

  1. Not available for a video call? Interview in person. Suggest a quick meeting at lunchtime or after work or some time that suits their schedule.  Unlike active job seekers, passive candidates won’t come to you. Instead, you should come to meet them. And if they’re only available on the weekends, suggest meeting them at a restaurant near their place.
  1. Make the candidate feel important and that you’re interested in meeting them other than them meeting you for the opportunity. Your actions must show this to ensure that you’re engaging the candidate.
recruiting passive candidates

When to recruit a passive candidate?

The best time to recruit them is when there is a skills or talents shortage and you’re looking to fill highly-skilled positions as soon as possible.

It is also to avoid making a bad hire, which could have damaging effects on your organization.

Recruiting these professionals would also be best for filling executive roles or again highly skilled positions.

Pro tip: Don’t connect and source passive candidates when you’re advertising to fill roles that also target active candidates. Otherwise, they’d think that you’re wasting their effort and time, and this won’t do you any good.

For instance, if you’re finding it hard to find a suitable candidate from the active candidates you’ve interviewed, you should ensure that the ads meant for active candidates were taken off, both on social media and job boards.

By that time, you can source and approach top passive talents who you can engage and entice to grab the opportunity that can enhance their career. But if they agreed to an interview, you must offer a transparent, short, and fair interview process.

Over To You

Recruiting candidates might be tricky and challenging, but it is possible with the right strategies. Ask them the right questions, connect with them on social media, and continue to nurture them. Develop your brand, web presence, and social media influence. Stay updated with the latest industry trends and don’t recruit passive candidates in the same way you do with active candidates.

Which of the above passive candidate recruitment strategies have you been practicing in your organization? Tell us in the comments. Finally, share this article on social media and help fellow HR professionals recruit top passive talents today!

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