How to Attract Passive Candidates

What is a Passive Candidate?

passive candidate is someone who is not actively looking for a new job opportunity. These candidates are currently employed, and they are often picky about their options.

LinkedIn is full of passive candidates, and the total LinkedIn user base has 332 000 000 people worldwide. Every two seconds a new person joins LinkedIn. According to the latest LinkedIn Talent Trends report, 25% of people are actively looking for a new job, so that means that 75% of LinkedIn users are passive candidates. But finding 249 million passive candidates (75% of all users) on LinkedIn is not the same as hiring them. You need to have the right strategy and use different approaches for these candidates. If you would like to find and attract passive candidates, you need to modify your recruiting and interviewing process.

There is also one small group of passive candidates called “Super-Passive Candidates.” These candidates are perfectly happy where they are and not interested in moving somewhere else. But with the right approach, you can still convince these candidates to change their job.

A passive candidates are more desirable than an active candidates and for recruiters, these candidates also have one more benefit, because they are not likely to be interviewing with other companies. And yes, engaging these candidates is more difficult than active candidates; you will need more time for your search and to use different types of persuasion techniques. But you will get quality candidates with the right skills for your team. Passive candidates are not looking for a position and must be found!

Passive candidates are doing passive job searching

From my point of view, if you are reading and you are not actively looking for a job, you are passive seeker. You keep your resume up to date on your LinkedIn, and from time to time you are checking emails with job opportunities coming from LinkedIn. And if you are passively searching, you are probably getting job alerts from job boards or from companies where you would like to work.

Passive candidates don’t need a job, they already have one, and attracting and hiring these candidates requires a different approach and recognition of a different mindset than the mindset an active candidate holds. Try to think outside of the box. If one strategy is working for active candidates, it’s not going to work the same for passive candidates.

How to Reach and Attract Passive Candidates?

Companies are spending a fortune for job advertisements, but a passive candidate will likely never see these ads, because they aren’t looking for any job opportunity. Traditional recruiting methods tend to miss these passive candidates.

There are many things that can lure passive candidates, but they really differ from person to person. Someone is looking for more benefits; someone else is looking for better growth opportunities or traveling. Always do your research before you approach candidates! During your research, you can find out some of the problems in a company where the candidate is working. For example, maybe he is unhappy with his current manager or work environment, or with the situation that there will be no annual bonuses.

Many passive candidates have specific windows when they are ready for a new job. These candidates are searching due to particular events (no bonuses, mean boss, bad work meetings…), or they are just bored during the weekend and are reading some articles where they will see your advertisement. The spark that is going to ignite the flame of change could be anything. And you can help to create this spark.

While candidates may be passive, you must be very active and creative in reaching these candidates. If you understand what passive candidates are looking for, you will be able to more effectively communicate and connect with them.

Ways how you can reach out to passive candidates:


I already mentioned this and I will do that once again. If you would like to be successful in passive recruitment, you need to do some research!
Find this information:
– How long the candidate has been working for the company
– Information about the company where the candidate is working (they might have recently lost some big customers; they are moving their office to another country, etc.)
– Learn more about what that company is offering (salary, benefits, career possibilities)
With all this information, you will have enough data for your discussion with the passive candidate, when you call him.

Be visible

You need to be visible through PR activities, company branding activities, etc. If you are not visible to passive candidates, they are not going to check your openings or you are not going to find that they have time for a quick call with you when you reach them. If they know your company, you already have opened the door for further discussion with them, and that means a better chance to lure them into an interview. So don’t underestimate the power of recruitment advertising.

Revise your job posting

Passive candidates are not spending time searching for a job, and if they are looking when they are bored, don’t chase them away with a boring and generic job description.

Use your employees

The best way to approach passive candidates is to use your team members. Most employers offer referral programs; if you don’t have any, create one. If your referral program is not working, change it! Your employees can be your best brand ambassadors, so use them.

Approaching passive candidates

Every candidate will react differently when you approach him through email, either company email or private email. You need to try what will work. I still vote for the direct approach over the phone. But before you call someone, learn as much as you can about them.

Some recruiters are using e-mail first, because for them e-mail is as powerful a communication tool as the phone. But you need to be very creative to create the right email message so you will get a positive response. There are some good “tricks” that will get you a positive answer, if you are polite and not using an aggressive approach.

Passive candidates are busy people, so don’t take the first “no” as the final answer. They could be busy, in a meeting or just doing other things, so try to offer some time for a call and try to be flexible. And be patient, start building a relationship with the candidate. You are not going to fill the current role with this candidate, but you can fill the next one somewhere in future. Or you can get referrals to those who are ready for a new job.

Source at Meetups

No recruiter is likely to share this with you, but if you’re looking for good passive candidates, you need to attend meetups. Job fairs are often useless, since the best candidates probably already have a job and they don’t have a reason go to a job fair. But they are going to be at meetups, such as WebExpo or similar events, and these events are a great source of candidates. If you need an Android Developer in Prague, you could attend the meetup “DevFest” in Prague and you will find them there.

Understand their motivation

Some passive candidates may not get along with their manager. Others might be interested about work abroad or a different type of work. So it’s really important to understand what are the main motivators for them. And remember, that passive candidates have different motivations, so they should be recruited differently than active candidates.

Application Process

Have you tried to apply to your open position though your career page? If the answer is yes, what is your experience as a “candidate”? If you haven’t tried, do it. You can see if there are any hurdles during this process. Keep your application process as simple as possible. Request only minimal information; employed candidates are not going to spend 15 minutes filling out your application form.

Also, around 45-50% of LinkedIn users are using mobile devices to access this site, and they are also applying for jobs over their mobile devices more and more every year.

Social Media

Check your social media presence and keep your company profile up-to-date. Passive candidates should be able to get a sense of what the organization is like. Everybody knows that Google has pretty geeky offices and a few of my friends would like to join Google only because of the crazy things that you can have in the office.

Be sure that your Facebook page, Twitter account, or Google+ page is showing the same image and you are not presenting some old information there, just because you forget that you have a Google+ page. Use social media to build your employer brand so candidates will easily recognize you.

Use the power of your followers and your existing network or people watching your activities. You can find interesting passive candidates among them, or they can share your posting among their friends. Social media keeps you connected to passive candidates.

E-Mail Marketing

If your company is using ATS (Applicant Tracking System), you already have a very good pool (database) full of passive candidates. Some candidates from three years ago could be a good fit for you know and you already have information about these candidates so use this source.

The right e-mail marketing strategy could help you to reach big number of candidates in a short period of time. Personalize your message and use the appropriate subject for your email so you will attract candidates. Keep it simple and don’t forget to add the best call to action. And make email responsive for mobile users. Nowadays, most people are using mobile devices for checking their emails.

Train Interviewers

Interviewers are often ready for active candidates that apply directly and they are expecting that the candidate sitting in front of them during an interview is motivated to join the company. However, the passive candidate often was persuaded to attend the interview by company recruiters so they need to be ready for this difference.

Selling the Opportunity

Interviewers and hiring managers need to learn how to sell the opportunity that you are discussing with passive candidates. They need to see your opening as the best among others and see this as a wise and right career move for them.

You could have an amazing product and company, but you still need to learn how to present the reasons why the passive candidate should leave the current company and join you.

Keep candidates engaged and informed

Keep passive candidates engaged; inform them about your company. Add them to your LinkedIn network and be accessible if they have questions. But don’t contact them with new information every week; if you are pushy, they won’t be interested in they future when they are ready for a switch. Try to build relationships with them and contact them from time to time for a quick chat.

Dont push

If a candidate is not interested, connect with him on LinkedIn and let him know that you are open to discuss any opportunity in the future. Send him your contact details, but don’t push.

Never-ending sourcing strategy

Don’t forget that you are always recruiting! Some candidates are going to appear when you don’t have an open position and you have filled your roles, but be flexible and try to be prepared in these situations. You can lose a good candidate and you won’t get him back when you open the position next month. Sometimes you are not able to open the role, so build a pipeline of potential candidates to contact.

Two biggest Pros and Cons


They have the right skills and experience

If you did your research, you are approaching the people with the right skill set that you need and their experience is matching your requirements for your open position.

Passive candidates are honest

These candidates are not looking for a job; they have secure job and they don’t need to exaggerate their experience or lie to you to get a new job. After all, you approached them!


It will take time

Hiring passive candidates will take more time. They don’t have the motivation to quit their current job, so be ready to potentially spend weeks or months with some of them.


If you are offering the same job, job title, company culture, and benefits you need to be ready to offer a higher salary. People will usually leave their current position if they will get a 20% higher salary. But not everybody is going to switch their job only because of the money. So you will need to spend the time with your candidate and understand his reasons for change. It’s not about only making one call to this candidate; it will take time.

What motivates passive candidates?

When you are speaking with candidates, you need to really understand what motivates them. Based on LinkedIn Talent Trends 2014 reports, when candidates are considering a job switch, it turns out that the world’s professionals have very particular preferences.

Active Candidates

  1. Greater opportunities for advancement
  2. Better compensation & benefits
  3. More challenging work
  4. Better fit for skill set
  5. More learning opportunities

Passive candidates

  1. Better compensation & benefits
  2. Better work/life balance
  3. Greater opportunities for advancement
  4. More challenging work
  5. Better fit for their skill set

How to prevent your people from turning into Passive Candidates

During your search, you will be speaking with candidates from other companies so you will find out what is “wrong” in other companies and why people are joining your company. Use that information to improve your environment, benefits etc.

The simple thing you can do is to keep them happy. If you have the right people on your team, a nice environment, good benefits, interesting projects, your people have career plans and you are transparent about your plans, then your people will stay for a long time. Even the simplest and smallest thing could change their perception of your company. Free coffee, free pizza, flexible working time, and your support during the hard times will show your employees that you care about them.

If you dont embrace a new process for how to attract passive candidates, your competitors will!