Passive Candidates: The Holy Grail of Recruiting

Passive Candidates

The ability to recruit the people who are already employed and place them in a new role with another company is what differentiates recruiting firms from internal corporate recruiters and hiring managers. The longer you work in the recruiting industry, the larger your network becomes and the greater your experience level in finding and converting passive candidates into new hires. Credible recruiting firms specialize in this area of expertise and the process is actually quite simple, when you know the keys and use the tools to implement them.


Passive candidates are bombarded by emails, in-mails and voice mails on a regular basis. After a while, they all start to blur together. Just another recruiter pitching the same job they don’t want over and over. Your message needs to be clear, unique and confident. When passive candidates hear your message, you can guarantee they are going to research you, your firm and your reputation before deciding whether or not to waste their time engaging with you. Therefore, your online activity and profiles need to tell your story succinctly and effectively. Your profiles should consistently tell the story of why candidates and clients alike turn to you for the perfect match. Be a thought leader, and display your expertise. Contribute new information to stale discussions. Share recommendations on your LinkedIn profile that back up your story. These pieces of evidence attract attention, build your credibility, make you trustworthy and encourage passive candidates to respond to your offer.


Have you ever found yourself in a voting booth without much knowledge on the local candidates running for the town election? What do you do? You vote for the name that is most familiar, or least offensive, or because they live in your neighborhood. Not necessarily the wisest method for voting, but a reality nonetheless. The same reality exists online within social media. The more frequent your tweets or posts, the larger your following, the broader your presence across a variety of platforms, and the more recognizable your brand becomes to passive candidates. You become familiar. You travel in the same circles. You offer quality content with consistency. Your message eventually gets across. Not by spamming. Not by offending. Don’t be that person. That person gives recruiters a bad name.


It’s one thing to read, create or share thoughtful content. It’s another to comment on it. But it is even better to read everyone else’s comments first. When you attend a networking event, you don’t just walk in, blurt out your elevator pitch and walk away. No, you introduce yourself. Listen to what other people have to say. Don’t deliver sales’ pitches; have conversations. You offer networking ideas, swap contact information and build on that relationship later with a personal base established. That message is going to be returned as a result. By reading through the comments on an article of interest, you can discover high quality responses from high quality talent. Seek them out on LinkedIn and reach out to them with a message that instantly commands attention by explaining how their thoughts on that article led you to feel they could be a great fit for the role you are recruiting.


There’s nothing like a referral in the recruiting industry. Passive candidates live in your Rolodex – you just need to be confident enough to find them. A terrific way to locate passive candidates is to go where you have placed someone previously. Ask your clients’ hiring managers. Research their story as much as you would a candidate’s. Find out where they’ve been and who they know. Armed with these details, you can target your referral search through them by requesting introductions to passive candidates they know from a specific former employer. Candidates you have placed are natural referral sources. Because they are happy in their new role that you’ve matched them with, and especially if they too were a passive candidate you converted, these allies will gladly provide you with introductions to their network and perhaps do some additional promo for your skills in advance. In the end, regardless of the person you are speaking with, when you are engaged in conversation you need to get the most out of them – names of passive candidates and introductions to them.


Social Media sites have extensive tools built within them and often outside tools designed specifically to enhance their usability. Become an expert in the functionality of the sites you utilize so that you can find the features that maximize your effectiveness in finding and communicating with the passive candidate audience. For example, LinkedIn groups allow you to filter searches within the groups themselves by keywords of your choosing. Go beyond simply posting your job listing in the group. Filter a search within the group to find the members who have the skills your role needs. Be proactive and reach out to them with an advance shot at the opportunity. Because you are actively contributing to the group with quality discussions and information, your message has a greater chance of receiving a response. They will see your profile, find confidence in your reputation and respond with a desire for more information, or perhaps refer you to someone else instead.


Everyone wants to know the secrets behind the magic touch, but the reality is it is all about confidence and competence. People want to work with winners. People want to work with a winning formula. People want to make sure you’re listening. Recruiters need to know how to build relationships and then take them to the next level. Listen closely to the passive candidate you’re talking to. Know exactly what you’re talking about. Always hit upon what they want by asking what their ideal situation would be. And then listen. Never bother them with openings that aren’t relevant to them. Let “That Person” bombard them with irrelevant roles that frustrate and infuriate. Stand out by knowing how to deliver quality matches for their desires. This will make them a willing part of your network and keep them coming back to you.

Millennium Search is a leader in the executive search world, with years of success helping startups and organizations in the high technology sector connect with top talent.

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