In a job market where the best talent isn’t necessarily looking for a change, passive recruiting strategies become essential for hiring teams. 

This approach is about finding those who are content in their roles yet might shift for a better opportunity if nudged a bit.

By focusing on individuals who aren’t actively job hunting, recruiters can uncover hidden gems—professionals who can drive innovation and growth. 

Whether you’re looking to refine your recruitment tactics or seeking fresh ideas to reach exceptional talent, we’re sharing valuable tips to equip you with the knowledge to turn passive candidates into impactful hires. 

What is a passive candidate?

passive recruiting

Unlike most job seekers, passive candidates aren’t actively searching through careers pages for their dream job. 

These folks are already employed and comfortable in their current position. But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t consider working elsewhere.  

Passive candidates are usually highly sought after because:

  • Since they are not desperate, they are likely to make more career-oriented decisions rather than based on necessity.
  • They deliver faster return on investment as they’re already well trained. 
  • There is less competition for recruiters due to the lack of urgency these candidates have. 

The trick is to let them know you exist so you can offer a role that they can’t resist. 

The difference between active vs. passive recruitment 

Although active and passive recruiting have the same aim, they are accomplished through different means. Here’s how:

  1. Active recruiting: In this method, a recruiter will usually go on job boards, like Indeed, and post about an open role. Then, candidates send in their applications, and the recruiter shortlists them for hiring.   
  2. Passive recruiting: Instead of candidates coming to recruiters, passive recruiting involves contacting individuals directly to build a fruitful relationship. This connection can help fill a role based on how well you know the candidate.    

Passive recruiting strategies might be more time-intensive than traditional hiring methods, but the results and benefits are worth it!

This method opens doors to top-tier talent often employed by your competitors, offering a strategic advantage. 

Read more: Proactive recruiting: 10+ strategies to beat the great talent crunch

 7 game-changing tips for recruiting passive candidates

1. Identify the needs of the job role

Since passive recruiting is a much more time-consuming strategy, knowing exactly what you expect from the candidate is important. 

Without a clear idea, you’ll waste time and resources, leading to a poor hiring decision. 

Conducting a skills gap analysis within your existing organization or the client’s team allows you to understand the skills you need to look out for. 

Here are some key aspects of a skills gap analysis:

  • Set goals: Consider not only current objectives but those for the future. Involve stakeholders in this process and try to seek broad agreement. 
  • Identify skills: What skills are needed to help you reach your goals? Consider how adequately represented these skills are in existing teams. 
  • Create a plan: With a clear understanding of the required skillset, devise a strategy to fill these gaps. Consider what you’re looking for—whether it is executive-level talent, specialists in a particular field, or individuals with a certain level of experience. 

2. Start with research 

Before jumping into any candidate communication, getting to know them first is a good idea. 

Luckily, that’s easy, with candidates leaving a digital trail of information about themselves online through platforms like LinkedIn. Background checks come in handy here as well.

Aside from employment history and individual skills, you can get a glimpse of the publications users subscribe to and the content they like, share, and comment on. 

With this background information, you’ll be able to reach out to a candidate in a more personalized manner and tailor your outreach to their interests. 

3. Be active in recruitment communities 

With online networks like LinkedIn groups and Slack communities, recruiters can easily connect with professionals dedicated to specific topics or industries. 

This can help you build lasting relationships, interact with employees from competitor companies, and spot potential future candidates. 

You must be seen as an active member to make the most of these online communities. You’ll form a negative impression if you’re caught trying to promote your company blatantly. 

Instead, you should provide valuable content and join group discussions. When sharing content, always stick to relevant topics that interest the group. 

For instance, members of an HR community are likely to appreciate content on innovative payroll processing methods for employees, whereas manufacturing-related topics might not resonate as well. 

This approach not only positions you as a thought leader but also aligns your contributions with your audience’s specific interests, making your interactions more impactful.

You might also like: Slack communities recruiters need to be a part of  

4. Revisit your past candidate data

passive recruiting

Have you ever been stuck choosing between two stellar candidates and wondered about the one you didn’t pick? 

Those rejected candidates are like hidden treasures waiting to be rediscovered. 

They’ve probably moved on to other jobs by now, so it’s time for some savvy passive-sourcing to get them back in the conversation. 

A friendly, warm email can spark their interest again, where you can convince them why they should switch teams. Think about what drew them to the client’s company in the first place and play up what sets them apart from their current gig. 

For example, mention the perk of having a completely remote staff that enjoys the flexibility of working from anywhere. Highlighting perks like this can help tip the scales in your favor.

5. Encourage more referrals

Referrals can be a fantastic way of gathering more passive recruits. 

Hence, it’s a good idea to go back and review your employee referral program. Take more steps to advertise incentives—a monetary reward can help raise the volume of referrals. 

Consider how you can adapt referral program ideas based on the position. For more hard-to-fill positions, you might offer a greater reward. 

Also, why not add an element of competition to your referrals? 

For example, you might pit teams against each other to see which brings in the most referrals. You could reward winning teams with extra time off. 

6. Elevate your employer branding 

What’s your reputation as an employer? 

This question sits at the core of attracting passive candidates effectively. 

If your team doesn’t view you positively, why would someone else consider joining your ranks?

While offering a competitive benefits package is a good starting point, true employer branding goes much deeper. 

It’s about the everyday experience of your employees, showing them respect and valuing their contributions.

Consider initiatives aimed at boosting the mental well-being of your team, fostering a culture of psychological safety and openness, and offering flexibility in work schedules and locations. 

In the end, a strong employer brand is not just about what you say; it’s about what you do and how effectively you embody those values in your daily operations.

Further reading: Brianna Rooney’s tips on recruitment marketing and representing your employer brand

7. Streamline the interview process 

The interview process can become time-consuming and off-putting if you’re not mindful enough. 

Passive candidates are already in employment, so they won’t be keen on going through a lengthy interview process to switch positions. 

Try to think of ways to shorten your interviews during passive sourcing. You might want to consider the following: 

  • Preparing a well-structured interview schedule outlining all the steps involved in the process. This way, you can help avoid any scheduling conflicts. 
  • Reducing the number of tasks required for a candidate. You can do this by only asking for crucial information required for the hiring process. 
  • Allow virtual interviews to reduce time spent commuting. 
  • Give candidates time to learn more about their roles before interviewing. They might need extra time to understand a position better before they commit.

Remember, successful passive recruiting hinges on not just identifying the right individuals but also on showcasing your company or position as the ideal match for them.

So, take these strategies, put them into action, and watch your team grow stronger and more dynamic!

Author’s bio

Jesse Liszka – Senior Communications Specialist, Paylocity

Jesse Liszka is the Senior Communications Specialist at Paylocity, a leading cloud-based payroll and human capital management software provider. 

She is a highly experienced communications, client marketing, and content specialist with over 12 years of experience. You can find her on LinkedIn.