5 Tried-and-True Methods for Sourcing Passive Candidates

There’s no way around it — the perfect job candidate is often already employed. These candidates, often referred to as passive candidates, present a unique set of challenges for the modern recruiter — after all, someone who is happy in their current role doesn’t typically submit applications to open positions or respond to recruiter outreach.

But pursuing passive candidates is worth the additional effort. In fact, research shows that passive candidates are 120 percent more likely to make a strong impact at your company. In other words, ignoring passive candidates means missing out on a wealth of top-notch candidates.

If you’re looking for a more effective candidate sourcing strategy, keep reading as we explain five proven methods for sourcing passive candidates!

What is passive candidate sourcing?

Traditional recruiting involves posting a job listing and waiting for candidates to apply. Passive candidate sourcing, on the other hand, refers to the process of proactively searching for employed candidates and reaching out to them in an effort to solicit their interest in your open position. Research shows that candidate sourcing is an effective and efficient way to hire top talent:

Let’s look at the specific steps recruiters can follow to improve their passive candidate sourcing strategy:

1. Leverage a Variety of Social Media Platforms

Most recruiters turn to LinkedIn as a recruiting tool, but it’s become so crowded with recruiters that it’s actually grown harder to source passive candidates. In fact, oversaturation on LinkedIn is the main reason that 52 percent of hiring managers claim that passive candidate recruiting has become less effective — so it’s time to expand your social recruiting strategy. Let’s look at some examples:

  • Twitter: Use Twitter’s advanced search functionality to look for profiles that use industry-related keywords and hashtags. Then, refine your search based on location and other important criteria. Here’s an example: You’re hiring for a sales position, so you search Twitter for specific sales-related keywords within your company’s region. This search leads you to discover a sales rep who frequently shares branded content from their current employer on Twitter — this indicates they’re an engaged employee and may be a high-quality candidate.
  • Facebook: Recruiters can also use Facebook’s targeted search capabilities to find high-quality passive candidates. Consider sending an outreach message via Facebook rather than LinkedIn — candidates don’t typically receive Facebook messages from recruiters, so they may be more inclined to respond.
  • Newer platforms: You’re probably familiar with social platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, but you might not have considered incorporating them into your recruiting strategy. But recruiters can leverage these platforms in unique ways to attract passive candidates. For example, you can create a sponsored Snapchat or Instagram story that showcases your company culture and catches the attention of a passive candidate.

Remember, just because you’ve never done something before doesn’t mean it won’t be effective. So, if you’re seeing less success with your LinkedIn outreach, diversify your social strategy with new platforms.

[Related: 4 Keys to Building a Social Recruiting Strategy That *Actually* Gets Results]

2. Invest in Automation Tools

Innovative technology has changed every aspect of modern recruiting, including candidate sourcing. Today, recruiters can leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to locate passive candidates much quicker and more efficiently than they can do manually. In fact, recent studies show that algorithms can predict the success of hires better than the discretion of hiring managers.

AI technology crawls the web to collect and analyze a wide variety of candidate data, from resume details to social media activity. Based on this data, AI-based tools can predict which passive candidates will be open to switching jobs, making it easier for recruiters to prioritize those candidates.

Manual candidate sourcing is by no means obsolete, as strong recruiting requires a human element that no technology can replicate. But, using artificial intelligence alongside your manual sourcing tactics takes minimal effort and often has a huge payoff.

3. Establish a Referral Program

Current employees are often a recruiter’s best source of new talent. Referrals have long been a staple of modern recruiting strategies, and for good reason — 78 percent of recruiters say they find their best candidates through referrals.

Every one of your employees has their own networks and personal connections. And, these networks often contain a number of high-quality candidates who might be a good fit for open positions within your company. Passive candidates may be hesitant to respond to a message from a recruiter, but they’re much more likely to consider an opportunity brought to them by a personal connection.

Referral programs won’t just help you find more passive candidates — they’ve proven to yield higher-quality candidates than other sourcing methods. In fact, studies show referred employees perform up to 15 percent better than non-referred hires.

[Related: 4 Steps to Building Your Employee Referral Program]

4. Explore Job Boards and Candidate Database Services

Active candidates use online job boards as a top resource to find and apply to open positions. But did you know that job boards are also an excellent tool for recruiters to source passive candidates?

Candidates often upload their resumes to job boards during their search, and those resumes remain in the board’s database even after they’ve accepted a job. Recruiters can search recruiting databases for a number of criteria including industry, experience, skills and education level.

So, if you happen across an outdated resume, don’t automatically discount the candidate. Instead, look at the trajectory of their career. If the candidate seems like he or she may have grown into a good fit for a role, don’t hesitate to reach out.

5. Stress Company Culture and Growth Potential

Many recruiters are adept at locating passive candidates, but their sourcing strategies fall short when it comes time to reach out to candidates. Here’s the problem: Passive candidates aren’t interested in the functions and requirements of an open position at your company. You will only capture their attention if you show them what makes your company a unique and rewarding place to work.

Career growth and company culture are two of the most important factors that influence a candidate’s decision to change jobs. 87 percent of Millennials say career growth and developmental opportunities are important to them in a job, and nearly 80 percent look for people and culture fit with employers before they look for career potential.

Passive candidates will only leave their job if they believe a new role will be more rewarding than their current career. And, most passive candidates won’t make this change unless they’re confident they will love working in their new environment.

When you reach out to passive candidates, you may not want to sell a specific role. Instead, facilitate a conversation about the growth opportunities within your company. And, make sure you have content that demonstrates your unique company culture and employer branding

Final Thoughts on Passive Candidate Sourcing

Active candidates may make a recruiter’s job easier, but as you know, the perfect candidate won’t just walk through the door, ready to be hired. Sourcing passive candidates might be more of a challenge, but it’s an essential tactic in today’s competitive, fast-paced hiring landscape.

The good news is, passive candidate sourcing isn’t as difficult as it seems. In fact, 85 percent of employed people are open to switching jobs! Try the methods outlined above, and you’ll quickly find and engage with a number of passive candidates — some of whom may make a massive impact at your company for years to come.

Sam Holzman is a Content Marketing Specialist at ZoomInfo where he writes for their sales and marketing blog. ZoomInfo is a leading B2B database that helps organizations accelerate growth and profitability. Sam regularly covers topics related to sales, marketing and recruiting, and likes to write about sports and travel in his free time.

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