6 Ways to Engage With Passive Candidates|6 Ways to Engage With Passive Candidates

6 Ways to Engage With Passive Candidates

Has your talent pool run dry? Are you in need of a new hire, but feel like all of the good ones are taken? It may be time to expand your search and tap into the passive market.

You’re trying to find the perfect person, so naturally you will not rest until they’re on your payroll. But what if they are such a unicorn candidate that they’re already employed? According to LinkedIn, passive candidates make up roughly 85% of the workplace, including around 45% who are already open to speaking to a recruiter.

That’s a huge percentage of the working population that you won’t be able to find in the usual places. But before you start, check out the top six ways for engaging with a passive candidate:

1. Reach out to your network.

Use your social media accounts and post a brief message explaining who you’re looking for – your peers may well know someone who fits the job specification exactly, and you might get lucky. Also, it’s worth directly reaching out to key players in your industry, just in case they know someone who would fit. Even if you get put in contact with unsuitable candidates, they can act as an extension of your network and may also know someone who would be interested.

2. Get personal.

Just like you’d expect a candidate to tailor their CV towards your role, you should tailor your communications with them. Don’t just send out a bunch of generic InMails or voice messages; they will be able to see through it – and they definitely won’t feel like they’re being genuinely approached because of their expertise. Not to mention, they probably get them all the time from other recruiters, so don’t expect a reply if you don’t put in the time to tailor your message.

So how do you grab their attention? Keep it short and sweet, and show that you’ve done your research (just like you’d expect an active applicant to do). You could mention that you have a mutual connection, or name drop the individual that referred them to you (point 1). Failing that, draw upon something that you saw on their LinkedIn profile in order to gain their trust, and demonstrate your genuine interest in speaking to them. The less you disclose, the more intrigued they will be.

3. Build rapport first, sell later.

They’re not actively looking for jobs, so there’s no point wasting your breath on a sales pitch. The way to ultimately pitch them a role is to stop selling and start building rapport. If you put them at ease, they are much more likely to engage with you.

To start building a relationship, take the time to listen to what they want. Only this way will you build up enough trust, to then be able to pitch them further down the line. Also, by listening you can identify whether or not they would be suitable for the role in question, instead of trying to jam a triangle into a circular shaped job. If you’ve done your research on the individual, you can use any mutual interests, or interesting facts as talking points or ice-breakers. For instance, “I see you’re based in __ - I went there last year, it’s so beautiful!” or “I see you list Karate as one of your hobbies – how did you get into that?” Again, demonstrating that you want to engage fully with this person will put you in a far better position than other recruiters who aren’t doing this.


“What’s in it for me?” – this is the question you need to answer before they even ask it. This is going to be crucial to the passive selling process, as they will ultimately have to put in a lot of time and effort if they were to pursue your role; they may already be comfortable in their current job and location. In this vein, you need to gently address why this new role will benefit them. Draw upon your knowledge of their life/situation/career progression and feed this back into specific aspects of the position you are representing. But don’t be pushy, as passive candidates don’t want to be hard-sold to – only after you’ve built rapport, and worked out that they would actually fit the job specification, should you even begin to mention your reason for getting in touch.

5. Get in touch outside of office hours.

If they’re passive, they’re already employed, and won’t be expecting to be contacted out of the blue by a recruiter. If you try and call them during typical office hours, they almost definitely won’t be able to talk, and could end up getting annoyed before you’ve even said two words to them. If you do get through to them, always make sure you check that it’s a good time to speak before you begin the conversation.

6. Don’t be afraid to follow up.

They might be ignoring you, your email might have been picked up by a spam filter, or they might have just read your message at an inconvenient time. Send them a follow up, or call them outside of working hours for your best possible chance. If you don’t have their number, send a brief message asking if they’ve had a moment to consider your opportunity. They will hopefully be reminded, and be prompted to reply, or let you know they’re not interested.