6 Best Practices for Recruiting Both Active and Passive Candidates

It’s a simple, frustrating truth that you can’t predict everything when it comes to recruiting for businesses. At some point in your role as a recruiter — perhaps more frequently than not — you’ll need to fill a position quickly and you’ll look for active recruitment strategies to do it. However, it’s not efficient or cost-effective to be in the active recruitment mode all the time. It’s important to also invest in building a passive candidate pipeline.

“Too many recruiters only offer an ‘apply or die’ approach to recruiting — either a candidate applies right now, or they might as well move on and not exist,” says Stanislaw Wasowicz, Chief Commercial Officer with Recruitd. “But if recruiters would give candidates the option to set an appointment in three months when their contract ends, it can start a conversation.”

There’s a strong case to be made for balancing the two approaches: recruiting active candidates for open roles today while actively building a passive candidate pipeline for future roles. But in order to do that, you need to strategically deploy different tactics that resonate with each candidate type.

Wasowicz defines an active candidate as one who is proactively searching for a job, and a passive candidate as one that’s happy with what they’re doing, not interested in changing jobs right now, but casually open to exploring other opportunities. But he’s quick to emphasize that, ultimately, the difference between an active candidate and a passive one is all context. A candidate can go from a passive one to an active one in a millisecond if they see an offer or an opportunity they’re interested in.

“Recruiters must remember that the passive and active candidate is the same person,” says Wasowicz. “When you see a report that 20 percent of the workforce is active and 80 percent is passive, that’s a number that switches over time because it’s tracking the mindset of those candidates. These are not different people — the same people can be active or passive at different times.”

Here are six tips that can help you build a recruitment strategy that attracts both active and passive candidates for the best possible mix:

Tactics for Reaching Active Candidates

Active candidates are hunting for a job and just as interested in finding a new role as you are in filling one. If you want to be effective in reaching the best possible active candidates for your job openings, keep these three things in mind:

1. Be Visible

First, make sure you’re visible to the candidates you’re interested in. Find out where they go online and invest your marketing budget in ads and outreach specific to your audience.

“You can’t just wait and hope that someone will fall into your lap,” Wasowicz explains. “No matter what niche audience you’re looking for, you can tailor your approach to different online spaces like forums on Reddit, social media platforms and membership sites like Kaggle.”

[Related: Post Open Jobs]

2. Look the Part

As you pursue visibility in the right places, make sure the message you’re putting out into the world is attractive to prospective active candidates.

“If you’re looking for software engineers, put some of your code on the job landing page and ask for feedback,” says Wasowicz. “Make sure active candidates see something they find attractive and relevant to their interests.”

3. Have Something to Say

A key part of your active candidate recruitment strategy needs to be refining your job description, messaging and intake content when a candidate finally reaches out.

“Once you have the attention of an active job candidate, you better have something to say,” says Wasowicz. “You can’t just have a conversation about basic benefits and perks, because every business has benefits and perks. You need to get your employee value proposition straight so candidates will know what you’re about.”

[Related: How to Build an Employer Brand]

Tactics for Building a Passive Candidate Pipeline

Most passive candidates are already employed and do not want to — or contractually cannot — change jobs. That’s why the key to recruiting passive candidates lies in paving the way for a long-term relationship. Because while it might only be a matter of weeks before you fill a role with an active candidate, passive candidates average three to six months — and can require as many as 8-15 touch points to become active and decide to switch jobs.

Here are three key things to consider when making an effort to fill your talent pipeline with passive candidates:

1. Start With Forecasting

Recruiting is a notoriously reactive field in which recruiters are tasked with filling roles quickly and on short notice. That might work for active candidates who can hop on a company’s time table to fill a role, but passive candidates require more planning to make the timing work out.

“Some of the largest corporations in the world don’t know who they’ll need to recruit in a month’s time, whether they’re losing an employee to a planned retirement or a temporary maternity leave,” says Wasowicz. “Looking at passive candidates means you have to play the long-term game and plan for your needs before there’s an opening.”

2. Research Your Target Audience

When you’re engaging passive candidates, don’t just blast inboxes with job descriptions out of context. Take the time to get to learn about the motivations and experiences of the candidates you want to recruit, then use that insight to create content, ads and visuals that will appeal to them.

“Sending an email blast to a passive candidate is like trying to kiss the first person you see when you walk into a bar,” jokes Wasowicz. “You need to make some eye contact first. For passive candidates, that means banner ads, simple GIFs, pictures and visuals to give them something light to engage with. When they react to that content, you’ll know there’s a mutual connection and you can retarget them with heavier content like videos and blogs, for example, until they’ll welcome a conversation.”

[Related: How to Build Company Culture Through Content]

3. Track the Conversation

Once passive candidates start engaging with your content, keep an eye on what catches their attention. Use that information to inform your next move, which might involve adding more of a certain kind of media or rewriting or removing unpopular content.

“Are candidates clicking through to your website? Are they downloading your content?” Wasowicz asks. “If 90 percent of the candidates that land on your job site leave right away, it’s a clear sign you need to have the conversation somewhere else or rewrite your copy. The only way to get better at that is to measure all of those touch points and figure out what’s working.”

No matter how hard you work on forecasting your talent requirements, recruiting will inevitably remain a continuous business need that is difficult to plan for. Balancing active and passive candidate recruiting approaches allows you to fill the roles that need to be filled while slowly and purposefully building a cost-effective, long-term candidate pipeline.

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