As a recruiter, you know that the ideal candidate is a particular blend of skills, experience and personality, and finding that specific individual can be a challenge. Sometimes, you are able to source them through applications that you receive, but you cannot always rely on the ideal candidate coming to you. Sometimes, you have to seek them out yourself—even if they are already employed by another organization.

Passive candidates are not necessarily more qualified, more talented or in any way better than candidates that are actively looking for new opportunities, but they do make up 75 percent of the available candidate market, according to LinkedIn.

If you do not already have some kind of strategy to source and attract passive candidates, you are limiting the quality of potential candidates that you can provide your clients. For that reason, it is important that you understand what motivates passive candidates and what methods you can use to get them interested in new opportunities.

The Challenges of Attracting Passive Candidates

A passive candidate is an individual that is already employed, not actively looking for new opportunities (although, they still may be interested in talking with a recruiter), and even if they were to accept an offer, they would most likely not be able to start right away. These individuals are comfortable or at least content with their current position at their organization. Asking them to leave all of that for a new opportunity can be a difficult and intimidating prospect for them to consider.

That is the singular challenge of attracting passive candidates: convincing them that the potential potential benefits of taking that leap outweighs the potential risks. To effectively address and overcome that challenge, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How recognizable is your client’s brand? There are few organizations that everyone is able to instantly recognize and have an opinion about. Whether or not your client is one of those organizations, you will nevertheless need to be able to explain the value and appeal of your client in an effort to entice a candidate. Your summary has to be succinct, engaging and informative. One of the most effective ways of crafting your pitch is to focus on the values and the quality of your client’s work environment. Use a more conversational tone to highlight how the opportunity can provide the candidate with a valuable experience that they are not getting at their current position.

  • What is the best way to approach a passive candidate? No one enjoys receiving unsolicited emails or messages, so you must approach a passive candidate in a thoughtful, measured manner to ensure that they actually read your message. If you found the candidate through a referral, mention the name of that individual as a way to establish rapport. Regardless of how you found the candidate, the most effective messages are those that are written specifically for that particular individual. Do not use a boilerplate email that could apply to anyone—regardless of the opportunity. Personalized messages let passive candidates know that you took the time to research them, learn what their skills as well as what they are passionate about, and shows them that you believe what you claim—that they would be the ideal individual for the opportunity.

  • What information about the opportunity or your client would be the most effective hook? Most likely, a passive candidate is comfortable with where they are and with what they are doing. Asking them to leave that behind would be an inconvenience, so you need to have a compelling reason for why they should. One of the most effective hooks is to provide a colorful narrative about your client and the opportunity rather than just delivering a bulleted list of expectations and requirements. In fact, according to the most recent LinkedIn U.S. & Canada Talent Trends Report, 75 percent of passive candidates want to know about an organization’s culture and values along with its perks and benefits. This emphasizes that you should market your client and their organization’s work environment rather than the position. Highlight the potential value of accepting the offer, but make sure that it is better (or in some way different) from the candidate’s current position.

Depending on your client and the opportunity, you may have additional questions that you need to consider first as well. However, these three should always be asked, as they provide you with a clear, well-defined basis from which to work.

Strategies to Source and Attract Passive Candidates

While it may be an oversimplification, there are two main strategies in recruiting: targeting a specific type of candidate and targeting a broad range of potential candidates. It’s like using a spear or a net to fish. A spear will allow you to target the fish you want while a net will force you to sort through plenty of undesirable fish before you find one that is suitable. If you are trying to effectively source a passive candidate, you would need to use a “spear” or a targeted strategy, as it would ensure that the messaging would be tailored specifically to that qualified candidate.

Here are six strategies to source and attract passive candidates that you may find beneficial:

  1. Use short skills challenges instead of the traditional resume and CV. The application process for passive candidates is different than with other candidates as they did not apply for the position—you reached out to them. In general, if you are contacting a passive candidate, you should already have the majority of their information but there may be a few gaps. Instead of having them send you an up-to-date resume and CV, ask them to complete a short skills challenge. In general, a skills challenge takes between 10-15 minutes for a candidate to complete and it helps to let you know their skill level and educates the candidate on the job opportunity while removing the traditional barriers of applying (i.e. resume and CV) for a position. It also creates the impression that they have already advanced beyond at least one of the initial application barriers and are a desirable candidate, which can help establish interest in the opportunity.

  2. Offer a flexible interview process. As they are currently employed, passive candidates often do not have plenty of time for an interview. What’s more, if you provide a poor interview experience, you are likely to lose an average of 65 percent of candidates, according to LinkedIn. That is why it is important to provide candidates with multiple alternative interview options, such as phone and video interview as well as flexible hours that work with their schedule. In addition, a flexible interview process signals to the candidate that you value them and their time.

  3. Reach out to individuals in your candidate database.Your candidate database is an invaluable resource, as it provides you with a pool of potential candidates—regardless of whether they are currently employed. Even if they are not interested, you can still ask them if anyone they know would be. Or, if there are no qualified candidates in your database, you can ask individuals that have parallel skills and experience if they would know anyone. For example, asking a graphic designer if they could refer any project managers or if an editor could refer any freelance writers.

  4. Attend industry-specific networking events. Networking events are a beneficial way for you to make new connections and add talented, skilled individuals to your candidate database. Regardless of how quickly you are able to place someone that you met at an event, they could nevertheless be a valuable resource and lead you to someone that would be an ideal candidate. What’s more, networking events provide you with the opportunity to make lasting connections within specific industries and with organizations in those industries.

  5. Promote opportunities on social media.Within the past several years, social media has become a common and invaluable recruiting tool. In fact, recruiters that use social media have reported a 50 percent increase in the quality of candidates that they source, according to the business journal, BusinessWest. However, before you can start to see similar results, you need to know how to effectively use the three big social media platforms:

    • LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the most popular social media platform that recruiters use to source passive candidates. Unfortunately, over half of hiring managers believe that this oversaturation has caused the effectiveness of sourcing passive candidates to drop, as everyone is trying to take advantage of the same candidate pool.

      Rather than reaching out to passive candidates on LinkedIn, use the site as a research tool. After you find a promising candidate, use a contact data provider, such as ZoomInfo, to collect their phone number and email address. Then contact them through either of those channels, which can provide a more personal interaction. However, if you do choose to contact a passive candidate on LinkedIn, keep these factors in mind:

      • Keep your message brief (i.e. less than 500 words).

      • Highlight the culture of your client’s organization along with the aspects of the position that the candidate would find the most interesting.

      • Place the responsibility of continuing the conversation on you. Let the candidate know that if they would like to learn more about your client or the opportunity, you would be willing to discuss it at their—not your—earliest convenience.

    • Facebook: Sourcing passive candidates on Facebook can be cheaper and faster than using LinkedIn or other job boards. One of the site’s strengths is that it enables you to conduct granular searches of its users.

      If you do find a passive candidate, consider whether you should reach out on Facebook or on another platform. Reaching out on Facebook may not be the most effective method, but if you do choose to do so, emphasize that while this is not typically how you would go about contacting an individual, you have an opportunity that they would be a great fit for.

    • Twitter: Twitter is one of the most underused social media platforms by recruiters, which may be because it can be more of a challenging tool to source passive candidates with. However, used correctly, it can be an effective tool. Follow these guidelines when using Twitter to source:

      • Complete your profile, which should have a profile picture, a banner image and a bio. Your bio should provide candidates with a clear summary of who you are and what you do. You may also want to include your email address to provide candidates with a way to reach you other than through Twitter.

      • Tweet between three and five times a day. Your tweets should contain useful information, relevant hashtags, and either a photo and video. This helps you establish professional context, so when you approach a passive candidate, you will be seen as a trustworthy authority.

      • Search industry-related and location-based hashtags to identify potential candidates.

      • Follow industry leaders, organizations and events, and observe who is liking and retweeting posts. In addition, participate in relevant discussions to help build rapport within those communities.

  6. Incorporate AI-enabled tools into your sourcing. With artificial intelligence (AI) sourcing tools, you can better automate your sourcing process and identify ideal candidates. What’s more, after analyzing enough candidate data, AI-enabled tools can even predict which passive candidates would be open to new opportunities, which can help you save time.

How an ATS can Help Source and Attract Passive Candidates

Even with the right strategy, attracting a passive candidate is not a simple task. For that reason, it is important that you use all of the tools available to you, including your applicant tracking system (ATS). Designed to automate the recruiting process as well as dramatically reduce the time-to-hire, your ATS can provide you with an advantage when you source and attract a passive candidate.

Here are three ways that your ATS can help:

  1. Create a database with detailed candidate profiles, which should include their professional strengths, qualifications, experience and work history. This can help you quickly identify a potential candidate or reference that may know an individual that would be a good fit for the position.

  2. Send candidates text messages, which have an open rate of 98 percent, according to Business 2 Community. What’s more, marketing text messages have a response rate of 45 percent while email only has a response rate of 8 percent. Texting also provides candidates with a discreet way to communicate with you, if you contact them while they are at the office.

  3. Use sourcing tools to conduct granular searches across several different candidate databases to quickly identify potential candidates with the specific skills and experience necessary for the position.

The Right Strategy to Source and Attract the Right Candidate

Passive candidates currently make up the majority of the candidate market. However, with tailored sourcing strategies, you will be able to identify strong potential candidates for your clients.