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The Right Way To Approach Passive Candidates


Passive candidates should always be on your radar.

Even when you don’t have a role to fill, nurturing relationships with those who are ‘not actively looking’ will put you in a good place when something eventually piques their interest.

What is a passive candidate?

Simply put, a passive candidate is a person that is not actively seeking a new job.

These candidates (more often than not) are happily employed and valued contributors to their team and wider business.

But who’s to say that because someone is not actively applying, they are not open to new opportunities?

Passive candidates are an untapped goldmine for talent acquisition leaders and how you approach them is critical to forming trust and attracting them to your business.

What’s the best way to approach a passive candidate?

1. Recognise their employment situation 

Passive candidates that are happy in their role are also likely to be invested in the company that they work for. They may even feel guilty about talking to a recruiter. Take the time to recognise that you understand they may not be looking for a new role and that you are approaching them because they are seen as a dedicated and valued member of the workforce. This will help to put those who are perhaps not used to talking to recruiters at ease.

2. Research the company they work for

Showing that you have done your research on the company that they work for is another way to make the candidate feel understood and valued, while you build trust and rapport. Nothing is more impersonal than being approached by a recruiter and asked ‘So, what does XYZ do?’. It is important to demonstrate that you are familiar with the business and their reasons for being there.

After all, at this stage, it's you that wants them, not the other way round.

3. Understand what the candidate values

Not all candidates are driven by money. Some may enjoy the fact that they can walk to work or that their company pays for them to undertake training and development courses.

Asking questions like, “what do you value most about your current role or workplace?” will help you frame the benefits of the role you are offering.

4. Clearly articulate why the job would suit their individual needs

Always start by stating the basic details of the job you are hiring for upfront, including:

  • Salary or financial incentive package

  • Location

  • Job type (perm, part time, contract)

  • Perks and benefits

Then, go into the details of what makes this role a good fit, both professionally and personally by addressing:

  • The stage in their career

  • The responsibilities of the role

  • The team structure they’d be joining

  • Flexible working opportunities

  • Travel opportunities

  • The proximity of the workplace to their home

5. Use the right channels to communicate

SEEK research revealed that candidates prefer to be contacted by email initially but would opt for a phone call when scheduling or following up an interview.

Candidates also said that they appreciate recruiters who keep in touch but don’t bombard them with emails and phone calls.

Bullhorn’s 2018 Recruitment Trends Report revealed that SMS messaging is the fastest growing recruitment communication channel, with 65 percent of agencies expecting their usage to increase. Among Generation Z (born 1996 or later), texting is perceived to be more effective than phone and email, and it’s readily accepted among individuals in later generations.

While passive candidates shouldn't be deemed “better” than those actively looking for work, they do make up a large portion of the job market. You are fishing from a very small pool if you don't acknowledge the value that lies in those that aren’t actively knocking on your door.

Curious to know how automated reference checks could benefit your business?

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Xref is a secure, mobile-friendly reference checking platform that significantly reduces time-to-hire and helps protect against candidate fraud.

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