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3 Ways to Find and Engage Passive Candidates

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Passive candidates play a vital role in recruitment. In identifying how it is first important to define what a passive candidate is.

What are Passive Candidates?

Unlike an active candidate, who is seeking a different job, passive candidates are not looking for a new position. Therefore, they make up a group of potential employees that would go undiscovered if you were to focus only on active candidates.

The fact passive candidates are not actively looking elsewhere also means less competition for you because they are less likely to be interviewing somewhere else. However, just because passive candidates are not looking elsewhere does not mean that they cannot be tempted.

We have identified three top ways to find passive candidates and what to do to engage them.  You may be asking, why choose passive candidates when so many suitable active candidates are applying to work for you? 

Why Passive Candidates?

It's a logical question – why target people who are not actively looking for a job, surely this takes more work on your part? 

It isn't that you are necessarily choosing passive over active candidates, because this isn't about one over the other. It is, instead, about looking specifically into the benefits of why passive candidates could be beneficial to your organisation.

Recruiting passive candidates is about targeting people because of their specialised skills and experience, without waiting for them to seek other employment. Doing this doesn't necessarily take more effort, it just means taking on a different approach in your recruitment style.

You will need to be patient with the process, taking it at the passive candidate's pace but this is a relationship that will be built on honesty. Passive candidates have no reason to stretch the truth about their skills or expertise because they were not seeking out a new role in the first place, so chances are you're going to get an open and honest conversation. 

How you source passive candidates and then approach them is crucial, but engagement is equally important; you're making a first impression that you hope will inspire someone to leave their current job. Not an easy task. 

The three best ways to approach a passive candidate and, most importantly, keep their attention that we have identified are:

  1. Using social media
  2. Utilising your talent pool
  3. Set up a referral program
3 ways to attract a passive candidate

1. Using Social Media

Identifying passive candidates is your first hurdle as a recruiter. A passive candidate that will grab your attention is content in their job and they have specialised skills you find desirable. This makes them valuable assets to you and their current employer.

There are more than three ways to meet potential candidates, of course, but they arguably pale in comparison to the giant that is social media. 

Don't get bogged down with how many different forms of social media there are. Instead, research what platform your organisation makes use of the most and start there.

If, for example, you find that your organisation is most active on Twitter, take advantage of the use of hashtags. You can follow certain hashtags, so you will receive a notification every time someone uses them.

Whatever platform you choose, it's about connectivity and forming a relationship. This is not the time to be sending out a half-thought out message. You want to connect to this person and tempt them out of a job they are currently not looking to leave.

So, how do you do this?

Sell Your Organisation

Now is not the time to be shy. You need to sell your organisation and to do this, you need to know your employer brand. Tell the passive candidate what makes you stand out and differentiates you from another organisation similar to you. This will enable you to engage with the right people.

People have grown used to the benefits of working remotely or in a hybrid environment. This only adds an extra hurdle for recruiters. How do you sell the culture of your organisation to prospective candidates when they are going to experience it from the comfort of their own home? 

Of course, the majority of candidates want to learn about the culture from the office itself. However, this is not the only way they can and want to learn about your organisation.

If your organisation has a blog, a website, or a big social media presence, share this with the candidate. Have your employees share their experiences on the blog with posts or videos of their own. 

It's your job to find ways to communicate your culture. Having a strong employment brand is one way to do this. Consider: what makes you different, but also do your values and goals align at all with the candidate's? 

Hiring a candidate is a two way street. A candidate has to be what you are looking for, but also your organisation and the role on offer has to be what they are looking for. 

Nowadays, candidates are likely to have the following questions for you, to understand if you will be a good fit for them. By knowing these questions and being able to clearly communicate your organisation’s responses to them will go a long way to supporting a successful hire who is hopefully around for the long term.

  1. How are you surviving the pandemic? What is sustaining revenue and growth? 
  2. Has your company added value during the pandemic? 
  3. Do you have a plan in place to face another crisis? What is your business resilience plan?
  4. What are your plans for flexible work?
  5. What are your plans for the future? What future projects are in the pipeline?
  6. What does your Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) policy include?
  7. How does your company recognise individual contribution?
  8. What does a career look like at your company?
  9. How does your company support diversity, equality and inclusion?
  10. What do customers think of your product and service?

At Xref, we are open about our flexible work policy and openly share what our customers think of our product, by celebrating our G2 reviews. Our strategy for thriving and adding value throughout the pandemic is publically documented through our reports for investors

An organisation's culture does not come from the building itself, it comes from within the team you have built. Communication and a strong brand are key here in your sales pitch.

2. Utilising Your Talent Pool

A talent pool is an excellent resource for a recruiter. Both passive and unsuccessful candidates can be utilised in a talent pool, so relationships you have built and talent you have not been able to employ previously do not go to waste.

It means not having to start from scratch each time you are recruiting. It offers you a perfect pool of candidates you have identified at a previous time. The best type of talent pool is one that is up to date, so make sure time is injected into this before you are at the recruitment stage. 

Xref’s People Search allows you to turn past references into future opportunities, by creating a talent pool. Consider someone who has left your company, or chose not to take a role despite interviewing. You can collect data from these types of potential candidates and uncover:

  • How they are known by the company
  • What roles they are ideally looking for in the future
  • What their key strengths are
  • Where they are currently working  
  • How they are perceived in terms of their suitability and fit

When utilised properly, the talent pool is an excellent resource in saving time, which is essential when trying to fill a role. There is also the option to go through your Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

How Can ATS Help?

ATS is a tool to make recruitment easier. It is software for recruiters to track candidates through the recruiting process and it is a place to store all information gathered during this process.

It has been proven to save money and time. You can tailor your ATS to work for you and it is built for businesses of all sizes. As all of your candidates' information is in one place, it is easy to access at a later date. So, if at the end of the interview stage, your passive candidate decides not to leave their current job, it has not all been for nothing.

ATS is also a useful way for you to look beyond the usual suspects. Talent pools and ATS can ensure Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI) quality hiring because they give high-level visibility on all the candidates your organisation has met over time. 

Again this relates to how important it is to know your employer brand, and how you communicate it. Not only is DEI important to consumers, but it is also important to candidates and current employees. Diverse and inclusive workplaces create loyalty and commitment within an organisation's team.

A lack of DEI sometimes speaks to a lack of communication during the recruitment process: if you have inclusive benefits, such as paid maternity leave or flexible time off, are you communicating this to candidates? 

The terminology that is used is crucial for isolating or inspiring a potential candidate. If your recruitment process promotes inclusive hiring, then your talent pool will be a diverse one. There are ways to achieve DEI within your organisation if you aren't doing so already. 

4 tips to achieve diversity, equality and inclusion in the workplace

You can

  1. Make a plan (after research on what others have done)
  2. Review your employee strength and understand how diverse your organisation really is
  3. Set KPIs and measure how you’re working towards your goals

Start by: 

  1. Emphasising your company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion 
  2. Promoting benefits like parental leave and childcare subsidies
  3. Removing gender-coded language
  4. Using thoughtful, inclusive descriptions

Diversity and inclusion is about encouraging organisations to think beyond culture fit and hire candidates whose backgrounds and perspectives can bring ideas and innovation. 

At Xref, we consider what our employer brand says about our diversity and inclusion through channels such as our social media and job descriptions. We proudly share team photos, where relevant, to help convey our company culture. This has a two pronged effect of helping our current employees feel valued and inspiring potential candidates. 

3. Set Up a Referral Program

Now, more than ever before, meeting people organically is more difficult. If you don't have a referral program, set one up. Referral programs are non-existent without your employees talking about you to their friends, so take advantage of these connections.

Incentivising your current employees in a sustainable way means coming up with an incentive plan that uses a combination of monetary and non-monetary incentives. Monetary rewards are popular, but costs can accumulate quickly. So, consider offering them something else.

Extra annual leave or trips away can be popular, but if you feel your ideas are running low, ask your employees. If you take their suggestions on board they will feel heard and valued.

A referral program bridges a gap between you and the weakness in reaching out over social media, email, or job platforms such as Seek, Monster, or Indeed. While a potential passive candidate may not engage with an unsolicited message from a stranger, they may be more receptive to a referral from someone they know. 

You can also use social media here to your advantage; post job openings from job platforms and blog posts to your organisation's social media and ask current employees to share them on theirs.

Make your site as user friendly as possible to make your job applications mobile-friendly. The more engagement you welcome and the easier you make it for people to access your information, the better.

Cultivating Relationships

a no now does not mean a no forever when it comers to recruitment

The relationships you create with a passive candidate are crucial in your recruitment journey with them.

Unlike an active candidate, you are enticing them with a role, so your sales pitch needs to be on point. You're looking to be prepared: do your research on the candidate, so your pitch is directly tailored to them. LinkedIn would be an excellent resource for this.

Be prepared to take the conversation slowly, you want to give the passive candidate time to consider your offer, so no one has any regrets later on down the line.

It's also important to meet their requirements – they might not want to meet in person straight away, or they might want to interview outside of working hours. The candidate may also say no, in which case the best idea is to back off.

A no now does not mean a no forever. If you've made a good impression on them, they may become an active candidate in the future, or even be willing to be added to your talent pool.

At Xref, some of our best hires have been a result of our internal referral process. We trust our diverse and dedicated team and this gives us confidence in the referrals they may make. 

Taking Everything Into Account

Recruiting passive candidates is about being creative and patient. It's about making the most out of the tools you have at your disposal and playing the long game. 

There are multiple variants required as a talent acquisition specialist to secure top talent. Being successful with a passive candidate is all about confidence, in your employer brand and how you communicate it.

You've identified some passive job seekers who would make an excellent addition to your team, and the way to communicate your interest isn't all that different to how you would communicate it to an active candidate.

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