How to recruit passive candidates
March 1, 2024
min read

How to recruit passive candidates

Eli McGarvie
Eli McGarvie

Let's face it: the real game-changers, the ones who can shift the needle significantly, aren't always on the lookout for new opportunities. They're what we call 'passive candidates,' and unlocking the potential of passive candidate sourcing techniques will help you find the hidden gems within the crowded job market. It's not without its challenges, sure, but the opportunities are vast and incredibly rewarding.

Identifying these passive candidates requires a bit more finesse and strategy than your usual active sourcing recruitment drive. It's about understanding not just who's actively seeking an IT role but who could be tempted by the right opportunity. Broadening your IT talent network to include these passive candidates allows you to strategically enhance your team with top-tier talent who might otherwise slip through the net. So, if you're looking to elevate your IT recruitment game and tap into a wealth of potential, here's all you need to know.

How to find passive candidates

Passive candidate sourcing can be a game-changer for your recruitment strategy. While the challenge lies in engaging with those not actively seeking new opportunities, the reward is accessing a broader, untapped talent pool. Here's how you can approach this strategically:

1. Meet passive candidates online

The internet is a treasure trove for finding talented candidates. Platforms like LinkedIn, IT-specific ones like GitHub or Stack Overflow, and even broader social media platforms are where these candidates spend their time.

Here's a pro tip: Finding them is only one part of the battle—you'll need to actively engage with them, too. Share insightful content, contribute to discussions, and don't shy away from sending a thoughtful DM once in a while. These actions can put you on their radar and, more importantly, keep you there.

2. Meet passive candidates in person

There's nothing like the personal touch. Attending, hosting or sponsoring industry conferences, seminars and networking events can put you right in the middle of where potential candidates gather. It's a chance to showcase your company culture and the opportunities within your organisation.

Remember: People are more likely to consider a job change when they've met someone from the team in person and felt a real human connection.

3. Meet passive candidates through connections

One should never underestimate the power of a strong professional network. It's no longer about who you know; it's about who your colleagues, friends and previous candidates know. Employee referrals are like gold dust in recruitment, offering a direct line to passive candidates who come pre-vetted for culture fit and skills. In fact, employee referrals have been found to have a 46% retention rate. Encourage your team to bring their connections into the fold, and don't forget to tap into your vast network of past applicants and colleagues for potential leads.

4. Meet them through past hiring processes

Speaking of past applicants, actually revisiting those who were strong candidates but didn't get the job can be a smart move. Don't just say you'll 'get in touch' when you add to your rejection email that you'll contact them when a position comes up—actually do it. We all know that circumstances change, and someone who wasn't quite right before might be the perfect fit now. Maintaining a positive, respectful relationship with these individuals ensures they're more open to considering opportunities in the future. Play the long game!

5. Meet them through tools and services

Let's talk about leveraging technology—you're hiring in tech, after all. There are a plethora of tools and services designed specifically for sourcing passive candidates, like Workable or Talentbin. These platforms can help you identify potential candidates, automate parts of the engagement process (but don't rely on automation too much) and even analyse the success of your strategies.

Features to look out for include AI-driven candidate matching, engagement tracking and integration with your existing HR systems. With the right tools, the process of finding and engaging passive candidates can become a seamless part of your recruitment strategy.

How to screen passive candidates

Screening passive candidates presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities. Since these candidates aren't actively seeking a change, your approach needs to be both respectful and engaging. It's about showing them an opportunity that's too good to ignore, all while ensuring that they're genuinely the right fit for your team. Let's look at how best to navigate the process:

Have a clear understanding of your objectives

First things first, you've got to know what you're looking for. This means having a crystal-clear understanding of the skills, experiences and attributes that are non-negotiable for future roles. Consider developing a candidate persona—a detailed profile of your ideal candidate. This persona can guide you through your screening process, helping you quickly identify whether someone might be the right fit even before you reach out.

Clarity is key here. It saves time for both you and the candidate and sets the stage for a productive conversation.

Check out passive candidates’ social media accounts

A Harris Poll found that 71% of hiring decision-makers agree that social media is an effective candidate screening tool. While social media is a goldmine, you need to tread carefully. Your goal is to conduct respectful and non-invasive research. Look beyond just the professional platforms like LinkedIn—the way a person presents themselves on platforms like X or Instagram can also offer valuable insights into their personality, interests and how they might fit into your company culture. You're looking for signs of their professional knowledge, passion for the industry and personal achievements that align with your company's values and the team's requirements.

Keep an open mind about their online presence

To add to that, here's something to keep in mind: An unconventional online persona doesn't necessarily mean a candidate isn't a good fit. In fact, someone who expresses themselves uniquely online might bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to your team. The key here is to look beyond the surface. Creativity, a sense of humour or a passion for causes could translate into soft skills that your team find valuable. So, keep an open mind and consider the broader picture of who the candidate is and what they could bring to the table.

How to recruit passive candidates

Recruiting passive candidates requires a blend of strategy, patience and personal touch. The goal here is to present an opportunity that resonates so strongly with the potential candidate that they can't help but consider a job change.

Here's how you can master this art:

1. Personalise your outreach

The first rule of thumb is to ditch the generic outreach. Take the time to craft messages that resonate on a personal level, mentioning specific achievements or interests that you've noticed. Always focus on how the role aligns with their career aspirations. Make it clear why the opportunity you're sharing is a step forward in their career path. This shows that you're genuinely interested in them as an individual, which makes them feel valued and makes it more likely that they'll say 'yes' down the line

2. Demonstrate company values

When sharing on social media, use real-life stories and examples to bring your company's culture, values and mission to life. According to a Gartner study, people want to work for companies where they feel a sense of purpose. You should also look beyond salary. Detail how your company supports professional development and learning. Highlight any unique career pathways, mentorship programs or continuous learning resources that your company might have.

3. Involve key team members during recruitment

Allowing candidates to meet their future colleagues can help them envision their place within the team and the company at large. Another great thing to do is to involve leadership since demonstrating leadership's interest in a candidate's growth and development underscores the value placed on employees. This has been shown to be a deciding factor for candidates considering a change.

4. Provide a seamless interview process

A seamless interview process benefits everyone involved. Offering flexible interview times shows respect for the candidate's current commitments and makes it easier for them to engage with your process. Be sure to also keep the interview process concise—no one likes to be dragged into interview #7 for a role they might not get. Each round should have a clear purpose and add value, respecting everyone's time and effort.

5. Foster a positive candidate experience

Ensuring that the candidate experience is as positive as possible adds value to your company's employer brand, regardless of whether the passive candidate makes the final cut or not. You need to treat every candidate you come across with respect throughout the process, regardless of their interest level. So, keep candidates in the loop about their status, next steps and expected timelines. Offer genuine and valuable feedback to all candidates. Clear communication is key to maintaining interest and trust and reinforces your commitment to professional development.

6. Build for the long-term

Develop a network of passive candidates interested in future roles. Having a ready talent pool can significantly reduce time-to-hire when new opportunities arise. And for candidates who decline your offer, don't take it to heart—the time might not be quite right for them. Keep the door open for future opportunities. Circumstances change, and today's 'no' might be tomorrow's 'yes'.

Key takeaways

In summary, mastering how to recruit passive candidates has become a necessity in today's fiercely competitive job market. We've walked you through the nuances of identifying, screening and engaging these valuable talents, highlighting the importance of a personalised approach while keeping a positive employer brand at the core of it all. With patience, respect and creativity, you'll be well-equipped to turn passive candidates into passionate team members.

At WeAreDevelopers, we connect you directly with our exclusive network of software engineers, particularly in Europe. Why scatter your role on generic job boards when you can:

  • Reach a targeted audience: Over 1.2M unique visits annually, centred on development and IT.

  • Engage with an active community: A yearly social media reach of almost 22 million and 120k+ members.

We have fostered a developer community that trusts us — and we can help you. We're the platform you need if you aim to make a real impact with your job listing. Ready to get started? Check out our IT recruiting services.


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