What Are Passive Candidates? (And How To Target Them)

In the era of “one-click apply”, employers are often drowned in hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes and cover letters for each of their open roles. There are often a few great candidates mixed in with the massive pile of applications but finding them can be difficult and often the clock is ticking before they accept another offer. One common solution for this issue involves turning the process upside-down. Recruiting candidates on your own without posting a public job posting. One key aspect of this process involves utilizing passive candidates.

What are passive candidates?

Passive candidates are people who may accept a new position but are not actively searching for or applying for available roles. For instance, this may include people who are “open to work” on LinkedIn, publicly or privately, but are not applying for any jobs. Only recruiters and hiring managers can see when people mark themselves as privately open to work on LinkedIn. This means that some internal HR teams may not be able to find all the available candidates for a role that they’re attempting to fill.

Types of passive candidates

Here are some ways to categorize passive job candidates:

  • Candidates with stable jobs: Some passive candidates work in stable companies with strong company cultures or benefits. Convincing them to leave requires offering unique advantages that go beyond their current job.
  • Relocation candidates: Skilled professionals who are willing to relocate for the right opportunity fall into this category. They might not actively seek new roles in their current location but could be interested in positions elsewhere.
  • Career changers: These candidates are successful in their current fields but may be considering a transition to a different industry or role. If the right opportunity aligns with their aspirations, they might consider a move.
  • Semi-retired professionals: Experienced individuals who are semi-retired or working part-time may still be interested in occasional or specialized projects that match their expertise. They may also be interested in returning to full-time work with the right organization.
  • Niche experts: Talent with highly specialized skills or knowledge in niche industries or roles might not be actively looking for new opportunities but could be tempted by unique offers that cater to their expertise.

Why are passive candidates essential to the talent acquisition process?

Many of the most talented and experienced professionals are consistently employed. This means that they are unlikely to have time to search and apply for jobs, even if they are open to working at a new organization or in a new type of position. Reaching and securing these candidates can be essential for building truly impressive championship-worthy teams. Here are four ways you can find and secure the best passive candidates for your open roles:

1.     Partner with a talent acquisition firm that shares your vision

The most effective way to reach the most qualified passive candidates is to partner with a talent acquisition firm that shares your vision for the future of your organization from a talent perspective. When determining which firm to work with, it’s important to pay special attention to the information gathering, sourcing, vetting, and prequalifying processes that recruiters go through to fill each role. Some recruiters only screen candidates that have completed a job application, while other talent acquisition specialists may take the time to understand your business needs and then target and reach passive candidates. You can also use Talento’s network. Our recruiters have an extensive network of passive candidates. They source the best people for the job, not the people who appear ‘open to work’.

Read more: Talento’s Talent Acquisition Process


2.     Search on social media

Another common strategy for reaching passive candidates is to find them on social media platforms, like LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. According to a recent Pew Research study, 73% of job seekers ages 18-34 found their last job through social media. LinkedIn is the most popular and best suited for finding job seekers, but passive candidates may be difficult to find without the correct resources. Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter may be great places to find talented people, but they may not be as receptive to messages from employers on such platforms.

Here are some useful tips for sourcing passive candidates from some of the most popular social media platforms:

  • LinkedIn: Rather than sending the same mass message to every potential candidate, write customized messages for each person that focus on relating key aspects of their experience, skills, and education to the open role.


  • Facebook: In addition to posting jobs on your company’s Facebook page, you may consider hosting networking events for professionals in your industry and region. Create a Facebook post advertising your networking event and then source potential candidates at the event.


  • Instagram: Create a “story highlights” category titled “Careers”. Post stories that advertise open positions at your company and then save those stories to the “Careers” highlights. This way, when passive candidates navigate to your Instagram page, they can easily browse the available jobs. To take it a step further, you can use Instagram Insights to analyze the demographics of the people viewing your career-related stories.


  • TikTok: Join the latest business trends and add your own unique spin. For example, if a specific effect or filter is being used by businesses to market their brands, create a TikTok with that effect or filter that advertises your business and highlights that you’re currently expanding or hiring.


3.     Ask your current team for referrals

 Often, your team may be a valuable source of passive candidates through referrals. For example, your current IT manager may have a roommate that has extensive web development experience. These candidates have their advantages, such as integrated references and familiarity with members of your organization. Unfortunately, these candidates may not always be the best overall fit for the role. Exploring passive candidates referred to you by a talent acquisition partner, such as Talento Human Capital, may provide your team with more consistent assurance of high-quality, culture-fitting candidates.


4.     Utilize your greater professional network

Another key strategy for sourcing passive candidates is through face-to-face and digital interactions with members of your network. This may include older candidates that applied for previous jobs with your organization or talented individuals you know from previous roles. Reach out to these people by email or phone to schedule a meeting and determine if they’d be open to a new role with your organization.

Tips for securing top-tier passive candidates

Here are some additional tips to help you secure the best passive candidates for open roles:

  • Include salary and benefits information: Include an accurate salary range on your public job postings. If this isn’t possible, ensure you tell the candidates during the first screening interview.
  • Be flexible: Passive candidates typically already have a job, so it may be important to work around their schedule during the interview process. Try to be more flexible with the hiring timeline if you find a candidate that you like for the role.
  • Tread carefully during the assessment process: Although assessing candidates can be an essential component of the hiring process, ensure that you don’t request too much from your top passive candidates, especially if you already plan on making them an offer. If you feel that an extensive and comprehensive assessment that takes longer than an hour or two is a requirement for the role, consider paying the candidate for their time.

If you still find you’re having trouble sourcing, attracting, and securing the top talent for your open roles, it may be time to think about a talent acquisition partner. Talento Human Capital is an all-in-one acquisition, staffing, and human capital consulting firm with curated solutions for each of your talent goals.

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