Passive Recruiting: Playing The Long Game in Talent Acquisition

By: Sierra Rogers on June 30, 2022

On the last day of April 2022, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a total of 11.4 million job openings. Rewind back to April of 2021, and you’ll notice that there were two million less job openings (9.3 million) at the time. This illustrates that even though the widespread, record-high levels of turnover are slowing down, we’re still very much in a talent shortage that has recruiters in a crunch to fill open roles.


That being the case, it’s essential for employees with recruiting responsibilities to have an understanding of all the techniques they can use to fill roles—including recruiting passive candidates.

And considering that 73% of potential candidates are passive job seekers, if you’re not practicing passive recruiting, you’re putting your organization at a significant disadvantage during a time when it’s already harder than usual to find and hire quality talent.

If you’re a recruiter or hiring manager who’s looking for every possible advantage you can get when it comes to filling roles, you need to incorporate passive recruiting into your talent acquisition strategy. Ahead, we’ll cover everything you need to know about this tactic, including what it is, the benefits you can incur from deploying it, and tips for putting it into practice at your organization.

Short on time? Skip to our video at the end of this article for three tips you can put into practice to start recruiting passive candidates today.

What is passive recruitment?

Passive recruitment refers to the practice of engaging with potential candidates who have the skills and experience your organization needs, but who are not actively looking for a new job. With passive recruiting, the hope is that the candidate will be open to new opportunities (usually with preferable compensation, benefits, or perks) despite the fact that they are not proactively seeking a career transition.

What are the benefits of passive recruiting?

Recruiting passive candidates has its benefits, which is why it’s a strategy that’s used often by midsize to large organizations.

  • Expanded talent pool: As we mentioned at the top of this article, 73% of potential candidates are passive, meaning that by targeting passive candidates in addition to active candidates, you can more than double the size of your talent pool. This is especially important for recruiters who are responsible for filling a role with specific technical skills that may be limited or in high demand.

  • Opportunity to strengthen your employer brand: Let’s say you pursue a passive candidate, but they aren’t prepared to leave their current role just yet. If they had a positive candidate experience, they’ll remember your company and be more likely to apply for roles there in the future.

  • Less pressure on the process: Because passive candidates are already employed (or not actively looking for a job), they are less likely to be in a rush to get a new gig. By comparison, active candidates may be interviewing for several different roles at a time, which means they could reach the finish line in another process before completing yours.

Where should employers source passive candidates?

Active candidates apply directly to a job opening posted by your employer, but passive candidates have to be found and engaged with. That being the case, the sourcing process is different for passive candidates than it is for active ones. Below, we’ve outlined three places you can use to source passive candidates.

  1. Employee referrals: Employee referral programs work by encouraging your current employees to refer external candidates to open positions. If a referral is placed in a role and works for a set amount of time (usually six months), the employee who referred them typically receives an incentive, such as a bonus. Passive candidates often come from employee referrals, and as an added bonus, research shows that nearly half (45%) of referrals hired stay at their employer for four years or more.

Want to read a little more about referrals? How to Increase Employee Referrals With an EVP

  1. Professional networks: Professional networks are rich with passive candidates, and there are many different types to explore. For instance, LinkedIn is an online professional network that’s not tied to a specific industry. You can use LinkedIn and sites like it to search for candidates with relevant experience, but there are also networks for niche industries, such as the Dentist Entrepreneur Organization (DEO), the HR Exchange Network, the Project Management (PM) Network, and so on. Joining one of these networks will give you access to professionals who may have the skills you’re looking for, but who are also steeped in the knowledge of a specific industry.

  2. Social media: Speaking of LinkedIn, social networks in general are ideal for sourcing passive candidates. LinkedIn is one of the most popular options, perhaps because it offers subscription-based services that help recruiters source candidates. Facebook can also be a valuable place to look. If your employer has a Facebook page, you can push to have job openings posted there because there’s a high likelihood they’ll be shared. You can also join professional-oriented Facebook groups and engage with individuals there.


A Facebook group for creative professionals to connect and network with one another (Source)

3 tips for engaging passive candidates

Fortunately for small businesses, creating a passive recruiting strategy isn’t too difficult. In fact, you can start effectively engaging with passive candidates by following the three steps listed below.

1. Boost your employer’s online brand presence

Before you even begin reaching out to passive candidates, it’s a good idea to refresh your employer’s online presence. The reason why this is so important is that one of the first things a candidate will do when they become aware of your workplace is to Google it, and if they don’t like what they see (or there’s nothing to see at all), the interaction will end there.

Here are a few ways you can improve your employer brand:

  • Feature employee testimonials on your website: If you have a career landing page, you should feature a video or quote from an employee that explains what they enjoy about working for your organization. You can see an example of this on our very own Software Advice careers page.

  • Post social content that gives a glimpse into the employee experience at your workplace. This will give potential candidates a feel for what a day at work would be like at your organization. Try sharing content on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter that recognizes current employees for their accomplishments or shows valuable elements of your company culture (such as employee resource groups or ongoing volunteer initiatives).


A LinkedIn post offering a snapshot of Indeed’s company culture

  • Monitor employer review sites (such as Glassdoor). What former employees have to say about your company culture matters when it comes to attracting new talent. Set aside time regularly to read and respond to reviews on these sites in order to show that you are actively working on listening to feedback and improving your employee experience.

2. Start a conversation with the candidate

Once your employer’s online brand presence is in a good place, it’s time to start reaching out to passive candidates. You can do this by phone call, social media, or email.

Keep in mind that passive recruiting is a long-term commitment that works by establishing relationships with potential candidates. That said, the approach you should take when engaging potential candidates is to begin a conversation rather than immediately ask them to apply to an open position.

Below, we’ve written some talking points you can use to navigate these conversations, and remember to stay positive and professional, as this might be the first (and only) interaction they have to judge your employer by.

  • Start by introducing yourself as a recruiter.

  • Give them an overview of your company (and link to the “about us” or careers page of your website).

  • Ask them about their short- and long-term career goals (and make note of their answer should an opportunity that’s in line with their aspirations arise).

  • Ask them what kind of opportunity would make them consider transitioning to a new role.

  • Share information about your employee value proposition (EVP)—more on this ahead.

Tip: Need help drafting an initial email? Try using Workable’s Passive Candidate Email Template.

3. Share your EVP

Gartner’s glossary defines EVP as “…the set of attributes that the labor market and employees perceive as the value they gain through employment with the organization.”

To phrase this as a thought starter: What is it that your organization offers that makes job seekers want to work for you?

It could be a competitive compensation structure, a gracious paid time off (PTO) policy, extended parental leave, career development opportunities, or even just a unique office space that’s stocked with snacks. Whatever it is, understanding your EVP is crucial for recruiting efforts, because it allows you to communicate the draw of your organization as an employer to potential candidates.

Tip: Need help defining your EVP? Run a company-wide survey, and ask employees questions related to your total rewards program, such as “What is the benefit you value the most?” or “What makes our company different from others you’ve worked for?”

How you communicate your EVP to passive candidates is completely up to you, but in order to help you, we’ve included some examples of ways you can do this:

  • Write an EVP statement, and feature it on your careers page. An EVP statement is one to two sentences meant to inspire job seekers to join your organization. When writing your EVP statement, keep it authentic and concise, and focus on communicating the value of working for your organization from the perspective of a job seeker.


An EVP statement on Apple’s career page (Source)

  • Put together a one-sheeter that summarizes your employer’s benefits and perks. This kind of recruitment marketing collateral can be extremely valuable when attracting passive candidates. You can send an overview of things such as the kind of health insurance plans and retirement contributions your employer offers without having to rewrite the same information over and over again. You should also include a brief explanation of any unique perks your employer offers, such as a four-day work week or tuition reimbursement program.

  • Invite the candidate to an office tour, open house, or happy hour. Lastly, you can host an event for individuals who want to learn more about your organization, meet people who actually work there, and get a feel for the employee experience you offer. For the best experience, we suggest organizing a happy hour or mixer for small groups (five or less) of interested candidates, or focusing on one-on-one sessions that are a smaller time commitment (such as an office tour or coffee chat).

Strengthen your recruiting function by targeting passive candidates

In Software Advice’s Recruiting Strategy Survey, we asked over 800 employees with recruiting responsibilities what factors are currently hindering their recruiting efforts. The top answer was that there aren’t enough qualified job seekers.

Passive recruiting helps alleviate this problem by building relationships with qualified candidates who aren’t actively in the market for a new job. And the good news is that adding this strategy to your recruiting processes is relatively simple. Before you go, watch this short video for a recap of our three tips for engaging passive candidates:


The Software Advice Recruiting Strategy Survey was conducted in July 2021. We collected 300 responses from workers with recruiting responsibilities at U.S. employers. The goal of this survey was to learn how much companies are struggling with recruiting and hiring, and what solutions they’ve considered to improve recruiting and hiring outcomes.