Why Should You Focus More On Passive Candidates?

Are you curious about what a passive candidate is and how you can make the most of the market?

Per LinkedIn, 70% of the total global workforce got to their current job by being a passive candidate. (“Passive” candidates are usually those already employed, as opposed to “active” candidates who are looking and often need something immediately.) That’s a huge chunk of the global labor pool. But passive candidates often work out for companies too — 98% of talent teams currently list passive candidate strategy as “important” and there’s Jobvite research that says passive candidates are 120% more likely to make a strong initial impact on the business. So clearly we need — and will end up with — passive candidates. How can we be more strategic about doing that right?

Intelligent candidate sourcing

Intelligent candidate sourcing works like this. We will use an example with some standard recruiting industry values. Many jobs get about 250 applicants. Many recruiters say that about 30% of applicants are totally qualified for the role. So, 30% of 250 is 75. Ultimately the job goes to one person. That means you have 74 people who are qualified for that role but didn’t get it. Many of those 74 are passive, meaning they applied to your job even though they currently had a job. They probably applied because they were unhappy with some aspect of their current job (compensation, manager, commute, etc.) In three months, you have a need for a similar role to the one you just hired — maybe not exactly the same, but in the same department, etc. Now you have 74 candidates you can start with, as opposed to launching an entirely new search. It makes your work much more time-efficient. (Consider also that a lot of these candidates might have been phone-screened, which also cuts down on your work in a new search.)

But you need to do something in those months where you don’t have an open role

Let’s go back to these 74 qualified candidates that you didn’t select. For ease of math, assume half of them are passive, i.e. already have a job. That’s 37. Well, if they were applying to your job, chances are they are applying to other jobs too. One of those jobs may take them off the market before you have a similar role open up for them. Here’s how you can try to manage that: be proactive in communicating with them even post-rejection. Many companies are not good at this, and usually send the generic rejection and then move on. That can alienate candidates and leave a sour taste for your brand and company.

Now, we don’t think you should tell every candidate the specific reason they didn’t get the job. That’s out of compliance and extremely time-consuming. But, if they’re on an email list or in your database, engage them with stuff that your brand is doing: products, services, new research, and the like. Smashfly has found that 48% of companies never send another email to these “qualified but not selected” candidates. Then if it takes six months for a similar role to open and you’re trying to re-engage that group, they haven’t heard from you for half a year. They may have already found another job, or forgotten about your existence.

The tech part — having candidate intelligent sourcing in place — is the cornerstone of the passive candidate process. It’s sourcing from a pre-qualified pool. How great is that? But because you’re probably not opening roles every second (unless you’re in insane growth mode), the tech isn’t the entire strategy. You also need to engage with the passive candidates in the gap time between “they missed out on one role” and “a similar role has opened.” You need to keep those lines of communication open.

The other path to passive candidates would be …

Referrals. Find out from your current employees who they previously worked with that they really respected and enjoyed, who was a good cultural fit, etc. Referrals have a high ROI because now you would be bringing in a “known entity” for a discussion instead of someone you find from a sourcing channel or general application method. 

As with everything, tech + people + effective communications wins the day

That’s where recruiting is now. Use tech to help you, but make sure you’re being human and professional in your communication and approach with candidates. Use tech to save time (and money) while allowing your human recruiters to focus on the relationships and the long-term skills gap/forecasting strategy. That’s the path to effective talent teams in 2020.

Diego Gomez

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