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Why Should Recruiters Focus on Passive Job Seekers?

SmartDreamers Team
4 min. read

Think back over your last 9-10 hires. Where were they sourced?



Chances are, based solely on statistics, 7-8 of them were not looking for a new role, and reached out to you based on your employer brand. They likely either came from your social media presence or an employee referral. 

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- The current job market is heavily skewed in favor of the candidate.

- if you aren’t dedicating at least some of your energy and budget to recruitment marketing you’re missing ~80% of your potential new hires.


We’re going to pause for a moment to clear up some definition confusion.



Passive candidates make up an estimated 80% of the workforce, meaning that while they make take some persuasion, these folks will move companies for the right role, at the right time, and with the right company.


Recruitment marketing is the practice of cultivating your company’s employer brand (EB) so that when these people see that perfect opening with you, they jump in and apply. Between this and directly going after a particular candidate you find on your own or have referred to you you have a picture of passive recruiting.

Passive Recruiting Entails a Major Shift in Approach


Active recruiting looks very much like traditional recruiting. That is, you craft a job description, post it to job boards, then wait for applicants to find it. If response is low, you may supplement by trolling the job boards for appropriate candidates with their resume posted, indicating their status as an active job seeker.


Passive recruiting, on the other hand, looks a lot more like inbound marketing.


- You’re posting on social media, writing blog posts, responding to other people’s comments on Facebook, and otherwise engaging with your following online.

- Your audience on these platforms have all expressed an interest in your company, your employer brand, and your EVP (employee value proposition) as demonstrated via your presence, making them de facto passive job seekers in that they will jump at the opportunity to join the company should the right opening appear.


Both approaches are valid and a solid recruiting strategy should include some amount of both.


The question is, why add passive recruiting to an existing active effort?

From our experience, there are 7 main reasons the passive recruiting approach should be considered required for most companies.


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1. You already know a lot about them


When you added recruitment marketing to your repertoire, you did create target personas, right? Then you already have a heap of information about your audience at your disposal.


- You can use that to tailor your content, as intended, but you can also use it to personalize your interactions with people.

- If you know, for example, that your target candidate for a particular opening is into a certain genre of movie, get acquainted with the newest releases and use that as a conversation starter.

2. They require less energy and resources to onboard


If someone who’s been following your presence for several months decides they’re ready to jump on board, chances are they’ve done their research. Studies show that somewhere north of 75% of candidates research potential employers before they apply.

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This takes a load off your onboarding team since these folks will know company history, mission, values, etc. And since they’re likely already working in their field, there won’t be a lengthy learning process while they get up to speed with how things work.

3. You need to build up your talent pool


The idea of a talent pool is nothing new. What is new is how you can fill yours up with high-quality potential applicants simply by asking for contact information.


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Now, when an engineering spot opens up, you literally have a list of engineers you already know are interested to draw from.

4. Quite simply, there’s a lot of them


Did you catch that 80% statistic earlier? That’s the estimate of how much of the workforce would be interested in moving jobs but is not currently actively seeking that perfect position.

We can break that down to the following 5 stages of interest:


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That’s a lot of people. And the more of them you get your messaging in front of, the more of them you’ll have to choose from to fill that new opening. Heck, you may not even have to advertise the spot, just put the word out to your pool and see who jumps.

5. They have the skill set you need


Since the majority of passive job seekers are currently employed, you have proof that they know their stuff right there. Ask for a portfolio of current projects, or references to teammates just in case, of course. But as a general statement, if someone is a working programmer, they can likely program.

6. You already know your EB resonates with them


You receive an application from someone who, in answer to the question about sourcing, says they’ve been following your Facebook page for 6 months. And now they’re applying for the first time to your newest opening for a full-stack developer. This is a pretty good sign that they’re going to be familiar with your employer brand and that it resonates.


Otherwise, why would a happily employed developer send out that application?

7. There’s less competition for them


You’ve been there. You’ve gone 2 interview rounds with a fantastic active candidate only to have them inform you that they’ve accepted an offer from your biggest competitor. That’s the one glaring downside to active recruiting, there’s a good chance you aren’t the only place they’ve applied, so you’re in a race for their attention and talent. With passive job seekers, you can take your time, resting easy in the knowledge that since they reached out to you, they’re interested in you specifically and you aren’t likely to run into this sort of time crunch.

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