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Passive candidate sourcing: recruit the untapped 70%

70% of the workforce is passive talent. They are not looking for a job, but the absolute majority of them is open to offers. This is how to tap into the biggest and the most untapped pool of talent in the global market.

September 29, 2020
Yuma Heymans
August 2, 2021

Why passive candidate sourcing is effective

Passive candidate sourcing is recruiting for talent who have not indicated that they are open for a new job and are not applying for any jobs.

Where most recruiters focus on inbound candidates that applied to job posts, there are recruiters that choose to focus on passive candidate sourcing.

And for good reasons.

Passive candidates make up the biggest talent pool

70% of the workforce is passive talent (source).

They are not actively looking for a job but are mostly open to discuss opportunities that are relevant for them.

83% of talent acquisition professionals see passive sourcing as an important source of hire (source).

There is less competition for passive candidates

Because the majority of recruiters still rely on active candidate recruitment, the competition for passive candidates is less.

This enables you to source in a bigger talent pool and have less competition at the same time.

Matches are more accurate

With passive candidate sourcing you decide who to reach out to.

With active sourcing a lot of unqualified people apply to your job that you will have to screen. This creates a lot of noise and can be a big waste of your time.

On average, you will invite just 2% of candidates that applied to a job for a conversation. The other 98% you have to screen but will not lead to any next steps.

Quality of passive candidates is higher

When recruiters focus their efforts on passive sourcing, 73% of them find higher quality candidates (source).

Even if an active candidate seems to be the right candidate, they might not have the right reasons to apply for the job.

They might be laid off or desperate to find just any job to get out of the discomfort at their current job.

These cases sometimes only surface when you already hired them.

Passive candidates are usually of higher quality because if they show interest in your job, it is usually because they really like the job you’re offering. Otherwise there would not be a good reason to leave their current job.

There is more data than ever

On LinkedIn only there are already 700 million users. GitHub has 65 million, Xing 19 million, Stack Overflow 14 million, Kaggle 5 million, AngelList 2.5 million not even to mention Facebook, Dribble, Twitter, Reddit and all the other platforms.

This data and the access to it enables you to find passive candidates in a very efficient way.

How to recruit for passive candidates

Passive candidates are usually employed. So it requires the right strategy to win them for your company and job.

These principles will help you to recruit passive candidates.

Search for passive candidates on other platforms than LinkedIn

LinkedIn is flushed by recruiters searching for candidates, the competition is fierce.

Most profiles that pop-up in search results are showing up only because these people have a full profile on LinkedIn.

There are a lot of candidates that are a good match for a job but that won't show up in the results simply because they don’t have enough information on their LinkedIn profile. Maybe they just are not active on LinkedIn.

Take engineers for example, you can better find them on platforms like GitHub and Stack Overflow.

This also accounts for other roles. These are the best LinkedIn alternatives for recruitment.

To recruit talent from several sources of talent it can help to understand which principles you can follow in cross platform sourcing.

Hyper-personalize outreach

Remember that when you reach out to passive candidates, it is very likely that they haven’t interacted with you or your brand yet.

Next to that, good candidates get a lot of mismatched outreach messages by recruiters who ‘spray and pray’ using automated messages.

Therefore you have to differentiate yourself from them and really deep dive into their background and interests and show in your outreach that you’ve done your research.

A hyper-personalized outreach message could look something like this:

Hi [first name], I saw that you’re a big Guardians of The Galaxy fan, can’t wait until the GoTG 3 release in 2023.

I’ve been looking at your GitHub repos and was impressed with your JavaScript projects, especially the chrome dev tools projects, not something I have seen a lot of people working on but seems to be very relevant.

With [your company name] we’re building out our [subject] app which is reaching 15k business clients and we’re looking for someone who’s able to not only write smashing JS code but who also can take the junior team to the next level (this is the product and tech stack we’re building on).

With the variety of your JS projects and the level of complexity you’re handling it seems to be something that you might love to do.

If you want to have a chat over this you can reply in short and I'll take care of arranging our chat. Enjoy this sunny day!

Emphasize career perspective

Better career opportunities are the #1 reason for job changes. Especially for startups and scaleups this creates major opportunities for talent acquisition.

You can offer a career where people grow with your company, at larger organizations there’s basically one way up and that’s climbing the ladder.

Take the time to build a relationship

Don’t dismiss talent that’s not a perfect fit for your current positions. You will literally let future hires go to waste.

Build a relationship and show how your company can focus on the long term value of a relationship. Don’t get transactional.

Respect the candidate’s anonymity

Passive candidates usually don’t want other people to know that they are exploring other opportunities because they are currently employed and don’t want to mess up current relationships.

Respect the passive candidate and their preference to stay anonymous.

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