How to build a talent pool of passive candidates

Your mission in 2019, should you choose to accept it, is to tap into a seriously under-utilised segment of the talent market: passive candidates.

There’s a good reason for this mission: 2019 will be a candidate-driven market.

According to the Hays 2018-19 Salary Guide, 77% of the 3,000 surveyed organisations in Australia and New Zealand believe business activity will increase in the 2018-19 financial year, and 40% expect the economy to strengthen in that same timeframe. This positive sentiment will also be seen in hiring activity: 47% of employers intend to increase permanent staff levels and 22% will increase temporary and contract staff numbers.

The downside is that 67% of employers indicate that skills shortages are likely to impact the effective operation of their business or department in either a significant (26%) or minor (41%) way, with mid management professionals the most difficult to recruit.

These stats show that it’s time for employers to get creative with their hiring strategies. In a tight labour market, passive candidates become the most premium, sought-after recruits. They’ve got the right skills and the right attitude toward the job; however, they are quite content to stay where they are and are not actively job hunting. They are like the ultimate dangling carrot for hiring managers, so close yet so far away.

What differentiates passive candidates from active candidates? Here’s a summary, based on information from LinkedIn:

Research[1] shows:

  • 22% of workers in AU (19% in NZ) claim to be actively looking for their next role
  • 42% of workers in AU (45% in NZ) are open to talking with a recruiter
  • 17% of workers in AU (14% in NZ) are talking to their network
  • 19% of workers in AU (21% in NZ) say they are not interested in a new job

It’s time to focus on these passive candidates, even if this seems in some ways counterintuitive. Don’t HR professionals and recruiters have enough on their plate converting active jobseekers into candidates/employees without having to worry about people who haven’t made the decision to search for new opportunities?

The reality is these candidates are worth the effort. Passive candidates are generally:

  • Content in their work
  • Valuable assets to their current employers
  • Less likely to be interviewing with other organisations, which means less competition for you
  • Less likely to stretch the truth about their skills on their resumes – they don’t feel they need to, given that they are not proactively seeking a new opportunity

Surprisingly, just 61% of employers currently have a strategy in place to recruit passive candidates, according to LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends survey.

Here are 3 ways to tap into this vast talent market.

  1. Referrals

Happy and engaged employees are ideal ambassadors for your organisation and can be a key source for referrals. Today, the reach of employees is amplified as they can push jobs out through their social networks. By empowering employees to refer friends, contacts and former colleagues, and rewarding them for doing so, you are capitalising on what’s known as the “employee multiplier effect” and dramatically boosting your company’s social reach. The people put forward as possible employees are the next best thing to a “known entity”, especially if you trust the referrer. Not only is there a good chance the new employee will be familiar with your company and its culture due to their connection to the referrer, but you’re also giving existing employees a sense that they, too, can help shape the culture of their organisation.

  • Past candidates

It happens: a well-suited candidate gets pipped to the post at the last hurdle, and you hire another equally well-suited candidate. Do you disregard that application or add it to your talent pool? If you have an eye on the future, you do the latter. If a candidate has applied and been rejected, they clearly have an interest in the organisation and are worth keeping on file to follow-up with. Engaging with past candidates and keeping them connected via social media to the organisation, can create a new talent stream of passive candidates.

  • Social media and your employment brand

Social media is not just for job distribution to active candidates; it’s also a great way to get your organisation in front of passive candidates. LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook updates on workplace improvements, team building experiences, or posts (including videos) that show company culture can entice a candidate who may have previously been sitting on the fence and unwilling to leave their current job. One survey[2] reveals that 94% of jobseekers are more likely to apply to a job if the employer actively manages their employer brand online. Moreover, 86% of HR professionals agree that recruitment is becoming more like marketing, and 72% agree that candidate relationship management (CRM) tools should live within a talent acquisition or recruitment system in order to keep track of the candidate journey, send updates and provide reporting and analytics. However, given that every other organisation has a presence on these social channels, employers need transparency, authenticity, and creativity to win the candidate’s attention and interest online.

Enter AI

The next step will be for AI to take the pain out of searching for and tracking passive candidates. Bots are already being used to scour hundreds of websites, including personal sites and chat rooms, in addition to traditional social media sites, to identify passive candidates. These bots can predict the likelihood that someone is open to a job change by analysing things like how long someone is in a job, whether their company is downsizing, and other factors. Those candidates can then be matched with job criteria to find the best fit.

From passive candidate to engaged employee

Sourcing passive candidates is one thing; convincing them to join your organisation is another. Keep in mind that this is flipping the traditional recruitment approach on its head: instead of them reaching out to you about a job, you’re reaching out to them. Think about why you’ve made that decision – was it their experience, their skills, or perhaps you’ve had a previous professional interaction with them? Then communicate that to the candidate-to-be. Remember, they don’t “need” you and they will probably be picky about moving from a job they like. It’s also possible they may fall into the 15% who simply are not interested in a new job.

Finally, remember that this is a long game; building a pipeline of talent takes time. In your initial communication with them (SEEK research[3] shows candidates overwhelmingly prefer to be contacted initially via email), let the candidate know that you’d like to hear back from them, even if they’re not interested right now. By getting them to respond, you can build a relationship, introduce useful networking connections, or at least ask if you can contact them at a later date.

To convince a passive candidate to consider a new position, SEEK suggests there are a several things hiring managers must do: 

  • Offer a better salary or financial incentive package than the current role
  • Give honest information and insight about the position 
  • Show a good understanding of why the job would uniquely suit the candidate and their needs 

The more communication you have with your passive leads, the more likely they will warm to you and remember you when they are ready for a change.

ELMO Recruitment allows employers to drive their recruitment strategy from a simple-to-use, centralised system. Employers can tap into and nurture leads from the passive candidate market by creating candidate talent pools, which consist of candidates who were initially unsuccessful but may be a good fit for future roles. ELMO Recruitment also helps to reduce cost-to-hire thanks to branded external and internal career portals, and integration with external job boards and social channels. For further information or to request a demo, click here.


[1] LinkedIn Talent Trends, 2014

[2] https://www.icims.com/hiring-insights/for-employers/ebook-recruitment-marketing-fad-or-future

[3] https://insightsresources.seek.com.au/how-to-approach-passive-candidates

Learn more about how ELMO can help your organisation.
Learn more about how ELMO can help your organisation.