What are "passive" candidates, why is it so necessary to address them, and how do you actually do it?

Joost Siegerist - April 20, 2022
DIQQ staff walking towards camera in Amsterdam with a tram in the background.

The tension in the labor market is currently unprecedented. Indeed, at the end of 2021, for every 100 unemployed, there were as many as 126 vacancies. This trend is only expected to continue in 2022. As a result, companies are having more difficulty finding the right candidates. Most talent is often off the market within 10 days. So you only have to blink and a number of top candidates have already flown away. This is especially true in industries where positions are harder to fill, such as in the tech industry. Recruiters struggle to find the right people because there simply aren't enough active candidates available. Therefore, the opportunities lie in reaching the latent audience, or passive candidates. But what is the difference between an active and a passive candidate? And how do you capitalize on this target group?

Active versus passive candidates

Active candidates are actively seeking a new challenge and are often available (almost) immediately. They are the candidates who apply for a position on their own accord.  

Passive candidates are currently employed by an employer and not actively looking for a job, so they will not apply on their own accord. This does not mean that they are not interested in changing jobs, but they only do so for the right role, at the right time and at the right company. As a result, they are often not readily available. It is estimated that about 80% of the workforce is made up of passive candidates. So focusing on this target group can be lucrative, but it's important to know how to properly advertise your company and positions to persuade candidates to consider your offer. The following tips can help.

1. Ask managers what general qualities and skills of employees they prefer
Be sure to meet with the hiring manager as early and as often as possible to make sure you are on the right wavelength regarding the ideal candidate. Make a distinction between "must-have" and "nice-to-have" skills or attributes.  

In addition, regularly evaluate the total talent pool with the hiring manager. This can, in fact, be influential in determining whether any requirements of the ideal employee profile should be tightened or relaxed. In addition, a review can provide new insights about the priorities and trends that companies consider important at the time. According to LinkedIn, when two job criteria are removed or changed, the talent pool increases six-fold.  

2. Learn what passive candidates are looking for in terms of careers and employers
While on the one hand you want to make sure you are on the same page with your hiring managers about potential candidates, you need to pay equal attention to what passive candidates want in terms of their next job and what they are looking for in a next company.  

Research has shown that in their next job, for example, employees seek a better salary, more job challenge and a better work-life balance. This kind of data is crucial to identifying candidates' biggest pain points and must-haves.  

3. Attract strong candidates
A company that has a negative reputation may have difficulty convincing a candidate to want to work with them or for them. In contrast, a strong image can be a very effective recruitment tool.  In fact, the majority of candidates check reviews of companies before they want to work together. The better your company is positioned in the job market, the more likely strong, passive candidates will approach you.  

Another way to attract strong candidates is with employer branding: a strategy where you provide a glimpse into the lives of current employees, to show potential candidates where they might come to work.  

4. Proper way to communicate with passive candidates
Make the message you use to approach passive candidates as personalized as possible. Standard messages have a much lower conversion rate than personalized messages. A personal message creates trust with the candidate, which gives him the idea that he is not one of the many who are just approached.  

Standard rules for drafting a personal message are:  

  • Start with a catchy title that makes the candidate want to open the message  
  • Make the message personal by using information you have found about the candidate
  • Sketch a short picture of the position and the activities  
  • Explain how you think they can contribute to the team  

It is important to note that when talking to a passive candidate you should not sell a job through 'hard sales'. This is because hard sales is purely focused on sales techniques, which can hurt the importance of the relationship with the candidate. A better way may be to find out what someone is like and what his or her motivations are. This way you can make an accurate match between the candidate and the job. If that person is not interested, then maintaining contact is of great importance. You can use their network to get names of people who are interested in the job. This way, you expand your network and your candidate pool, which helps in reaching new candidates.

Keep the door ajar

Top candidates have more options than ever before. For that reason, it is important to be aware of how you advertise your company and positions to attract not only active, but also passive candidates and have them consider your offer. In addition, building a long-term relationship by keeping in touch regularly is crucial. This will make it easier to fill positions in the future. So if a passive candidate is not immediately interested at first, be sure to keep the door open for them!

For companies

Are you looking for IT professionals for your organisation? Find out how DIQQ can help you find the perfect match.

We want a new it professional

For IT professionals

Are you looking for a new IT challenge in the Netherlands? Find out how DIQQ can help you find the perfect match.

i want a new job
© DIQQ · 2022  ·  KVK: 68646852  ·  Privacy statement
Send us a message