How to Rock a Passive Candidate Sourcing Strategy – Part 2

By Kim McDonald | March 01, 2018

In today’s market, employers are still behind the eight-ball in terms of attracting quality candidates.  In fact, in a recent study conducted by Aberdeen, 85% of employers are struggling to construct a candidate pipeline1.  Candidates, and particularly passive candidates, have more offers than ever due to a reduced workforce fed by the exit of the baby boomers.  While including a passive candidate source plan in your overall talent strategy is important, it is equally important to ensure your processes are differentiated in a way that does not repel quality candidates

In the first part of our series, we covered tips to get a passive candidate strategy started.  In part 2 we will explore how to best differentiate your processes for attracting low talent availability (passive) candidates.

How must my processes differ?

When done right, you will have spent a lot of time nurturing these quality, passive candidates.  It is incredibly important to ensure your processes are equipped to manage these candidates.  This is not a one size fits all approach.  Below are great tips to differentiate your process.

Design a quick way for applicants to apply.  Your career website and application process is the gateway to your employment brand.  Your online application must make a great first impression and it has to be mobile-ready.  Passive candidates will not waste their time culling through 200 screens of questions on your Applicant Tracking System.  Design the online application process to be quick with no more than 10 questions and the ability to easily upload a resume. It is too early in the process to ask these gold candidates for a lot of information up front. They will not complete it. Remember, they don’t need a job.  Children’s Mercy, a renown children’s hospital in Kansas City instituted video interviews and a program called “Introduce Yourself to Us”2 as a way to interact with potential candidates who don’t have time to fill out a formal application.  A benefit they’ve seen in instituting this technology is an increase in diversity of candidates.  It also accounts for nearly 10% of the candidates they hire. 

Understand how to sell the job.  Passive candidates aren’t looking at your job postings.  When you are lucky enough to get one engaged to talk with you, you better know how to sell the job.  While it is important to have a great understanding of the job elements, start by selling what is most important to the candidate. Maybe it’s your organization’s ability to be philanthropic or your IT division’s innovation. Whatever you learn in previous conversations should be leveraged to market your organization. Discuss the candidate’s experiences and compare them to what you know to be successful of others in the job.  This will be far more beneficial to your organization and well received by the candidate than going through a list of questions that are specific to the job description. Remember, when passively sourcing candidates it’s your job to sell the position, not their job to convince you they are qualified. 

Conduct a “one and done” style interview.  This is not the time to bring in a panel of 10 interviewers or ask the candidate to interview five different times.  With the scarcity of skills for those critical roles, a re-evaluation of interview strategies must be completed.  Hiring Managers need to understand that you’ve been working with this passive candidate for months, and that he or she has finally agreed to come in and interview.  Passive candidates traditionally like to take control of the interview and will ask difficult questions.  Preparation and education for hiring managers to answer these difficult questions is key to convincing the candidate to consider the opportunity.   

Create on the spot offers.  If you want to win the talent war, you must be willing to move fast.  Once you have completed the interview phase, best practice is to make an offer within 24-48 hours.  Even though the passive candidate may not be actively interviewing with others, you want to secure them before they hit the market. Elements that make for a good offer include not only compensation and traditional benefits, but also other ancillary benefits such as commute time, vacation time, and work-life balance opportunities. You should know the critical items to include for this specific candidate from the previous conversations you have had with them.  Providing an explanation of career growth is extremely important.  Superstars won’t typically make a move if they don’t have a good understanding of the upward momentum they can gain by joining your organization. 

Ensure you are excessively following up.  As mentioned previously, passive candidates are getting many phone calls and opportunities. It is important to follow up frequently once you have them embedded in your talent acquisition process.  Simple quick emails, texts or a quick phone call let them know where they stand and should be implemented after every step to keep the lines of communication open. 

Make 2019 the year you assess the strength of your passive candidate strategy. For more information on how Talent Growth Advisors can assist you with your strategy, check out our Talent Acquisition Consulting Services.  


1 Full Cycle Recruitment Marketing: Attracting the Unreachable Candidate; Aberdeen / Zachary Chertok, November 2017)


Share this Article

Learn more about our unique approach to Talent Strategy Formulation.



Our Bloggers

Linda Brenner

Linda is an industry vet with keen observations and a knack for calling it like it is.

Meet Linda

Tom McGuire

Tom brings the unlikely blend of Finance & HR to the practice, illuminating readers with the link between talent and business value.

Meet Tom

Claudia Coker, PhD

Meet Dr. Claudia