How to Rock a Passive Candidate Sourcing Strategy: Tips

By Kim McDonald | December 20, 2017

With a candidate shortage in many industries today such as healthcare, technology and retail, the need to create candidate pools long before a position becomes open is critical.  Having a passive candidate strategy in place plays a key role in your overall Talent Acquisition performance and your ability to win the best candidates.  In fact, Bersin's high Impact Talent Acquisition research1 indicates that candidate pool development is the second most influential driver of Talent Acquisition performance. 

So why are so many organizations still struggling to incorporate this into their overall strategy? The bottom line - having a passive candidate strategy takes time.  While Talent Acquisition departments continue to be stretched thin and top talent is scarce, the time is now to develop your passive candidate strategy.

Tips for getting started with a Passive Candidate Strategy

  1. Don't boil the ocean.  Ensure you are regularly meeting with your business leaders to understand the key critical positions for the organization.  Start your passive candidate strategy with the critical positions that will add the most value to the bottom line for the organization. 
  2. Be sure you understand where to look and go where your candidates are active.  With all the avenues of social media today, you can research and uncover literally billions of candidates utilizing sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.  Be sure to integrate other underutilized social media sites such as Instagram and Snapchat.  A nationally recognized retailer, Domino’s Pizza leveraged the power of Facebook (through its partnership with Work4), to reach millions of restaurant workers that were targeted to their specific demographics.2 With social media, one thing to keep in mind is that some types of candidates, such as mechanics, don't necessarily visit these sites regularly and require other tactics. Be sure to check out a few of these tactics below.
  3. Have a way, whether formal or informal, for systematically reaching out to these candidates.  Today there are a plethora of recruitment marketing systems that will help you to define campaigns, automatically connect with your candidate pools and create awareness of your organization, its culture and open positions.  If you don't have one of these systems, don't be afraid to keep it simple.  Make sure to track specifics of the conversation so that can be utilized in follow up conversations.  The more personalized you can make the experience, the better.  The goal is to ensure you stay in touch with those valuable passive candidates that you have taken the time to research and find.  CDW, a $12B provider of integrated information technology services recognized the need for this strategy when they began to retool for growth.  Improvements were needed in the way in which they sourced talent before they applied to positions.  They sought out a technology that would help them keep in touch with these prospective, passive candidates.  The result – they selected Smashfly that integrated with their ATS, Taleo and implemented it within four months allowing them to track and easily interact with their passive candidates. 3
  4. Set a goal and measure yourself.  Recruiting in this way is like sales.  It will require you to talk with several candidates before you get one interested in taking the next step.  However, don’t discount those in your pipeline that say they are not interested.  Ensure you continue to stay in touch because timing is everything. 

A typical strategy will take at least six months to a year before it bears the fruits of passive candidates.  This also depends on how much time you are willing to dedicate to this strategy.  We recommend dedicating 1 sourcer/researcher to every 3-4 recruiters in mid-size to enterprise organizations.  If your organization is small and recruiters wear many hats, try dedicating a percentage of time every day to researching where your best passive candidates work.

Creative sources to use as part of a passive candidate strategy

Not all sources cost money--just time.  Research what associations and conferences your candidates attend and meet up with them live.  Even though we are living in the digital age, there are many positives to a traditional face to face meeting.  If it is not a conference that you would typically attend, draft your hiring manager to meet up with the candidate.  Candidates will love to learn directly from hiring managers what it is like to work in their area of expertise.

Work with your hiring manager and HR business partners to identify alumni and stay in contact with previous employees. Given that 20% of turnover happens within the first 45 days of employment4, often times keeping up with previous employees who thought the grass might be greener with another organization can produce the boomerang effect and convince them to return.

Promote your Employee Referral program vigorously.  It is a great way to uncover candidates who would be open to a conversation that may not be seeking employment.  It has been proven time and again that employees who are referred are better producers, learn faster and have a higher retention rate than those from other sources.

In our second installment, learn why your process must be differentiated in order to attract passive candidates. 

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You may also want to read The Most Effective Recruitment Process and download our Recruiter Workload Calculator.

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1Navigating a Complex Function & an Explosive Technology Landscape; Bersin by Deloitte / Robin Erikson, Ph.D., 2016)


3Effectively Engaging Prospective Candidates:  Propelling CDW’s Aggressive Growth Targets with a Recruitment Marketing Platform; Bersin by Deloitte / Denise Moulton, 2016)


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