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David Mills
By David Mills on June 07, 2021

Why Now is the Time to Recruit Passive Candidates

For staffing intensive businesses, passive candidates represent a big growth opportunity in 2021. Following the disruptions of 2020, the number of job changers has risen. According to a Harris Poll, 52% of U.S. workers are considering a job change this year, and as many as 44% have actual plans in place to make the leap. 

The focus on the big job listing sites is solely on active candidates. Beyond direct recruiting and referrals, most agencies don't have a system for recruiting passive candidates. They remain largely invisible to these important prospects.

What is an active candidate? Active candidates are those who are actively looking for a new opportunity and are immediately right away. They're the candidates that apply for jobs through one of the job listing sites or on your website.

What is a passive candidate? Passive candidates are people that are currently employed, plus those who have remained unemployed due to the pandemic or for family or personal reasons. They aren't actively looking for a job, but that does not signal a lack of interest. They may not be available right away, and they don't usually respond to a simple job listing.

What percentage of people are passive candidates? In normal economic times, the size of the passive candidate pool is estimated to be 70%. Even without the disruption of 2020, this is by far the largest number of people. But this number has swelled due to long-term unemployment, increased support via unemployment benefits, and new family and personal realities following the pandemic. 

workshop employer brand story

An increase in the pool of passive candidates

The disruption of 2020 has also created a new awareness for many who have worked at home, or have been able to spend more time with family. The desire for greater flexibility, opportunity and meaning is on the rise. This doesn't include the large number of people who have simply been displaced from previous jobs.

Whole new groups of people are now in the passive candidate pool including:

  • Those whose industries have been shut down for a year or more including hospitality and travel.
  • People who didn't have high job satisfaction before the shutdown, and have had an extended period away from work.
  • People who have discovered new talents or interests in the last year.
  • People who have had to step in as caregivers or educators.
  • People that have enjoyed greater work flexibility.

Recruiting in the passive market holds real promise for agencies that are having difficulty filling essential positions. There are multiple reasons why this should be a recruiting focus:  

  1. When you connect with a passive candidate, you aren't competing with 20 other companies to hire them.
  2. Your hiring window with the passive market is longer since they are not trying to make a job change today.
  3. You can build a pool of passive candidates, and as long as you continue to deliver value to them, you don't have to treat them like a perishable commodity. You can build relationships based on your company values and cultivate great employees.
  4. When you build visibility with a specific segment of the passive candidate pool, it will work for a large number of people. 
  5. If you have a method for reaching and engaging them, it will be within your own digital assets rather than on a public job listing site that is open to every competitor.
    workshop employer brand story

The big question is "how to recruit passive candidates"

The essential thing to understand is that they simply don't apply using the regular job posting and applicant tracking approach. The question that is normally asked is "How do you source passive candidates?" The answer: you don't source them, you engage and serve them. 

The process for winning employees who are passive candidates begins by understanding their life realities and goals. This is the complete opposite of the agency-centric approach of listing your job requirements and asking for form fills.

Most career websites and the job listing boards all have a fatal flaw when it comes to reaching the passive market - they are all about you.

Companies who want to reach people who aren't actively job searching, have to tell a different story, an employer brand story that connects to the needs, goals, and drivers of those who aren't shopping for a job online. And employer brand stories aren't actually about your company at all, but they are about how your company is changing the lives of your employees. 

Follow these steps to increase your ability to reach passive candidates:

  1. Deepen your understanding of groups of people who are in the passive market. Don't just identify them by demographics, go deeper.
  2. Work to build visibility for your employer brand.
  3. Re-imagine the career portion of your website so that it delivers value to groups of passive candidates. It cannot be just a rehash of one of the job listing boards. 
  4. Deliver information and resources that are valuable to them, not only job listings that are valuable to you.
  5. Have a system for engaging and nurturing passive candidates that allows you to have multiple meaning touches in their lives.
  6. Build a pool of prospects and then continue to add value and make connections- it will pay off.

workshop employer brand story

Published by David Mills June 7, 2021
David Mills