The hidden candidate: how to find and target passive candidates

The difference between active and passive candidates isn’t too hard to guess: active candidates are actively looking for a new job. Passive candidates are those who aren’t looking at all. Knowing this is one thing, but knowing how to target both these groups is a whole other thing.

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Both active and passive candidates have their pros and cons, which you’ll have to weigh off before starting your search. Active candidates can be available on short notice, but you have to be weary of their quality. And passive candidates are much harder to find… but they’re the ideal candidates you’ll want to go the extra mile for. We’ll outline it all for you further down, but we’ll start with a short explanation of what defines each group.

The active candidate is the easiest to find and target:

  • As you’ve probably guessed, these candidates are actively looking for new opportunities,
  • They are usually available on short notice. 
  • They’re the typical candidates that apply for jobs that you post on job boards or on your jobs page. They’ll apply organically and come to you. 

The passive candidate isn’t looking at job websites every day… but that doesn’t mean they won’t be open to an attractive offer when presented to them. Why target this group? Well, passive candidates heavily outnumber active candidates: by some estimates, there are up to 3.7 passive candidates for every active candidate

  • Passive candidates are still employed. 
  • They’re not actively looking for work, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in moving for an attractive opportunity. 
  • They may not be available immediately so you may have to wait for them to finish up their current occupation. 
  • They don’t usually apply organically.

Let’s have a look at the benefits and the drawbacks of hiring from each of these two groups. 

Two very different types, two very different targets

Targeting active candidates

If you’re targeting active candidates, you’ll be looking at the typical recruitment tools: your own jobs page, LinkedIn, and job boards should get you some replies from active candidates. They’ll be available on short notice and are probably already enthusiastic about your company.

But active candidates come with a whole set of drawbacks that make them less than ideal for recruiting. One thing is obvious, and that’s that active candidates will find you on their own if they’re a fit. This means you’re likely to only find more and more ill-fitting candidates by casting a very wide marketing net. Next to that, there are several other reasons why you shouldn’t be using recruitment tactics for active candidates: 

  1. They’re probably applying at several different companies at the same time, and won’t be available for long. You’ll have to move fast if you want to come out on top,
  2. You spend time filtering through replies to find the ones that are a good fit,
  3. You can’t be sure that you’ll find the right candidate among the replies.
  4. They might be active for a concerning reason (fired from the previous job)

Still, active candidates are worth pursuing, on one side, because it’s a relatively low effort to communicate your job posting to the world. And when the stars align, you might have your hire sorted in record time.

Targeting passive candidates

If you’re targeting passive candidates, you’ll have to put in a bit more effort. These people will be open to new opportunities, but only if it matches up with their hopes and dreams. Plus, you’ll have to find the right fit for your open position. Quite the challenge! 

The drawbacks of targeting passive candidates:

  1. You’ll have to hand-pick candidates based on their profiles, which can take a lot of time.
  2. They may be reluctant to leave their existing position.
  3. You’ll have to personalize your offer to make it worth their while.
  4. They usually won’t be available on short notice.

However, all this effort isn’t necessarily wasted by any means. By keeping a record of these candidates and following up from time to time, you can create a pool of profiles to fish from. You won’t have to start from zero! And if a passive candidate is interested, they’re unlikely to be talking to other companies, which means you can take the time to make your offer irresistible. 

Plus, you’ll learn how to sell your company and what elicits a response. Use that knowledge on all candidates in future recruitment drives. 

A secret weapon for attracting passive talent

Our market research has noticed that many companies are struggling to attract passive talent. And one group that’s proven especially hard to activate and engage in the Gen Z audience. This generation of young internet natives has largely moved away from traditional channels, which makes it even harder to attract passive talent through traditional recruitment marketing. 

The only way to reach this budding group of professionals is by being where they are: on social media. Even the most passive of candidates has a social media presence! And you’ll have the added benefit that your ad may well find them in a place where they’re sharing or learning about something they’re passionate about. On social media, they’ll be ready to absorb information in a way that just isn’t comparable to any other channel. 

How can Wonderkind be of service? 

At Wonderkind, we have a lot of experience in activating passive candidates – especially on social media. Our TalentProfile technology uses a self-developed machine-learning algorithm that makes sure that your ads will reach only the best fits on every channel you choose. Your ad is automatically paired with best-in-class creatives to create maximum impact and entice even the most reluctant passive candidate. 

Our distribution engine shows your job ads to the right candidates, even if they’re not actively looking for a job. With one click, you can publish job ads on Facebook, Instagram, and Google – without the hassle of managing multiple platforms.

If you need some more tips on how to set up your funnel to attract passive candidates, we’ve written about this before

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