How Employers Can Engage Active & Passive Candidates Differently

Job candidate shakes hands with interviewer

The key to successful job recruitment starts with knowing your audience.

Primarily, this means understanding and differentiating your recruitment strategies for two different types of candidates:  Are your candidates actively looking for a role, or do they need to be discovered and recruited?

In a tight economy with acute talent shortages, it’s extremely difficult finding the right talent. Candidate attraction is not a one-size-fits-all approach. There are distinct strategies for attracting active vs. passive candidates with each group having its unique opportunities and challenges.

Here’s how to engage each type of candidate more effectively to shorten the recruiting cycle and ensure you hire the best fit for your organization.

What are active candidates?

As the name implies, active candidates are seeking a new role due to a number of factors, including:

  • Searching for a promotion or new challenge
  • Out of work due to job cuts or restructuring
  • A need or desire to relocate or find remote work
  • Improving salary or benefits
  • Contract role expiring
  • Other situational factors

Finding these candidates may seem easier since they are eager to find new opportunities and are actively applying for new roles. At the same time, their availability also means that they are attractive candidates for others as well so the competition for their attention is greater. Furthermore, just because candidates are ready to apply doesn’t mean they are a perfect match – so sifting through resumes to find a fit can be a challenge.

In marketing terms, active candidates are “top of the funnel.” In other words, they may attract more awareness and casual applications simply due to availability, but fewer reach the next stages “down the funnel” to convert to interviews, hires and successful placements.

How can companies attract active candidates?

By definition, active candidates are seeking what may be the right fit for them, by browsing job boards, making connections on LinkedIn and scanning job descriptions. There’s a lot of information available for them to search through to find the right match.

To cut through the clutter, job postings need to be as specific and descriptive as possible, to reach and match the most qualitfied candidates. A well-crafted and comprehensive job posting will help in multiple ways. First, it will reach the candidates searching for the necessary keywords and descriptions that are a good match. Second, algorithms on job boards and LinkedIn will surface and serve the job postings to those who are browsing, saving or applying for similar job descriptions.

Calling out different perks and elements of the role and strategically highlighting them to  different audiences can help attract the right fit. For example, if the job provides the opportunity to work remotely, actively promoting the role on remote job boards can reach candidates seeking this type of job perk.

Finally, it can help to A/B test different promotional tactics for a role, to see which aspects of the job attract the most or the best-qualified candidates. Does advertising the opportunity to level up your career, work flexible hours or work in a growing company work the best? Recruiters can test out sample variations of a pitch, and then pick the one performing best to roll out to a wider audience.

What are passive candidates?

Passive candidates are not currently looking to make a change in their employment. They are content enough in their role, responsibilities, salary, and other factors that make them unlikely to browse job boards.

Because of this, recruiters can fully optimize their job postings yet never reach this untapped market for talent — without taking additional steps.

There are also positives and drawbacks for recruiters in this pool. Because they’re not actively looking, they can represent a more stable core of candidates who won’t necessarily job hunt or test the waters immediately after placement. At the same time, it may take more effort and additional incentives to persuade a passive candidate to take a new role to overcome any perceived risk of changing employers, including a new learning curve and cultural fit.

How can recruiters reach passive candidates?

Recruitment of passive candidates requires more active outreach. Usually that means a recruiter contacting someone based off their LinkedIn profile, online résumé, referral or previous work experience.  A recruiter has to know more about where a passive candidate is in their career journey, and what would incentivize them to make a move, whether that is salary, benefits, location, or other perks.

Passive candidates are further down the funnel, meaning they may start with a screening interview, rather than with them sending a résumé. They may be closer to being hired, even if they are harder to find. 

There may be less competition for the attention of passive candidates, but don’t assume that other recruiters aren’t also reaching out to them. Because of this, outreach to passive candidates should occur at the same time that active candidates see job postings go live.

A successful placement can come from either one of these sources or both. Having a mix of candidates from both pools is like diversifying a portfolio: It maximizes the chances of success. The more you meet candidates wherever they are, the more you put your organization in a position to be successful.

We know that finding candidates can take time away from the initiatives that grow your organization. That’s where we step in. Addison Group has over 20 years of experience filling roles with top-tier candidates dedicated to your organization. Connect with us now!

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