Strategic Sourcing: Finding and Engaging Passive Candidates for Success

49% of job seekers are passive, which means, if you’re not investing in passive candidates, you’re leaving a large pool of talent untapped.  

Passive candidates are ideal for highly skilled and critical positions, when locating qualified active candidates is difficult or a hiring mistake could be detrimental. 

With passive candidates, you have less pressure to proceed quickly, and more opportunity to build relationships with your potential hire. 

However, sourcing passive candidates comes with its own challenges. Because passive candidates are not actively looking for a new job, they are less receptive to recruiters. They are also more difficult to find, as they are not submitting applications on job boards, attending career events, or contacting potential employers like active candidates are.

To source passive talent, you need to implement a strategic approach to locating and engaging with them.

Where to find Passive Candidates

Passive candidates won’t come to you. Instead, you must meet them on the platforms and in the locations they frequent already.

Social Media

Social media is one of the best ways to locate passive talent. Passive candidates lurk on all social media sites, including non-professional platforms like Instagram and Twitter. However, the best sites to target are the ones your ideal candidates use regularly.

Use your chosen platform’s search functions and relevant hashtags to uncover them. View their online profile to learn more about who they are as a professional.

Once you’ve connected with potential candidates, you can optimize your organization’s social media page to keep them around. For example, if you fill your feed with job listings, passive candidates will have no reason to follow you. But if you post engaging, valuable content, they’ll return to your page again and again and keep your organization front of mind.


It’s no secret that referrals are a great way to source talent. Employees know the company culture and expectations better than anybody, and they each have their own extensive networks of skilled professionals. Further, passive candidates are more likely to consider a position that comes from someone they know personally.

However, you’ll need to get your team on board to source talent through referrals.

Encourage your organization’s employees to join the search for passive talent alongside you. Ask for recommendations, offer a reward for referrals, and foster a company culture around referrals. Email employees the job descriptions of open positions so they can help you find suitable candidates.

Additionally, don’t forget to look through your talent pool for passive candidates. If you built your talent community right, you’ll find many qualified candidates there.

In-Person Events

While in-person events, like career fairs and hiring events, are a great way to find active candidates, you can also use events to network with passive candidates. And the best part about in-person events are that you’ll find the most passionate professionals there.

First, you have to find local professional events that potential candidates will attend. Online event-posting sites can help you identify meetups in your area.

Additionally, if your organization has the resources for it, you can host your own event. This will attract a mixture of active and passive candidates and is a great way to stock your talent pool.

How to Engage Passive Candidates

Once you find qualified candidates, you need to strategically engage them to pique their interest in your role. Unlike active candidates, your position wasn’t sought out and your communication may not be welcomed, so outreach takes a little more finesse.

Send personalized messages

Whether you’re contacting candidates via email or social media, personalized messages are received better. Generic cold calls don’t work for passive candidates.

To warm candidates up, explain why you are reaching out to them and how you found their contact information. Share important information about the role, like its description, benefits, and growth opportunities. Invite them to a call only after first sending this message.

Highlight the benefits of the position

If you don’t give passive candidates a good reason to pursue your opening, they won’t. So, make sure to give them the information they need to consider your role.

When you reach out, give candidates an overview of your company. Tell them about its culture, value, benefits, and what makes your organization unique. Don’t be afraid to show them what they have to gain by working with you. And make sure to offer some things employees like, such as work-life balance and growth opportunities.

You must work a little harder to source passive talent. They’ll be more responsive if you work to accommodate their schedules for calls and interviews, as they already have a job you need to work around.

And for the best results, try to limit your search to either active or passive candidates at one time. If your passive candidates see that you’re actively advertising the role, they may think it’s not worth it and exit the process.

There is a wealth of talent among passive candidates. When the time comes to hire, take the right steps to approach and engage them for the best results.

Nexxt is a recruitment media company that uses today’s most effective marketing tactics to reach the full spectrum of talent – from active to passive, and everything in between. Learn more about hiring with Nexxt.

This article was written by Danielle Murphy.
Danielle Murphy is a content writer and copywriter with a passion for helping businesses meet their marketing goals with writing. When she’s not working (or writing for fun), she’s hiking or hobby farming around her home in New Hampshire. 

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