Top Tips to Lure Passive Candidates

When you aren’t getting inundated with resumes in your search for hard-to-find candidates, it’s time to think outside the box and target passive candidates for your open positions. But how can you garner the attention of those who are not actively looking for a job — let alone a job at your company? Well, that’s the tricky part.


The good news is there are some universal steps you can follow to set the stage for luring qualified passive candidates to your organization.

1.  Treat Your People Well

It all starts with a little respect. For some, getting the attention of passive candidates can happen by association — for instance, when a current employee who loves working for you talks the company up so much that it becomes infectious and the news spreads among his or her circle of influence.

“It's worked for us a few times over by investing heavily in treating our current team well — there's nothing more appealing to a passive job candidate than talking to a friend or acquaintance who loves their job, loves their team and loves their company,” says Brad Leahy, a vice president at Blades of Green, a top-rated lawn care company in the Annapolis area. “You can't effectively recruit passive candidates if you're not focusing on building relationships.”

2.  Stand Out with a Powerful Digital Presence

Passive candidates may not be looking at your jobs, but they are online and on social media. Are you promoting your company as a great place to work? Are you sharing your competitive advantage and what potential employees can expect? If you aren’t already working on developing your employer brand, you need to start.

“Create a brand that people want to be a part of and ensure you share the perks and bonuses of your business widely across social media,” says Steve Pritchard, founder of “Potential candidates need a reason to leave the current job they're in because they’re not actively looking. So it’s important you share your brand on social platforms to ensure your company is well-known and your work ethos stands out from the crowd.”

Terese Kerrigan, director of marketing communications for FreightCenter, Inc., says a key way to showcase your company culture to sway passive candidates is to appear in the news, ideally for awards such as “Best Companies to Work For” or “Coolest Work Spaces.”

3.  Be Where Passive Candidates Are

The old adage “If you build it, they will come” does not hold true when recruiting for passive candidates; you have to seek them out. Laura Handrick, workplace analyst at NYC-based says that creative recruiters try to proactively be where passive candidates are.

“They need to join professional groups on LinkedIn or hashtag events on Twitter — those who are passionate about their work and careers are active on those sites,” Handrick says. “Even if they aren’t looking for a new role, they’re likely to know of people who are and can help connect you to them. For example, project management groups on LinkedIn are filled with experienced project managers actively posting project management related questions and responding to others’ questions about everything from best software to where to find someone with expertise on change management.”

4.  Target Candidates Already In Your System

Chances are you already have candidates who have applied to your company in the past. Sign these candidates up to join your talent network, where you can continue to re-engage them with emails about new job alerts that could be a match.

In addition, Lily Valentin, U.S. Country Manager at global search engine Adzuna, says to consider sending targeted one-off emails to candidates who may be in your system but may not be actively looking for jobs.

“Unlike alerts, these are more like advertisements for your company, allowing you to really explain the benefits of working for you, and tempt them with information on the job itself,” Valentin says. “The key to making these emails work is relevance and personalization. Each candidate should feel [as if] you understand and value them as an individual.”

5.  Let Your Networks Know You’re Hiring

Network, network, network, says Jennifer Hartwick, senior recruiter at RevUnit.

“Let your network know that you’re hiring and they will pass it along to the people they know and respect,” Hartwick says. “On a personal note, I have gotten my last four jobs because of my network. Many times I am not on the market, but my network still lets me know when they hear of a job that sounds right up my alley.”

Steve R. Braun, president and CEO of Search Consultants International, recommends working with a recruiter who’s well connected in your industry.

“He [or] she will not only be able to provide your organization with more access to top performers within your industry niche, but will also be able to help you promote the benefits, perks and — most importantly — the opportunities that your company has to offer,” he said.

Deanna Hartley is a prolific writer and editor, having spent the past decade publishing hundreds of print and digital bylines on topics including job search advice, career development, recruitment, HR and human capital management that speak to both job seekers as well as employers/recruiters. Deanna has a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, is a former senior editor at award-winning publisher Human Capital Media in Chicago, and currently works as a senior copywriter at CareerBuilder. Her articles providing career advice have appeared in a variety of publications, including Gannett’s network of newspapers, Business Insider and Workforce Magazine. A proud female millennial immigrant, Deanna understands the importance and privilege of securing meaningful employment in the U.S. — and hopes, through her work, she can help others do the same.

The trusted source for DC's Employers

Sign up and post a job now

Post a job today

Back to listing

The Washington Post Jobs Newsletter

Subscribe to the latest news about DC's jobs market