Expert Tips for Recruiting Passive Candidates

In the dating world, you often hear, “Why are all the good ones taken?” It seems like a lot of dating analogies can be applied to recruiting, as well. And it makes sense because finding the right guy or gal for a relationship is equally as difficult as finding the right candidate for the role you’re hiring for.


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When it comes to recruiting, though, the “taken” ones are often referred to as “passive candidates.” Passive candidates are workers who are already employed by one company and may not necessarily be looking for a new job, but they have the right skills you’re looking for or are the perfect fit for your company.

How can you recruit candidates who aren’t actually looking for a new job? Eric LaBadie, VP of Global Sales at Mya Systems, joins us in the Q&A below to discuss how talent acquisition (TA) professionals can successfully recruit passive candidates.

HR Daily Advisor: Where can recruiters/TA professionals find passive candidates? 

LaBadie: Recent record-breaking employment rates are making organizations increasingly reliant on outbound recruitment models. Hiring teams spend countless hours sifting and sorting through databases to identify possible prospects. They use e-mail, phone, and LinkedIn InMail to try and solicit those passive candidates, resulting in industry-average response rates of 1%–2%.

However, the reality is that most companies are inexplicably looking elsewhere, even though they have a large candidate pool readily available within their tracking systems and existing databases. Some have tried using basic chatbot solutions with simple yes/no and multiple-choice response systems that feel impersonal, can be mistaken as spam, and fail to build trust with candidates.

Some recruiting chatbots have amassed millions of data points to train conversational artificial intelligence (AI) in the context of passive sourcing and talent pool management. The result is a system that can communicate seamlessly with candidates in open-ended, natural, and dynamic conversation, delivering dramatically improved engagement rates and candidate experiences.

These types of platforms can work with a company’s applicant tracking system, LinkedIn, and other sourcing platforms to connect with the perfect passive candidates for the specific role.

HR Daily Advisor: Why would recruiters/TA pros be interested in hiring passive candidates? 

LaBadie: Tapping into the passive candidate pool allows recruiters to target best-fit candidates for open requisitions and schedule those who are qualified, interested, and available for an interview.

These passive candidates have previously shown interest in the company, are typically very qualified for the open role recruiters are attempting to fill, and often are a much better fit than the nonpassive candidates seeking jobs.

HR Daily Advisor: How can recruiters/TA pros convince passive candidates to work for the company they are recruiting for?

LaBadie: The first step is offering a role that candidates would be interested in. Keeping in mind that these prospects already have a job they are comfortable at, the recruiters’ offer needs to impress. Title, salary, and location have to be, at the very least, comparable to their current job, and to be more effective, the offer should be even more convenient for candidates.

After reaching out and securing interest, the recruiter must stay in touch throughout the process. Passive candidates need a constant human touch point, and if they feel ghosted or neglected at any point, they will quickly fall off.

It is important to note that before this process began, candidates had no inclination to leave their current job, so the recruiter needs to make these candidates feel wanted at every point in the application process to keep them on the hook.

HR Daily Advisor: How can they make the job more appealing to passive candidates?

LaBadie: As mentioned earlier, recruiters need to make sure they are targeting the correct candidate. If a recruiter targets a candidate who is overqualified for an open position and has a current job with a higher title and a greater salary, the recruiter has a very low chance of converting this individual.

Recruiters need to be smart about who they target and look for candidates who are overqualified in their current position so that the new role being offered is more appealing. Many workers look for a sense of purpose in their role, so being able to clearly define that can go a long way toward securing interest.

HR Daily Advisor: Do you have any tips for recruiters/hiring managers who have to negotiate salary/benefits but the budget isn’t there? 

LaBadie: Depending on how distant the salary range is from the candidate’s expectations and the quality of the candidate, sometimes, it’s best to move on. With the correct candidate pipeline, there should be no shortage of potential employees, and it may be best to move on before getting too bogged down in negotiations.

If a specific candidate truly seems to be the perfect fit for the specific role, then the recruiter should consider meeting the prospect in the middle. The offer needs to be higher than the candidate’s current salary for him or her to be interested, but recruiters can cite sources, such as the average salary for the position or average raise percentages, to help negotiations.

HR Daily Advisor: Do you have any other tips/best practices to offer recruiters/TA pros who are looking to hire passive candidates?

LaBadie: Two-way conversations with candidates make the job much more efficient and enjoyable. Many recruiting platforms are able to connect with candidates at scale and provide better engagement than previously experienced with more traditional channels, such as e-mail and phone calls. Make sure you understand the market so you can make the most informed hiring decisions.

Eric LaBadie is the VP of Global Sales for Mya Systems. Eric brings 20 years of enterprise software sales leadership experience including running worldwide sales for Guardian Analytics, and sales management positions at IBM and Pure Software.

Mya Systems brings deep AI and NLP expertise together with recruiting domain pedigree to disrupt the recruiting operational model as we know it. Mya Systems has established itself as a leading conversational AI solution provider serving hundreds of the top enterprises and agencies including 52 of the Fortune 500 and 6 of the 8 largest global staffing firms.

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