The Art of Candidate Sourcing Part 1: Passive Candidates and Referrals

Recruiters not focusing on expanding candidate sourcing risk shrinking their talent pool in the coming years. The recruiting climate remains undeniably difficult, with skills shortages and candidate scarcity showing no signs of abating.

So, what can recruiters do to maintain a steady stream of movers and shakers and fill vacancies? It’s no easy feat in a candidate drought, but a tactical rethink on sourcing could help to attract the most in-demand professionals.

There’s an art to candidate sourcing. Our five-part series on candidate sourcing shares actionable insights for candidate sourcing success. In part one, we consider how recruiters can effectively tap into the passive candidate market and make the most of referrals.

Everything You Need to Know About Passive Sourcing and Referrals

Talent scarcity doesn’t mean vacancies must go unfilled. It’s all about winning the race to potential hires and unearthing hidden gems.

A staggering statistic that might shock you is that around 80% of candidates are passive! If you’re not already placing some emphasis on passive sourcing, it’s time you did. Passive talent pools are a goldmine yet an underutilized resource.

In a recent State of Staffing Survey, which asked 500 members of the public about their current views on work, 52% of respondents said they plan to look for a new job this year.

So, how do you find people who aren’t actively looking for a new job? Cold contacting is notoriously tricky. Get it wrong, and you’ve lost more than a potential candidate – negative comments about bolshy recruiting practices could damage your reputation. And overzealous pitching via social media and email will mostly be ignored. The sweet spot is hard to find.

What Differentiates a Passive Candidate From an Active One?

Before working out your strategy, it’s helpful to recap what differentiates a passive candidate from an active one. It may seem obvious, but it helps to understand that different categories of passive candidates may determine your actions.

Active job seekers are looking for their next role. This might involve registering with agencies, scouring job boards, attending industry events and job fairs, asking for a referral, or directly approaching companies with vacancies via email, their websites, or LinkedIn.

Many people also take temporary roles, hoping for a more permanent opportunity. These are just a few examples of how people look for jobs. Another important distinction is that active job seekers will be more receptive to approaches from recruiters and willing to chat.

On the other hand, a passive candidate isn’t actively looking for a new position and won’t be as receptive to cold calls or emails or to DMs (if accepted) on social media.

The Different Circumstances and Attitudes of Passive Candidates

Many in-work people are happy in their current roles, and it would take a real out-there opportunity to turn them. But there are also many who reluctantly stay put because they feel trapped, perhaps by personal circumstances, geo-location, an over-promotion, or above-market-rate salary. There are hundreds of reasons why a person might be stuck in a rut and not have the energy or time to hunt for a new role. 

There are also those who are reasonably satisfied with their current job but, if grilled, would admit they are just cruising and haven’t given the matter much thought.

Passive sourcing is all about raising awareness of alternatives that are out there and what a new job looks like. Remember, even those content in their career might be tempted if the right opportunity presents itself.

So, how do you reach people who aren’t job hunting?

Connecting With Passive Candidates

Young people holding speech bubbles with words JOB and CAREER indoors

There are many ways to connect with passive candidates, so adopting a few or even several lines of communication is a good idea. For example, posting a series of articles on LinkedIn about career development could include topics like ‘How do you know you need to switch up your job?’ or ‘How moving to a new job can supercharge your career prospects.’ This might capture the interest of people thinking about a move and even those who aren’t.

Talking about company culture and employee engagement in your content can also jolt people putting up with poor organizational values. They may assume that all companies are the same. Your content may turn on a lightbulb that there are better companies to work for. Remote and hybrid working are also hot topics, especially for people looking for a better work-life balance.

People connect with content in different ways. Longer articles may get more attention on LinkedIn, while a series of shorter posts on other social media channels, like Facebook, might be more powerful.

Your content marketing is king here, and there are many options to consider, such as videos, images, live streams, stories, polls, quizzes, blogs, podcasts, and even webinars.

Effective Sourcing: How to Do It

To effectively source passive candidates, you must conduct strategic research, create a content plan, and then target engagement using various tools and platforms. Bursts of activity won’t cut it – there’s a long game to play to reap the rewards. Passive candidates aren’t going to rock up to you, and they won’t be active on job boards. But they will start to see you if you are consistent with your messaging and appear in the right places.

Here are our four top tips to optimize your passive sourcing and referrals:

1. Get Your Strategy Right

First and foremost, understand your objectives. A scattergun approach will waste time and won’t be as effective. You also need to approach passive candidates carefully. For example, forceful, direct contact via phone or email seldom hit the mark. Remember, passive candidates aren’t looking for a job but may be enticed by a softer approach and a hard-to-turn-down opportunity. Be fully prepared to discuss the role, salary, and benefits from the outset.

The most important thing to remember is that there’s a lot more to passive recruiting than simply offering jobs to people already employed. You’ll need to build a relationship, sell your company’s merits, and make an offer at the optimum time.

2. Content Creation and Engagement

Business people watching a live streaming. Social media concept.

Reaching out to passive candidates starts by building rapport. This could be through a social in-person engagement, at an industry event, or by creating a solid social media presence with helpful engagement and exciting content.

Aim to establish yourself as a thought leader in your field, especially on social media channels like LinkedIn. LinkedIn hiring stats show that 75 percent of people who recently changed jobs used LinkedIn to inform their hiring decisions.

When reaching out to passive candidates, always, always respect a ‘no thank you.’

3. Data Mine Your CRM & ATS

Sifting through your talent pool is a resourceful way of finding potential candidates. Rejected candidates from the past might be perfect for a current vacancy. Of course, this task is made much easier if you have a CRM or ATS (or both), like Tracker’s, which provides powerful candidate search tools (80 filterable fields, full Boolean and Semantic search, and radius geo-coding) to mine data constantly and quickly.

Importantly, never write unsuccessful candidates off!

Of course, sifting through data can be an arduous task. But with the right ATS/CRM system, prospecting from your candidate base can be made much easier. Take Tracker as an example. Our Candidate Prospecting function allows our clients to flip recruiting on its head and shortlist clients that may be suitable for the candidate, now or in the future.

Without practical candidate prospecting tools, it is virtually impossible to retain historical interest without copious notes that get lost or drilling back through job history, which only gives half the picture.

4. Ask for Referrals – They Pay Dividends

line up behind the leader

Make it a habit to ask for referrals and implement a referral program. LinkedIn hiring stats show, a referral is the most common way people discover a new job.

The critical takeaway is to be proactive – always probe (gently) for referrals. Exceptional talent can come from the most unlikely places. And there is good reason to pursue this as part of your hiring strategy.

Referral hiring has been studied for decades. A research paper in 2015 compared non-referred applicants with referred applicants. It found that referred applicants are more likely to be hired and more likely to accept offers despite having similar skill characteristics.

The research also found that referred workers are substantially less likely to quit and that they yield considerably higher profits per employee than non-referred workers; the profit differences are driven by lower turnover and lower recruiting costs for referrals. 

In today’s tight job market, it is essential you capitalize on passive candidates and referrals. You can start by building better relationships and processes with Tracker. Get in touch, and we’ll show you how.

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