Recruiting Passive Candidates in the Job Hopping Era

When we talk about talent acquisition, we typically use the active voice. HR leaders utilize data in the most effective ways. Recruiters pursue the best candidates via the latest technology. Sometimes we even go hunting…for purple squirrels, that is. And while it’s incredibly important for recruiters to stay (pro)active, there is a passive elephant in the room we need to discuss.

Approximately 75% of global candidates are considered passive job seekers. These people are employed, and not actively looking for new opportunities. If the majority of the workforce falls into the passive category, it’s safe to assume the majority of top quality hires are passive, too. In this post we’ll look at passive candidates in more detail, and why recruiters should pay close attention to them.

What Is A Passive Candidate?

Passive candidates are distinct from active ones in that active candidates are searching for a job. They may or may not be unemployed, but they are far more motivated than passive candidates. Which is part of what makes recruiting a passive candidate so difficult. Talent acquisition leaders have to make an extra effort not only to identify quality passive candidates, but also to reach out to them and establish a connection.

Today’s passive candidates are especially fickle. The economy is slowly bouncing back, and candidates of all ages have become used to more choice, more flexibility, and more control over every aspect of their lives. While a passive candidate may be thankful just to have a job today, the concept of job hopping has become so normal that the loyalty of staying with one company for years, even decades, no longer holds a person back from considering a new job.

And yet the number of passive candidates remains high. Familiarity may breed contempt, but comfort breeds complacency. Many passive candidates may be open to a new job, but as long as they have a steady paycheck and intriguing office gossip, they might not make the switch from active to passive. This is where engaging recruitment strategies need to step in.

Why Do Recruiters Want Passive Candidates?

Passive candidates are attractive to recruiters for many reasons. If they already have a job, they probably have skills and knowledge that are important to other employers. And being employed, they can already guarantee some level of experience in the work place. Plus, there is a good chance a passive candidate will not already be interviewing elsewhere when you find them.

And as the population ages, recruiters are finding passive candidates more likely to be Millennial workers than ever before. By the first quarter of 2015, the number of Millennial workers rose to 53.5 million, passing their Baby Boomer colleagues and catching up to Generation X, to make up 34% of the workforce.

Millennials are perhaps the most likely candidates to switch jobs sooner rather than later, and so recruiters would do well to focus on quality hires among this group. As of January 2014, the median tenure for employees of all ages was 4.6 years. But among workers ages 25-34 (34 is the high end of the Millennial age range today) that figure drops to 3 years. And it gets even lower among their younger counterparts.

Passive candidates are already attractive to recruiters. But if those candidates are more likely to be Millennials, and less likely to stay in their current job for the long term, HR leaders would do well to target them before someone else does.

Be the Company Passive Talent Wants to Work For

If a passive candidate is identified as a quality hire to your company, it’s time to get proactive. Forward-thinking recruitment strategies that can forecast future needs and extend engaging employer branding across all channels will be in the best position to attract passive candidates.

We already know passive candidates are not necessarily looking for a new job. On top of that, they may not have even heard of your company, or they might think you’re not hiring. Recruiters should focus on engaging passive candidates in a way that excites them about the company, and makes them want to learn more.

The strategy should be approached in a very inbound marketing type of way. It has to have elements of great content, nurture marketing, search engine optimization, social media marketing, and so on. Referral incentives are also a must here. Job seekers—passive or active—should be treated like any other consumer or potential buyer, which means you’ve got to be in the right (digital) place at the right time. Plus, recruiters have to be equipped with the skills to convert casual lookers into something more if given the opportunity.

No matter how you locate, and reach out to passive candidates, it’s important to remember how much your employer brand will play a role in the process. You can’t just turn your best side towards the camera and smile–passive candidates probably won’t approach you (unless enticed), and you definitely can’t expect them to do all the work for you. Being proactive means most things you do now will pay off in the

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