Passive Candidates-Engage now for Informed Hire later

Sep 22, 2015

The spurt in business and the importance of skills to an organization’s growth has underscored the need for imbibing quality talent.

Therefore, in parallel to on-time hiring HR business now actively pursues the proactive recruiting as well. Talent Pipeline exercise centers mostly around Passive candidacy.

By engaging in proactive recruiting the HR can build a pipeline of appropriate talent, in other words, Talent Pipeline.

So who are these people the proactive recruiters are going after?

These people are called the Passive candidates.

Why passive?

Because they are not resources who are actively looking out for employment by posting their CVs on job boards and updating it, seeking referrals, attending job fairs etc.

These are people who have shown an inclination to change in jobs/roles but are not actively pursuing it. Such candidates will lend an ear to a recruiter’s call and discuss the job opportunities.

General Characteristics of Passive Candidates

Some characteristics usually associated with passive candidates are listed as follows:

  • They do not appear on job boards, portals and will definitely not line up before companies for interview

  • They will be more discerning in their selection of opportunities.

  • They won’t be in touch with recruiters out of their own volition. If in touch then only with a few trusted recruiters

  • They would want to hear about new opprtunities even if they are fresh into their new jobs

Passive candidates (about 75%*) outnumber the active candidates (about 21%*), which is how it must be, else it indicates the economy of the country is in trouble. A significant number among passive candidates are approachable to discuss new opportunities. If the question is why then the following classification will help answer your why.

Passive candidates can be classified into Explorers and Super Passive.

Explorer candidates are those people who are interested in hearing from recruiters or reach to only their personal networks to put in a word they might be interested in new opportunities. It is surprising that such candidates evince interest even if they are less than a year into their present company. This underlines the fact that short tenure need not be a criterion to filter candidates for talent pipelining.

Super Passive candidates are those that do not want a change in organization or roles. They are content with their present jobs or have commitments that they feel will be addressed by staying in their present jobs.

Both passive and super passive candidates will scrutinize potential opportunities though on varying scales of intensity. The result of their interest can range from an outright “No” to “Ok”.

How can Passive Candidates be Found

One of the characteristics that differentiate Passive candidates from active ones is that they are not present in job portals. That is, the resumes/CVs of these candidates do not get sent to various job offers or they do not get updated frequently.

These candidates can be located in the following media:

  • Talent communities: these are a type of online social networking forums where job seekers and recruiters interact and network. Job seekers interact with potential recruiters, offer advice to other professionals, connect with similar talent, and discuss trends in employment, to name a few. These communities are administered by recruiters, employers or hiring managers.

  • Social media: passive candidates check into forums (groups) within these social media to discuss jobs, share experiences, advice etc. They also alert their friends to look out for opportunities befitting their profiles.

  • Employee referral programs: this is yet another route through which many passive candidates can be approached. As opposed to external recruiters who usually contact candidates for urgent openings, employee referral programs are more spaced out providing more insights about the jobs for these candidates via their referrers.

  • Past interview candidates: applicant tracking systems, candidate databases are a treasure of such passive candidates. Intelligent data mining solutions like the one offered by Spire can unearth many profiles that match the current/impending job’s requirements.

  • Boolean searches: using search text like AND, OR, NOT, O,””, inurl etc. to search and locate the appropriate profiles from the internet. The next article will explain how appropriate search results (profiles) using such strings can be obtained.


Research and statistics have proved the inclination of working resources to show interest in newer opportunities whether they are willing to join or not. Plus, they form the largest group of talent to be targeted for filling up vacancies, especially the specialized ones. They also happen to be the trickiest ones to net making it quite an adventure. But there are ways to approach and engage these talent when you know their skills and experience will add immense value to your organization.

Take inspiration from the famous monologue of the movie Taken**, albeit with a minor twist: “I don’t know where you are. I don’t know what you want…. But I will look for you, I will find you…. And I will HIRE you!!
….when you begin locating and approaching passive talent!


*. Talent Trends 2014-global research report, LinkedIn, 2014.

**. Taken-movie, Pierre Morel, Luc Besson, EuropaCorp, 2008

The next article in this series will focus on approaches to recruiting candidates-active and passive.

-- Article by Maheshwar Antony