Nurture Passive Candidates to Overcome Bad Timing

passive candidates

Liz Strikwerda

Content strategist and corporate blogger (2000+ posts). Her work has been featured on G2's Learning Hub, Human Resources Today, CloserIQ, Better Buys and over 500 business websites. She plays bluegrass mandolin and enjoys hiking in the red rock wilderness of southern Utah. Connect with me on LinkedIn

Create a strategy for nurturing passive candidates. It should be as systematic as your process for active applicants.

A structured nurturing process overcomes the problem of bad timing. This is when you lose a superstar because you couldn’t commit at the same time. Perhaps a fantastic applicant expressed interest but you didn’t have a position open. Or you pursued a person who couldn’t switch jobs at that moment.

A passive candidate nurturing strategy is part of your yearly hiring plan.

Your applicant tracking system can help you nurture passive candidates. If you have relationships with a large talent pipeline, you will be in a position to force the timing. The more candidates you have engaged with, the greater chance you can find a match when you need to.

3 Passive Candidate Key Findings

  1. 90% of global professionals want to hear from a recruiter.
  2. The #1 reason people change jobs is for a career opportunity.
  3. Passive candidates comprise 70% of the global workforce, active candidates only make up 30%.

6 Techniques For Nurturing Passive Candidates

Review the following techniques. Many employers have used these to create an effective nurturing process.

1. Use boolean searches of your ATS database

This technique is for finding previous applicants to engage with. You may have thousands of resumes in your database. There are candidates that may be perfect for a current opening. How do you screen previous candidates for a current position? Boolean searching uses syntax to target resumes with keywords and phrases.

Here is an example of a Boolean search in ApplicantStack:

Search phrase: engineering (mechanical | electrical)
Explanation: find resumes that contain the words engineering and either mechanical or electrical

2. Identify the degree of interest

Recognize that passive candidates fall on a spectrum. On one end are those who have no intention of switching jobs. It’s not on their radar. They are content with their current situation.

On the other end are the passive candidates who, while not actively looking, are open to a new opportunity. Consider the customer journey: Awareness, Engagement, Attraction.

Nurturing techniques must reflect a candidate’s situation. A candidate who is one step from perusing job boards might jump for the right opportunity. Since they are further down the applicant funnel, they are ready to hear about your company and open position.

You can’t push a hard sell on ‘extremely passive’ candidates. Hunker down for the long game. Your goal is to open and maintain a dialog. Recruitment strategist Lou Adler describes it this way:

Sell the next step, not the job. Consider the first few calls as exploratory conversations used to share information. The first call is to get agreement from the prospect to be open to consider a career opportunity. ’12 High Touch Ways to Win Over Passive Candidates’ LinkedIn

Identify the appropriate communication channel and craft your messages accordingly.

3. Source secondary funnels

You source passive candidates through multiple channels. Both online and offline. There are also countless channels that feed into the first-level funnels. (Remember the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game back in the day?)

Here’s an example of a primary candidate funnel and the secondary funnels that feed into them.

Primary funnel: an employee referral
Secondary funnel: the employee’s Facebook page

Primary funnel: your company LinkedIn page
Secondary funnel: employee LinkedIn pages

The secondary funnels widen your net exponentially. Be proactive about advertising your employer brand in these channels.

4. Create a structured employee referral program

When it comes to passive candidates, your current workforce may be your most important resource. Why? Passive candidates discuss potential jobs with friends and business contacts all the time. Yet passive candidates, by definition, don’t reach out to recruiters.

Your employee referral program is intrinsic to your nurturing strategy. Create and manage it in your ATS.

5. Use candidate personas

Identify the hiring manager’s needs and create candidate personas. Work from the persona to source passive candidates. This can be more effective than using the job description as your starting point. The job description is based on a position. A persona is based on a living, breathing human being. The persona can help you identify candidates with not only the skills and experience, but one who is open to switching careers.

A caveat on personas: if you define them too narrowly, you will introduce unconscious bias. Define your personas by career goals and experience. Leave out demographic identifiers. Bias limits nurturing campaigns. And it hampers efforts to diversify your workforce.

6. Be ready to create a position

What would it take to create a position for a superstar candidate? Consult your hiring managers. Flesh this out in your hiring plan. Document it in your workflow. Have a job requisition ready to go. This is the best way to force the timing for a prize catch.

Your ATS works for passive candidates too!

Use your ATS to create checklists for nurturing tasks. Document email and text conversations. Use merge fields to personalize emails. Master boolean searching. Share feedback with your team.

Nurturing passive candidates will be more important than ever in 2020.

By Liz Strikwerda



Simplify HR management today.

Simplify HR management today.

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