9 tactics to convert passive candidates

Andy Agouridis Recruitment marketing Employer branding

You're no stranger to the fierce competition for top talent in today's job market. While active candidates often flock to your job postings, there's an untapped pool of high-quality candidates who aren't pounding the pavement for a new gig—the passive candidates. According to a LinkedIn report, 70% of the global workforce comprises passive talent or those professionals not actively seeking a job but open to new opportunities. 

Unlocking the potential of this dormant talent pool can be a game-changer for your recruitment strategy. However, getting them to switch gears and consider a move is not a walk in the park. This article outlines nine tried-and-true tactics to engage, nurture, and ultimately convert passive candidates into your organisation's next standout hires. Let's explore how you can turn the uninitiated into the fully committed.

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Challenges and Benefits of Tapping into the Passive Candidate Pool

Engaging passive candidates requires a different toolbox than what you'd use for job seekers actively on the hunt. You're essentially trying to get someone interested in an opportunity they haven't asked for. Cold calls, generic job postings, and even well-crafted emails just don't have the same pull with this crowd. It’s similar to shooting an arrow in the dark. Therefore, you'll need to tailor your outreach, personalising the pitch to their unique skills, accomplishments, and career ambitions.

But don't be disheartened by the initial challenges, though. Tapping into this pool of talent has its perks:

  • Quality Over Quantity. Passive candidates often excel in their roles, which is why they're not actively looking—they're already contributing meaningfully somewhere.
  • Improved Retention. Studies show that hires from passive talent pools tend to stay with the company 21% longer, likely because they're not serial job-hoppers.
  • Cultural Fit. Since you're seeking them out based on more than just an application, you have a better sense of their fit within your organisation's culture and ethos.
  • Reduced Time-to-Hire. Because they're not actively interviewing elsewhere, the process can move swiftly once they're interested.

While the chase may be challenging, the rewards are well worth the effort. By adjusting your tactics, you can not only grab the attention of this specialized group but also add invaluable assets to your team.

9 Tactics to Successfully Convert Passive Candidates into Active Applicants

Here are nine actionable tactics to help you not just engage, but also convert passive candidates into enthusiastic applicants for your team.

1. Research and identify your target candidates 

Knowing exactly who you want on your team elevates your entire recruitment game. It’s like having a treasure map—you’ll dig in the right places and, more often than not, find gold. Having a clear understanding of who you’re after helps you approach the right passive candidates with precision, making your pitch more compelling and relevant to them.

In nailing down the right candidates, attention to detail makes all the difference. Utilise professional social networks and industry-specific databases to unearth candidates who align with your company culture and required skill sets. Keep an eye out for thought leaders in the field, scan through relevant publications, and even consider leveraging internal referrals. Remember, you're not just looking for a resume—you're seeking a real person who can plug into your team seamlessly.

2. Start with a soft approach

Remember, passive candidates aren't in job-hunting mode. So, coming on too strong with a job pitch could be a turn-off. Instead, focus on building rapport first. Engage them in conversations about mutual interests, industry trends, or projects they've been a part of. This helps break the ice and makes them more comfortable, setting the stage for a more meaningful dialogue down the road.

Once you've warmed up the interaction, gently introduce the idea of new opportunities at your organization. It's similar to dating—you wouldn't propose marriage on the first date, right? Establishing a relationship based on mutual interests and respect makes you more likely to pique their interest when you eventually present your job opportunity. This finesse approach makes your pitch more appealing and can differentiate you from other recruiters who may be vying for the same talent.

3. Personalise your outreach

Generic messages tend to blend in with the noise, leaving your outreach unnoticed. So instead, dive deep, do your homework, and draft communications that resonate with your target candidate's achievements and experiences. Recognising their contributions or referencing a recent project they've handled not only grabs attention but also showcases your genuine interest in them.

Personalisation isn't merely about using a candidate's name but more about showing them you've done your due diligence. Think of it as gift-wrapping an invitation to chat. When it’s thoughtfully presented, the receiver is more likely to open it and engage. Thus, paving the way for future conversations about potential opportunities at your organisation.

4. Provide value upfront

Winning someone's attention is a bit like a barter system—what are you offering in exchange for their precious time? To capture the interest of a passive candidate, extend something beneficial their way. This could range from a carefully curated industry report to an exclusive invite to an online workshop that aligns with their expertise.

Capturing their initial interest isn't the finish line but more like the first lap. The key is to keep that engagement level high. Keep offering value as your conversation progresses, maybe by sharing updates that align with their career trajectory or by providing unique insights into your company's culture. By leading with value, you're not only gaining their attention but also setting the foundation for a relationship built on mutual benefits.

5. Leverage mutual connections

A mutual connection serves as a bridge in the vast sea of recruitment, turning cold approaches into warmer, more fruitful interactions. Tapping into these shared relationships not only accelerates the rapport-building process but also adds an inherent layer of trust. After all, a candidate is far more likely to engage when the introduction comes from someone they respect and trust.

To utilise the power of mutual connections, scan a candidate’s professional network for familiar names. Approach your shared connection privately, expressing genuine interest in the candidate and seeking their perspective. If they share positive feedback and seem comfortable, ask for a soft introduction. Leveraging these relationships requires a blend of tact and transparency, ensuring all parties involved feel respected and valued.

6. Highlight opportunities, not just the position

When reaching out to passive candidates, remember that you're not just offering a job—you're presenting a stepping stone in their career journey. This distinction is crucial because top talent often looks beyond the paycheck and job title. They're keen on how a role can provide growth, enrich their skill set, and align with their long-term ambitions.

With 87% of millennials and 69% of non-millennials valuing career growth opportunities, according to Gallup, it is essential to angle your conversations in this direction. Highlight mentorship programs, the chance to lead unique projects, or opportunities to work with cutting-edge technology—whatever you know resonates with their career goals. By shifting the focus to the broader career landscape, you're more likely to stir interest and potentially convert a passive candidate into an active prospect.

7. Be mindful of timing

Timing can make or break your recruitment efforts. Approach someone too early in their current role, and you're likely to meet resistance; too late, and they may have already committed to another path. Gauging the opportune moment to engage can significantly affect your success rate with passive candidates. For instance, candidates who've been in their current roles for a couple of years may be more open to discussing new opportunities than those who've just started a new job.

Fine-tuning your approach to sync with their career timeline shows not just your expertise as a recruiter but also your sensitivity to their personal growth plans. Now, you might wonder how to discern this. Well, professional social media can be a treasure trove of clues. Updated profiles, recent work anniversaries, or newly acquired skills can indicate a candidate's openness to new opportunities. By aligning your pitch with their career milestones, you could very well be throwing your hat into the ring at the perfect moment.

8. Nurture the relationship

Patience and consistent engagement are key when courting passive candidates. Keep in mind that you're in this for the long haul, not just a quick transaction. Nurturing the relationship over time keeps you on their radar, so when the stars finally align, you’re the first call they make.

So, how do you keep the connection warm without becoming intrusive? Simple. Check-in periodically with meaningful touchpoints—share an insightful article, extend a holiday greeting, or congratulate them on a professional milestone. This approach isn’t just about ticking a box but also about adding value to their lives while keeping the dialogue going. When the right opportunity arises, the existing relationship makes for a smoother, more natural transition into a formal hiring discussion.

9. Make the application process easy

You’ve done all the hard work of engaging, nurturing, and finally grabbing the interest of a high-quality passive candidate. The last thing you want is to lose them because your application process is too long, cumbersome, or confusing. This can quickly become a deal-breaker, turning an interested passive candidate back into an unresponsive one.

Now, let's simplify your application process. First, conduct a detailed audit to identify any potential unnecessary or complicated steps. Streamline it down to only the essentials—less is more when it comes to forms and steps. Second, offer multiple ways to apply, for example, through LinkedIn, via email, or even a quick pre-filled form. Finally, keep the lines of communication open. Notify them as soon as their application is received and give them a clear timeline for the next steps. It's all about making it as painless as possible for them to say yes.


Passive candidates are elusive gems worth pursuing. Tapping into this segment demands a blend of precision, personalisation, and patience. It's more than just selling a job—it's about crafting a compelling narrative that aligns with their career ambitions. By implementing these nine tactics, you're not merely reaching out but you're forging lasting connections, turning the potential of passive talent into active, invaluable assets for your organisation.

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Andy Agouridis

Andy helps candidates and employers connect faster and better. Apart from being a Jobylon contributing writer and a Careers content creator. He has a background in HR with Fortune 100 businesses, holds an MSc in HRM, and is a Chartered member of the CIPD.

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