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Tactics to recruit passive candidates

A key point regularly raised by our partners is the vital importance of connecting with passive candidates before they start their job seeking cycle. Only 36% of candidates are actively searching for a new job, meaning that to focus solely on this segment is to ignore most of the workforce. In better news, 90% of them are interested in job opportunities. They just need a little nudge.

Where to start

Whilst urgent business priority roles may change regularly, you know the roles that are coming up consistently and can be a bit of a nightmare to fill. They are the ones to focus on. Don’t be too specific and always remember that people can and do learn new skills. If someone is adept at Digital Marketing then it’s a straightforward progression for them to develop stellar Digital Analytics skills that will grow over time.


A great exercise is to create a persona for each role. There is a fair amount of misinformation out there about the depth required for persona’s, which I believe sometimes makes them seem intimidating and a ‘big’ exercise. It isn’t and they aren’t.

The key is to focus on what’s relevant. It honestly doesn’t matter if ‘Gina, the Digital Marketer from Armidale, likes to get a curry on a Friday night’ if you’re trying to recruit her. You are looking to find ways to get in front of Gina in a professional context. So what is relevant?

  • What professional organisations is she a part of?
  • Does she attend work-related meetups or conferences
  • What publications does she read?
  • What work-related websites does she visit?
  • What job websites does she visit/have alerts set up on?

Now, this is the really easy bit and there’s no need to guess. You’ve already got employees like Gina, so go ask them.

Now you know where they are, how do you get in front of them?


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Show off your company!

Okay, so say you are looking for digital marketers and your colleagues have told you the websites they like to visit for work-related stuff. I promise you that most of those publications are absolutely desperate for content. Ask your marketing team to guest post on something awesome they have done and submit it to relevant publications. I’ll bet your marketing team puts time into awards submission, so why not re-purpose by splitting them up into multiple blog posts? Then, of course, add a call to action at the end of the post saying, “we are hiring” with a link to your career section. This does require buy-in and people will need a bit of support but it’s a pretty easy sell.

Have a think about the local meetups that they attend? – Get your Head of Marketing to present a project they have been working on to their peers. We appreciate the importance of business secrets, so you don’t need to be giving away secret formulas to your competitors, however even if it sparks interest in just 10% of attendees, you have just increased your brand awareness, and ideally driven new candidates to your passive talent pool.

So, the benefits are: (1) Your brand is in front of people who may have never heard of you, but more importantly (2) you have shown what great things candidates can achieve by choosing to work for you.


Job advertising

So what about advertising? Think not just about that one job you are filling – every high-quality CV matters when you’re building a talent community.

Some advertising channels are more passive than others. For example, we get great active candidates come to our website to sign up for job alerts. However, we also have the opportunity to offer access to great passive candidates via the Fairfax network. So, if you are only looking for passive candidates you should focus on these but ultimately the key is value for money. With Adzuna’s premium product you only pay when a candidate engages with your ad, you have a maximum budget, and since we send them to your website they don’t even need to apply for you to capture their details.


Now to keep them engaged!

You now have all of these great candidates interested in working for you, but you don’t have enough roles right now for everyone. Now the emphasis moves from attracting to needing to keep them warm. How do we do this? Here are some ideas:

  • Send them company and industry updates – this proves you are aware of the market and verticals you operate in, as well as allowing you to showcase your recent successes – candidates want to know they are joining a successful organisation, and they don’t know what they don’t know.  


  • Invite them to company events – have trivia nights, pitches, networking opportunities. This requires buy-in from the wider business, however, it allows you to be seen as leaders in your field, which creates a positive impression on passive candidates weighing up whether your organisation will be a good fit for them.


  • Activate candidates when you need them. You can only do this if candidates have already experienced positive interactions with your business throughout their journey to date. This ranges from timely responses to applications, to the aforementioned company or industry news and invitations to networking nights.



  • If you are a consumer-facing business, it is especially important for the candidate to have a positive recruitment experience. At no point should your recruitment process be responsible for you losing a customer inadvertently.  

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Measurement and ROI

Firstly, we need to figure out what your goal is and figure out a number that allows you to compare channels.

How much you are prepared to pay, on average, for a post-screened ‘good’ candidate in your talent pool?

For example, if you need your cost per hire to be $2000 and let’s assume that you will only recruit 1 out of every 10 people in your talent pool. Then your goal is to achieve a good candidate for every $200 you spent, on both time and advertising.

Something that we tend to find is that when you ask people what their cost per application target their answer is – “as cheap as possible”. The problem with this is that you can only ever get a small selection of candidates ‘as cheap as possible’ and the rest of the candidates are harder to find. This pushes your cost per application up. However if you’ve worked out at what point the application is too expensive, then you know how much is too much.

This can be transferable and measurable across channels. As long as you’ve got your measurement right, but that’s a topic for another day.

Overall, this strategy will help you be more strategic with your recruitment … eventually. There is no silver bullet, however, the key is to ensure that you are not relying on just one source of candidates to fill all of your roles. It just doesn’t work like that if you want to access the best candidates in the market.

It will take an investment of time and it does require upfront work, but soon you will have the talent at your fingertips. This will decrease your time-to-source and increase the quality of candidates you are interviewing.