Forming Authentic Connections Through Passive Sourcing

Chris Murdock
4 min readAug 10, 2022

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For many passive candidates, being approached by a recruiter with a new opportunity may be unexpected but not always unwelcome. The trick to securing passive talent is to put yourself in their shoes. What could a recruiter do to make you remember their outreach or, in the best case scenario, respond and follow up with the next steps?

For most, the answer lies in an authentic engagement with recruiters that looks less like a business transaction and more like a conversation among colleagues.

Keep reading to find how to engage passive candidates authentically to expand the effectiveness of your recruiting outreach efforts and potentially build relationships for future opportunities.

Passive Candidate FAQs

Before we get into specifics about how you can better interact and engage with passive candidates, let’s clear up some of the most common questions people have surrounding passive candidates.

What’s A Passive Candidate?

A passive candidate is an individual who is satisfied in their current role and not looking for new career opportunities. These candidates are typically more difficult to reach than active candidates.

What’s The Benefit Of Reaching Out To A Passive Candidate?

While there’s definitely a higher risk of getting ghosted by candidates when they are passive, they can ultimately be highly skilled and highly sought-after candidates who are clearly positive assets to their current employer.

Where Can You Find These Elusive Passive Candidates?

Everywhere! Okay, well, maybe not everywhere. But anywhere you can find active candidates, you’re likely to stumble across hundreds of passive candidates. Popular places to find passive candidates include social media, job boards, resume-building sites, conferences or in-person events, and referrals from coworkers.

Hone Your Tone

First, you want to figure out how you most authentically engage with your coworkers, friends, and family. Try to pin down exactly what makes you — you (professionally, of course). A unique tool you have in your toolbelt is your personality, believe it or not.

From a zoomed-out perspective, what makes you different from any other recruiter making “cold calls” and trying to engage passive candidates? Have you ever been approached by a recruiter when you weren’t actively looking? What worked best to get your attention? What do you remember about these interactions that were either successful or blatant failures?

Consider these past experiences when looking at your approach to reaching out to passive candidates. This way, your outreach can be informed by your personal interactions and the elements that might have made those experiences successful.

Cut To The Chase

Get to the point! You’re already reaching out to someone who isn’t expecting this type of interaction; make sure you are concise and clear with your intentions and next steps. The last thing you want is to infuse any confusion into your messaging, further reducing your chances of receiving a positive response.

There’s no better way to ensure passive candidates do not feel an authentic connection with you than by bogging down your messaging technique with unnecessary filler words and fluff. The key is to strike a balance between keeping your personality infused in your outreach while getting straight to brass tacks. Play with different ways you can say what you need to say with the least amount of redundant information, but keep it light and you!

To ensure you’re covering your bases, clearly describe who you are, what you want to chat about, how they can contact you, and wrap it up from there. The challenge here is to ensure you’re disseminating enough information without being overwhelming while also keeping human interaction at the forefront.

Paint The Bigger Picture

Facing the facts, it’s very possible that passive candidates might not want to engage with you or don’t see the need to pursue a new position.

That’s okay!

This doesn’t mean you need to end your connection or conversation with them. Especially when you keep authenticity as a priority, you allow yourself and passive candidates the room to expand past this initial conversation and turn it into opportunities for connections down the road.

Be sure to explain to passive candidates that while you might have something specific in mind for them right now, if it doesn’t feel like the perfect match, you also have some roles coming down the pike you could potentially see them fitting in just as well.

Don’t close the door on this connection quite yet, as passive candidates could easily run into issues at their current workplace and remember your message and contact information. Emphasize your presence and openness to continuing your correspondence in your initial outreach.

While reaching out to passive candidates can seem intimidating, as long as you approach it from a genuine place of excitement to share opportunities and build relationships, you are doing the right thing.

This article was originally published on IQTalent’s blog.

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Chris Murdock

Chris is the Co-Founder & Senior Partner at IQTalent Partners, a professional service firm focused on finding, assessing and hiring key talent for teams.