Sourcing and Recruiting Passive Candidates

I was recently chatting with some HR professionals regarding the age-old question over whether active or passive candidates are better recruits. In my opinion, the recruiters preferring passive won the debate. Their argument was simply a matter of control. Sourcing for passive candidates puts the recruiter in the driver’s seat as they look for candidates with specific experience and/or skill sets.

Obviously there were other reasons why recruiters prefer passive candidates, but this was the most compelling (and the idea that prompted this post). When one realizes the value of recruiting passive candidates, the question becomes how to find the best passive candidates with the least time investment. Applying most sourcing methods, recruiters are rummaging through resumes on major job boards or spending hours searching LinkedIn.  These methods are great, but not necessarily efficient when resumes are old or potential candidates do not reply.

What’s the best way to find the strongest passive candidates, you ask? That is a great question with a very simple answer… compile and then source from your own talent pool of ‘warm’ candidates.

So, how does one compile and source their ‘own’ pool of warm candidates beyond searching LinkedIn contacts?

To answer this, let’s start by defining warm candidates. A warm candidate is, at the very least, aware of your company’s employment brand.  It is pretty obvious that the most efficient use of your time will be to focus on the warm candidates rather than pursuing those who are just not interested. You must keep in mind, LinkedIn contacts are not necessarily warm passive candidates by this definition. 

Keeping your talent pool warm is a little like dating. Your talent pool is your ‘little black book’. But, just because a person is in the little black book, it is not a guarantee that they will remember you. To keep candidates warm, you must stay in contact with them. Drop them a line every once in a while and show them the best of your employment brand through some old fashion marketing nurture campaigns. Basically, ‘date’ them.

The next step is to compile a talent pool full of warm candidates. How does one accomplish that? First, consider all the candidates that are already in your ATS. Perhaps, they were not a good match in the past, but maybe as time has gone by their skills or education have advanced. These candidates have expressed interest in the past and therefore they are warm candidates.

In addition to what you already have in your ATS, you absolutely must open the door wide to new talent.  To do this, your company’s career page should encourage potential candidates to submit their information even when jobs matching the candidate’s skills are not currently available.  Next, consider all those people you meet at job fairs, networking, and career development events. Even if you don’t have openings that match their skills right now, you will eventually. Any time you meet someone that seems to possess talents, skills, or experience that may eventually be useful to you, take the opportunity to talk up your employment brand (without being too much like an overly aggressive recruiter) and ask to exchange contact information, just in case.

To further develop your talent pool, encourage current employees to recommend friends or former colleagues based on talents. Make sure that current employees understand that you are interested in more than just who is currently looking for a job – you want traits, talent, and passion vs. simple availability. For example, ask employees, “who do you know that that has great project management or communication skills?” That will get the employee thinking more broadly. 
In short, there is a lot you can do to compile and source from your own pool of warm talent. The most important factors are simply this:  First, allow interested parties to send their resume or contact information to you – even when you are not actively recruiting their particular skill/experience. Finally, when the warm candidates start coming in – keep them warm by recommending opportunities or simply showcasing your brand. The biggest mistake a sourcing pro can make is to let talent slip through their fingers because they are not thinking in terms of future recruiting needs.

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Comment by Jen Dewar on October 15, 2012 at 4:58pm

Nice article, Elise. I completely agree that setting up your own internal talent pool is a great way to nurture relationships with great talent that you may want to employ in the future. Job seekers are looking for the right fit just as much as employers are, and would welcome the opportunity to be notified when the perfect opportunity arises. 

However, your own database will be much smaller than an external resume database, so you still may not find the correct fit. Some companies don't use an ATS from which to pull resumes and many don't get the traffic to their career site that they would need to build a substantial base of candidates.You also run the risks you mentioned above of outdated resumes and people not contacting you back.

This is the reason Bright Recruiter was created - to help companies find the right candidates, and to help candidates find the right jobs - without the hassle usually associated with the recruiting process. All candidates on have actively searched for a job within the past 30 days, which means that they have updated resumes and they are more likely to contact you back. We automatically source candidates for you, based on your job description, and show you how relevant each candidate is with a score between 0-100. That way, you don't have to spend hours sourcing candidates that never call you back.

We offer a free trial, so you can see for yourself how it works: This can be a great supplement to your internal talent pool, or can be used on its own.


Jen Picard


Comment by George Ehinger on October 17, 2012 at 9:26am

Great insights, Elise.   

In our experience one of the most overlooked and easiest to mine sources for passive candidates is the references that candidates provide.   These are folks that already have industry relevant experience AND they probably have a favorable impression of your recruitment brand as they know a colleagues that is trying to get hired by you.  

The good news is that automated reference checking systems let you tap this pool of talent with very little effort on the recruiters part.   With an automated reference check the recruiter only needs to enter candidate name and email and then system (and candidate) does the rest.    Using references to fill a passive candidate database scales very fast.   Imagine if you have 100 applicants/finalists each supply 5 references.  Suddenly you have 500 industry relevant people in your database with full contact info.  

Full disclosure---I am VP of Marketing for provide this and other pre-employment testing services.  

If you want to learn more check out this link

You'll also get the option to try it for free.  

Good luck, 

George Ehinger 

Comment by Greg Post on October 17, 2012 at 3:56pm

In a word:  Exactly!! 

At NDS we worked diligently to build our database, and now 20% of new hires come from those candidates (on top of the 40% who come from referrals).  It takes time and focus, but it pays off big time!


Comment by IT Recruitment on October 18, 2012 at 1:34pm

It's about matching the right people with specific technologies, skill sets and industry sectors - and it's about adding enhanced value to both parties, ensuring an appropriate career path for candidates, securing quality personnel and uniting the right people with the right opportunities. The ability to deliver that complete package comes with years of experience and a total focus on meeting the needs of a specific industry.

In working with  an IT staffing companyin Dallas, I know they follow specific processes to find the right IT talent for Clients. To share some inside knowledge, this is the IT staffing process to match IT talent with Clients: 


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