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How to Recruit and Hire Passive Job Seekers

Passive job seekers are some of the most sought-after employees in the modern job market. Unlike active job seekers, passive candidates are currently employed and generally happy with their work, but they’re open to changing jobs if a good enough opportunity comes along. People in this category, especially among knowledge workers and professionals in technical fields, are desirable in part because they tend to have a relatively stable work history and high levels of motivation at whichever new job they move to. Passive job seekers can be tricky to find and recruit, but the rewards these high-value employees bring to their jobs more than make up for the sometimes unconventional approach hiring managers have to take to find them.

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What are passive job seekers?

Passive job seekers are professionals who have jobs already, but who might be open to switching jobs if the right offer presents itself. Passive candidates are distinct from active job seekers, who are often either unemployed or actively looking for another job. Active seekers may regularly browse help wanted ads, submit applications and resumes and even go on job interviews while still employed elsewhere. Passive candidates are typically less active. While they may or may not be browsing job ads, most passive seekers must be approached with a serious offer before they consider pursuing opportunities elsewhere.

Passive seekers can be hard to find at first. This is because, from the outside, they look like anybody else who has a job. Many passive seekers are actually happy with the work they do at the moment, and they’re only casually interested in taking the risk of changing employment. This works against many of the more common recruiting strategies that may work for more active job seekers.

Benefits of recruiting passive job seekers

Hiring passive job candidates can bring a lot of benefits for companies that are able to attract them. As a rule, new hires who come from other companies have a more stable history of employment than applicants who are going through a period of unemployment. They’re also typically more tolerant of extended hiring periods because they generally aren’t under the time pressures that more active applicants often face.

Passive seekers are also likely to be a good fit for their new jobs right away. Because they’re already employed at the time of hire, they usually have the leeway they need to scout potential opportunities and only take what looks like the best position available. Active candidates may feel pressured to take the first offer that comes along, only to discover that the job is not what they were hoping for. Passive candidates are far more likely to thoroughly investigate new positions and make informed decisions about switching over. This helps reduce early turnover and improves the chances your new hire will flourish in the new environment you offer.

What to do when you’re recruiting passive candidates

Do your research and source candidates

Before you can find the passive job seekers you’re after, you have to know where to find them. Do your research into the target hiring pool you need, then put your brand out in the environment where you’re most likely to find them. If your company is looking for web developers, for example, professional job boards and dedicated tech subreddits might be a good place to start looking for them. If your company needs sales reps with proven track records, you may have to look elsewhere.

You can access our robust matching and hiring platform by sponsoring a job on Indeed that can help with this process. When you use our resume search engine Indeed Smart Sourcing to source active or passive candidates, we’ll show you matches based on your search activity. It’s an efficient way to narrow down candidates with less effort on your part and gives you access to a vast network of over 245 resumes on Indeed.

Develop a recruitment plan with definite hiring targets

Nothing as complex as a hiring campaign is likely to work without planning, and the time to plan is well before you start. Brainstorm with your hiring team about how to find, contact and attract passive job seekers for the positions you need to fill. Collect the ideas you get and sort them into actionable elements of a hiring plan. Ideally, your strategy will avoid soft, aspirational language, such as vague goals to increase hiring or attract talent, and instead develop specific targets, such as hiring 25 new developers before the end of the year. Drafting a concrete plan like this can give your team a road map for success and let you delegate much of the work to less experienced members with clear instructions to follow.

Raise your brand profile

Passive job seekers are, by definition, not actively looking for new jobs. That means you have to reach them somehow, which can be tricky to do when the candidates you need aren’t applying or passing around resumes. By far the easiest and most cost-effective way to touch base with passive seekers is to get your brand in front of them, almost as if they were potential customers. The more familiar and positive your brand manages to be, the likelier passive candidates for employment are already thinking about coming to work with you.

Apple is a great example of a company that uses its high-profile brand to attract top talent, especially among tech and IT professionals who work in and around Silicon Valley. Apple, Inc., became the world’s largest company in 2021, with a market cap in the trillions of dollars and one of the most recognizable logos of all time. The company’s products are well-known and universally highly regarded, and getting a job with Apple has achieved nearly mythical status among tech workers who have something to contribute. Part of the company’s superb brand profile is the high rating current employees give it and the publicity this brings Apple, which was named the 31st-best place to work in January 2021. All this positive exposure helps lure highly talented applicants from all over the world, and it lends the company’s hiring managers a lot of credibility when they make an offer of employment to workers who might turn down jobs at less-prestigious companies.

Put the word out on social media

Social media can be a great tool for contacting passive job seekers, even the ones who didn’t know they wanted to work with you until they saw your tweet. Using common platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, your company can tap a huge well of potential new hires who otherwise might never have known about the opportunities you’re offering. Every platform is different, however, and each calls for a somewhat different approach.


Twitter is one of the most promising social media sites for recruiting passive seekers. Hundreds of millions of people are actively using the platform each month, which gives your campaign a huge audience, and the site’s demographics skew toward the young professional market where you’re most likely to find a great prospect.

Twitter limits users to 280 characters a tweet, which forces brevity and encourages strict message discipline. Because of your limited space to make a pitch, it’s a good idea to keep your appeal for interested job seekers as brief and direct as possible. Use common hashtags to get your tweets in front of the largest set of eyes possible, especially tags related to the field your company works in or the kind of user profile you’re hoping to attract.

You can send one or two recruiting tweets out over the company’s main Twitter account each day, but for longer-term hiring pushes, you should consider setting up an account that’s strictly for recruitment. To get eyes on this new account, drop a few mentions and links to it on the main brand page.


Facebook allows longer posts than Twitter, which gives you a golden opportunity to showcase what your company has to offer new hires. Try to get flattering, high-quality images of your company’s work spaces and team members for gallery photos on recruitment posts. Describe the opportunities you have open, and think about including some information about pay and other benefits. Every few posts, you might upload a testimonial from current employees about how they found your company and how well it has worked out for them. Don’t forget to cap your posts with links to your other social media accounts and a call to action, either to follow you on those sites to keep up on hiring news or to get in touch for an interview.


One of the best things about LinkedIn is that your target demographic is extremely likely to already be using the site to browse for job opportunities. The site lets you search available candidates, filter results almost any way you need them and discreetly reach out to likely prospects with an offer to get in touch. Passive job seekers on LinkedIn are also very likely to browse the site in a receptive frame of mind for new opportunities with your company because the platform is mainly for job-seeking professionals. One nice feature of the site is the email alerts to dormant users to let them know they’ve appeared in an employer’s candidate search. This alone might motivate some prospects to look your company up and reach out without further prompting.

Referral programs

Employee referral programs are potentially a major source of excellent new hires for your company. By effectively asking your current employees to tell their qualified relatives and friends about your company, you can leverage a much larger and, at the same time, more focused network of professionals in the field where you work. Employee referrals also often come with a tacit seal of approval from your own workers, who presumably have an idea what their job entails, what the company is looking for and which of the people they know would make a good fit.

Referral programs can be as simple or as complex as you need them to be. At the simple end of the spectrum, you can just put out word to your employees that the company is hiring and ask them to spread the good news to anyone they know who might be interested. If you have the budget for it, you could also offer bonuses for any referrals who make it through training or reach some landmark, such as six months on the job or a given number of sales.


How do you interview passive candidates?

The interview process for passive candidates is in many ways similar to your normal interviews. One difference is that your prospect may not be fully committed to interviewing on a tight schedule because they already have a job and aren’t generally under pressure to hurry the hiring process along. Work with passive candidates to schedule an interview with as much respect for their time as practical.

You may also have to modify some of your standard interview questions for passively recruited candidates. Instead of asking “Why did you choose our company?” for instance, you might ask something more like “What do you like best about our company so far?” The subtle shift in emphasis helps set the appropriate tone for attracting a candidate who may need more than the usual inducement to sign on with your company.

How do you keep passive candidates engaged?

After you first make contact with a passive candidate, whether they’ve reached out to you or you emailed them cold with a recruitment offer, you have to keep them involved through the whole process. Stay in touch regularly, either by email or by phone, and encourage them to do likewise. Try to give passive candidates as clear a road map of your hiring process as possible to make sure they don’t get discouraged or distracted by the time and involvement it demands.

What percentage of candidates are passive?

According to Inc., roughly 70% of workers are passive job seekers. This creates a huge pool of potential talent for you to draw on for hard-to-fill positions.

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