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Passive Candidates: How To Reach 3 Times More Talent in Recruiting

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Recruiting the right talent for your company is becoming more and more competitive. However, recruiters often overlook a crucial group: passive candidates. By targeting passive candidates in their recruitment strategies, companies can triple the pool of potential applicants for a position[1], significantly increasing the likelihood of finding the most qualified candidate for the job.

Active and Passive Candidates

When considering the job market, your initial thought likely goes to active candidates—those who are actively seeking new employment opportunities. They browse job boards and career sites, peruse job postings, and submit applications. Active candidates constitute approximately one-third of the global workforce.[1]

Yet, the job market holds a much larger pool of potential candidates in the form of passive ones. These individuals are generally content with their current employer and job situation, but they remain open to considering a compelling offer from an appealing company, potentially leading to a job change. Passive candidates make up about 70% of the global workforce.[1]

These statistics reveal that active candidates represent just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the talent available for a position. To avoid missing out on a vast talent pool, akin to the iceberg that sank the Titanic, it’s crucial to incorporate strategies targeting passive job seekers into your recruitment efforts. Here are five methods to engage with passive candidates:

1. Write Clear Job Advertisements

Your job advertisement serves as the primary showcase for your open position, significantly impacting job seekers’ decisions to apply. A LinkedIn study found that one-quarter of job seekers chose not to apply for a position because the job ad did not clearly convey the role’s duties and responsibilities.[2]

To capture the attention of passive candidates, it’s crucial to make your job advertisement concise and straightforward. Talented individuals not actively job hunting are unlikely to invest time in unraveling a complex job description. Begin by addressing the simplest factor you can modify and review your existing job ads for clarity and how long they take to read.

2. Streamline Your Application Process

The widespread use of smartphones for an increasing array of tasks is well known. Among smartphone users, 41% utilize their devices for job searching[3], and 67% of those candidates proceed to submit their applications directly via their smartphone.[4] These statistics underscore two critical considerations for recruiters:

A. Ensure That Your Career Site and Application Form Work on Mobile Devices

Responsive web design is the practice of creating websites that adapt seamlessly to various screen sizes, ensuring an error-free display across all devices. This approach has become a norm for most businesses in crafting their online presence, as it enhances the user experience on any device, leading to improved conversion rates in marketing and recruitment efforts. Therefore, it’s advisable to evaluate the user experience of your company’s career site and collaborate with internal developers or the marketing team to enhance your online presence as an employer if needed.

B. Reduce the Threshold for Applying

To prevent potential candidates from losing interest due to cumbersome application processes, such as being deterred by the 20th question on a form, it’s crucial to make website applications as straightforward as possible. Reflect on the essential information required for the initial screening of candidates and explore ways to gather this data with minimal effort from the applicants. For instance, allowing applicants to provide links to their social media profiles, like LinkedIn or Xing, instead of uploading a CV, could be a more efficient option. Often, these profiles contain the same information that a CV would provide, but with the added convenience for applicants of not having to locate and upload their CV. Keeping the application process simple is key to ensuring that you don’t lose the interest of passive candidates.

3. Include Social Recruiting Measures

As already mentioned, passive candidates are not on career sites or job boards as they are not actively looking for a new position. Depending on the target group, however, they can regularly be found on social networks. Social recruiting is therefore a suitable way to reach passive applicants.

With a company profile, it is easy and inexpensive for recruiters to publish content. Posting company insights organically is free, but advertising job vacancies on social networks is also a cost-effective alternative to job fairs or career ads in newspapers. In addition, recruiters’ personal LinkedIn and Xing profiles can be used to build a network of potential candidates that also includes passive candidates. An employer branding strategy should already be in place for the content of the postings.

Creating a company profile allows recruiters to share content easily and affordably. Sharing insights about the company is free when done organically, and using social networks to advertise job openings is a cost-effective option compared to attending job fairs or placing ads in newspapers. Additionally, recruiters can leverage their personal LinkedIn and Xing profiles to cultivate a network of potential candidates, including passive ones. It’s important to have an employer branding strategy ready to guide the content of these postings.

4. Activate Your Employer Brand

The employer branding strategy should resonate with the intended audience of potential applicants. It’s crucial to consistently convey the employer’s value proposition across both offline and online channels. This means that offline initiatives, social media presence, and the career site should all reflect the same values and align with the employer’s brand identity. The corporate website plays a pivotal role in this strategy, as 67% of applicants visit it before deciding to apply, highlighting its importance in attracting potential candidates.[2]

When curating content for the company website, it’s essential to consider the information potential applicants are most interested in. For instance, 69% of potential applicants are keen on learning about the company’s culture and values, while 63% want insights into employee perceptions of the company.[2] Additionally, details about the office location are important to 58% of applicants, benefits attract 55%, and information on the company’s products and services interests another 55%.[2] Clarity and comprehensibility in communicating this information are crucial to appeal to passive candidates. Strategically placed job advertisements on the website can further encourage them to apply.

5. Make Use of Your Employees’ Networks

Aligned with the employer branding strategy, involving employees as brand ambassadors through an employee referral program is an effective approach. In this program, employees recommend individuals from their own networks to the company, directly reaching out to passive candidates. When these referred candidates apply, the referring employees can offer preliminary insights into the applicants’ suitability for the company culture and their skill levels.

This method allows employees to actively engage passive candidates, expanding the visibility of the company’s employer brand. It not only generates applications from promising candidates but also helps in recruiting individuals who are more likely to have a longer tenure with the company, thereby reducing future recruitment needs.


Passive candidates constitute half of the labor market in Germany, making it imperative for them to be considered in recruitment strategies. By implementing a well-crafted employer branding strategy and an employee referral program, companies can attract potential applicants to their open positions and encourage them to apply. Social recruiting further complements these efforts. Additionally, having a clear job advertisement and simplifying the application process are crucial steps in lowering the barriers for passive candidates, and completing a comprehensive recruiting strategy.


[1] LinkedIn. (n-d). The Ultimate List of Hiring Statistics For Hiring Managers, HR Professionals, and Recruiters. Retrieved on February 12, 2024 via

[2] LinkedIn. (2016). 2016 Germany Trend Report. Retrieved on February 12, 2024 via https:\/\/

[3] Smith, Aaron. (2015). Job seeking in the era of smartphones and social media. Retrieved on February 12, 2024 via

[4] Appcast. (2022). 2022 Recruitment Marketing Benchmark Report. Retrieved on February 12, 2024 via

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