The Ultimate Guide to Passive Candidate Sourcing in 2023

Ilona Tarnavsky

Ilona Tarnavsky

8 min read

Candidate sourcing has become more challenging than ever, and finding quality talent in today’s labor market is still difficult. If recruiters aim to get the best candidates, they must not limit themselves to engaging with the candidates applying for the job postings.

While there is a sea of candidates searching for jobs, the ideal candidate won't just walk through the doors ready to be hired. At times, the best candidates are the ones currently employed elsewhere.

According to Linkedin Reports, 73% of Candidates Are Passive Job Seekers. These candidates are not actively seeking new jobs but are certainly open to opportunities that align with their expectations. Savvy recruiters and hiring managers have the skills to conduct intensive research, identify these passive candidates, and attract them to job vacancies in the company.

This blog gives a detailed overview of passive candidate sourcing, citing best practices for recruiters to source and engage passive talent for their organization.

Let’s have a look at the nuances of passive candidate recruitment.

What is Passive Candidate Sourcing?

Passive candidate sourcing is when recruiters proactively scout employed candidates and reach out to them with potentially better job opportunities. Sourcing passive talent is one way to actively build trust and interest with qualified candidates that might be looking for a job switch.

How Does Passive Candidate Sourcing Solve Talent Acquisition Problems?

When sourcing passive candidates, they'll likely have the right skill set for the role. Therefore, there are higher chances of them positively contributing to your organization.

In most cases, passive candidates represent themselves accurately because they already have stable jobs. You also have more time to meticulously vet their expertise and judge if they're a good cultural fit for your company. Passive candidates are also easier to engage with in the event that you are the only potential employer interviewing that candidate.

How to source passive candidates?

Passive candidate sourcing may seem like a mammoth task to recruiters unaware of this strategy. We have simplified it by providing 5 proven passive candidate sourcing techniques you can leverage:

Ask for Referrals.

While you may need help finding the perfect candidate in your network, you can certainly leverage the network of your colleagues. Often, the best candidates are the ones who other employees refer. Here is a sample email template you can use to spread the word:

Covey can help you create automated outreach templates you can use to tap into your team's network and find referrals suitable for the role.

Leverage Social media.


You can source candidates on social media platforms apart from LinkedIn. Using Facebook and Twitter for recruitment is an extremely valuable way to source passive candidates. The more active your search on social media, the more likely you will find your perfect candidate.

However, LinkedIn is ahead of the game when sourcing passive candidates, and you must understand how to use these candidate-sourcing techniques effectively.

When using social media, make sure you tailor your job postings and share them as per the format of the platform and share a message on how to reach out to you. If your company is active on Twitter, leave a Twitter thread about the roles and responsibilities. If you’re active on Instagram and looking to fill a creative role: post stories regularly about the role.

Meet Candidates In Person.

If you come across competent candidates during networking events, don’t be shy to reach out but also don’t be too pushy! For instance, if you are looking for a new tech hire, find them by attending events exclusively hosted for techies. Another way to meet potential candidates is by hosting your events to learn more about the attendees. You will get a fair set of active and passive candidates you can include in your talent pool.

Check out Portfolio based Websites.

Scouting passive candidates by analyzing their portfolios is the perfect assessment of their skill set. This method works well for creative professionals like graphic designers who have a solid presence on Behance, Dribble, and Carbonmade.

If you aim to source quality tech talent, GitHub is an excellent option to find developers by examining their projects. You can also host coding challenges via sites like HackerRank and Codility and identify the best candidates per their scores.

Build Talent Communities.

A talent community can enable recruiters to build a pipeline of passive candidates interested in your company but not ready to apply for a position. Suppose you wish to keep the candidates interested. In that case, you must keep them engaged by regularly sharing employment opportunities, referrals, and career advice that cater to the needs of both the business and the candidate.

Talent communities are an authentic way for recruiters to provide candidates with a  unique perspective of your company, keeping members updated on company news and relevant career opportunities. By nurturing an active talent community, companies will have a proactive way to stay in contact with passive candidates, allowing recruiters to build relationships until they’re ready to explore new opportunities within the company.

AI Sourcing Tools.

While the above methods are effective, executing them becomes a tedious and lengthy process. If hiring managers wish to cut down their hiring timelines, then an AI Sourcing tool is the way to go.

Covey can help you source, sends drip campaigns, gathers referrals, and provides candidate pipeline reporting to simplify and streamline your recruiting process.

Active vs. Passive Candidate Recruiting

There is a stark difference between active and passive candidates, especially regarding the recruitment process. Here is a breakdown that gives you an idea of sourcing active and passive candidates:

Passive Candidate Sourcing

  • Not actively seeking jobs
  • 70% of the global workforce is passive talent
  • Far more challenging to engage with in the hiring process
  • Resumes and portfolios need to be updated as per the role
  • Do not always apply to other jobs if they are satisfied with their current role
  • Less likely to be interviewing elsewhere
  • May delay joining date due to notice period in previous company

Active Candidate Sourcing

  • Highly eager in their job search
  • The remaining 30% of the global workforce is actively seeking jobs
  • Very responsive and engage meaningfully throughout the hiring process.
  • Resumes are tailored to the role and portfolios are updated
  • Instantly apply to open positions  posted on LinkedIn
  • Might be interviewing at other companies as well
  • Can join the organization anytime

Sourcing passive candidates can be challenging but possible. Even if the candidate may hesitate to join your company, they will undoubtedly have you in mind when considering a new role elsewhere.

How to attract passive candidates

Recruiters must step up their game and build effective passive candidate sourcing strategies when it comes to attracting these candidates. Here are some commonly used methods used by hiring managers:

Elevate Your Social Media Game.

For your organization to build brand awareness and attract passive talent, it’s crucial to invest in a stellar campaign on social media.

By setting up a strategic job advertising campaign on social media, you will see a transformation in the number and quality of applications. The ideal channels for job advertising are Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

They give employers a chance to create targeted ads, which you could leverage to showcase open positions and elements like your company culture to draw viewers in and attract passive job seekers.

Employee Referral Program.

An Employee Referral Program is one of the ideal methods of recruiting semi-active and passive candidates because when looking for a new opportunity, they would reach out to their friends first. It’s also great for getting active candidates who often ask their friends for referrals and for passive candidates who may be swayed by their friends.

Engage with Passive Talent.

LinkedIn is a gold mine of qualified passive candidates. As it is a professional platform, most candidates will include information relevant to recruiters, like email IDs or links to their online portfolios. You can use built-in tools such as LinkedIn Recruiter to make a targeted search to find the ideal candidate.

Make sure you regularly engage with these candidates by reacting and commenting on their posts, and they'll surely reciprocate as well.

Participate in live events.

Connecting face-to-face is the ideal way to get to know the overall nature and behavior of a candidate. When you have the opportunity to interact with potential candidates in person, you should make the best use of it. You can join or sponsor events or partake in other networking events and highlight how great it would be to work with your company.

Build a Strong Employer Brand.

With the power of employer branding; you can show what sets you apart from other organizations. Ensure you position your organization as the best workplace for your particular niche by emphasizing features such as extensive employee benefits, high compensation, flexible work hours, stock options, and so on.

How to recruit passive candidates

Now that you know how to find passive candidates, it's time to incentivize them to accept the position. Passive candidates are open to considering a new opportunity only if it is better than their current job. Here are a few tips to follow when recruiting passive candidates:

Prepare a Great Pitch.

As a recruiter, you have very less time to make an impression on a candidate who doesn’t necessarily want to change their job. It’s crucial that you have the complete job description, remuneration package, benefits, and company details, along with the employer brand, ready to go. Think of it like you’re trying to make a sale and need a pitch. Thus, you should be thorough when recruiting a passive candidate.

Send Personalized Emails.

Because passive candidates aren't seeking a new job, they must be motivated to interact further and consider the role. You must include information about your organization and showcase how the company stands out.  Remember, this process isn’t similar to sending bulk emails; you should have a personalized approach and write an effective outreach email.

Assess Your Timing.

Moreover, make sure you strike when the time is right. Passive candidates don’t respond well to a hiring manager that’s too pushy. That’s why you converse with the candidate before you mention the opportunity.

Begin your conversations by putting them at ease, and make the conversation about them – not your company’s needs. It will give you a great insight into their interests and will also get them more interested in conversing with you. Only when you believe the time is right, you can tell them about your company, the role and what makes them a great fit.

Boost the Benefits of your Company.

Sometimes, the best way to convince a passive candidate is to analyze the weaknesses of their current organization. Examine the company they’re employed with in terms of culture, work environment, benefits, and growth opportunities. Figure out how your company can stand out against them. Hence, when you talk to the candidate, you can highlight how your organization can fill in these gaps, proving to be a better opportunity for the candidate.

Here are 4 ways to incentivize passive candidates to consider your offer:

Hype up the opportunity.

While offering higher compensation might be one way to attract them, you should try other ways. Qualified candidates know their worth; hence they long for other things, like opportunities to refine their current skillset and gain more experience and overall holistic professional development. Show these candidates that the role offers all these benefits to them.

Emphasize the organization's core values.

Let's be honest; top candidates always aim to work for the best organizations. They wish to work with companies with big goals and significantly impact the industry. They mainly prefer working for organizations that share their core values. You must understand the candidate's core values and show how they align with your company's values.

Highlight positive company culture.

Today's generation highly values company culture, and if recruiters want to hire top young talent, they must showcase their work culture. Candidates want to work in a place where they feel at ease. The era of remote work gave rise to mental health awareness, and now employees highly value work-life balance. Given the circumstances in the job market, young Gen Z candidates prefer flexibility in the workplace, and providing this benefit is critical to attracting and retaining early talent.

Quality candidates also look to work in an environment that offers growth opportunities and a learning curve that helps them learn new things. Hence ensure that you foster a company culture that encourages skill development and believes in maintaining a work-life balance.

Show how this role aligns with their future plans.

Top passive candidates usually have a bird's eye view of their careers, not only their current job. They have a strong vision for the future and prefer opportunities that align with their long-term vision. You must gauge their ambitions and show the candidate how the position will help them achieve their long-term goals.

Speed Up the Process.

When the candidate shows interest in the position, you’ll need to act quickly in case they may change their mind or lose interest in the role. It's natural that recruitment isn't an overnight process, but when recruiting passive candidates you should speed up while still maintaining efficiency.

Highlight the next steps clearly, such as a phone call or lunch meeting. Follow up mindfully within a reasonable period if you are waiting to hear back from them.

When the candidate agrees to a video call, you should be ready to accommodate the candidate after hours or at any time, as per their preference. The reason is that you're more interested in recruiting them than they are in your job offer. Your actions must reflect the same and make the candidate feel valued. These passive candidate sourcing strategies will ensure meaningful engagement, and you will be ready to move to the next stage.

It is best to use AI powered recruitment automation tools to automate processes such as cold outreach and scheduling interviews.

But when reaching out and communicating with passive candidates, make sure you are respectful that they may be satisfied with their current job and are not looking to leave.

7 Techniques for Successful Passive Recruiting

Passive candidate sourcing techniques are more complex than active sourcing techniques because some candidates may not be looking to change jobs when you approach them or would prefer to grow within their current organization. You must use a set of techniques when you’re passively sourcing candidates. Here are 7 effective ways to gain success when sourcing passive talent:

1. Conduct background research on your candidate.

Take ample time to understand your potential candidate before sending a prospecting email or connecting with them on social media.

In-depth background research can help determine if they are a good fit for your organization—use LinkedIn to examine their skills, employment history, and the content they find insightful.

2. Go beyond the information on job sites.

Leverage various networks and forums in candidate outreach for the best sourcing results. For example, web developers may be found on online communities such as Stack Overflow, while other candidates might have more presence on Twitter.


A candidate's online presence will help you get clarity on their interests. You can leverage this intel to personalize your messaging during outreach, thus increasing your chances of getting a reply.

3. Improve Employer Branding.

When you message a passive candidate, they will research you and your company. Organizations with a robust online presence, great branding, and positive reviews will likely capture the candidate's attention.

4. Provide a great experience and build a pro-employee reputation.

Building a sincere relationship of trust with potential job seekers is critical. The candidate experience should make potential new hires know that you work hard to benefit their career. By delivering a successful candidate experience, candidates feel more confident about leaving their job for an unknown new opportunity.

Clarify your pro-employee stance on your website's careers page via job postings and employee reviews. Building a good reputation also implies having healthy relationships with rejected job seekers and former employees.

5. Offer candidates an excellent work-life balance.

Many professionals prefer working remotely post the pandemic as it gives them a work-life balance they couldn't have if they worked in the office.

Employers that fail to offer employees more flexibility by either denying a fully remote opportunity or not agreeing to a hybrid work model are very likely to miss out on some of the best talent.

6. Stay on top of industry trends.

Knowing what's happening in the industry can help hiring managers identify more potential passive candidates.

Any change or uncertainty might have employees considering leaving their current position.


Even if the news doesn't directly affect the candidate, recruiters well-versed in the industry dynamics will seem credible to the candidates.

7. Ask candidates the right questions.

Interviewing passive candidates requires posing different questions when compared to active candidates. If the candidate has not considered switching jobs yet, asking the following questions could help persuade them to consider your offer:

Questions to Ask Passive Candidates:

  • Is your current role as satisfying as when you first started?
  • Is this your dream job?
  • What was the most fulfilling role you've ever had, and does your current job measure up similarly?
  • What do you like about your current position? What do you like least?

Asking these questions may make them contemplate changing their job, which will give you an upper hand when you want to convince them to join your organization.

When is sourcing passive candidates the best option?

Passive candidate sourcing is the right choice when you are looking to fill an executive role or when there is a skills shortage because a wrong hiring decision can have dire consequences.

It is best to source passive talent in such a scenario if your company has a vacancy that's hard to fill despite the countless interviews taken. However, when you resort to this tactic, you should remove all job postings online and inform new applicants that the role is no longer open.

Start engaging passive candidates today

Passive recruitment offers hiring teams a fantastic opportunity to recruit some of the top talents in their industry. By successfully sourcing and recruiting passive job seekers, your organization will significantly benefit from suitable employees who will likely stay with you long-term.

Now that you know all the tips and tricks to passive candidate sourcing, you can automate these processes with Covey. Thanks to Covey, you can measure the effectiveness of your sequences with our conversion metrics, such as open rate, replied rate, and interest rates.

Schedule a Demo with us today and streamline your hiring processes.

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