passive candidates

Your company probably vets through the most eligible job seekers when filling a workplace vacancy. You might post a JD that targets fresh graduates, gig workers, or the recently laid-off seeking to begin a new chapter in their careers. But the common theme is that you’re looking for people who are actively in search of a job, not passive candidates.

While it’s definitely practical to target active job seekers in your hiring campaigns (since they’re enthusiastic about starting a new position and would go the extra mile to prove themselves to your company), you might be missing out on a valuable group of talent – the passive candidates.

Who Are These “Passive Candidates?”

Passive candidates are potential hires who are currently employed but are open to new career opportunities that may come their way. An estimated 37% of US workers are passive candidates – which means that they’re constantly keeping an eye out for greener pastures. There are various reasons why a member of the workforce would fall under this category, such as:

  • Workplace Disengagement – The individual isn’t satisfied with their current organizational leadership, workplace culture, or role and desires exciting opportunities and experiences from a new source.
  • Lack of career growth, progression, and learning opportunities – A person might have plateaued in the current stage of their career journey but wish to expand their skills, expertise, and self-development. 
  • Career Switch – Individuals may intend to explore a new career pathway that isn’t offered by their current employer.

Why Hire Passive Candidates?

It might seem counterintuitive to hire someone who already has a job but it does bring many potential advantages to your team and company.

They Pull No Punches

Passive candidates aren’t desperately seeking a job. Jumping ship is more of a preference rather than a need.

You can expect passive candidates to be upfront when it comes to sharing what they feel about your company’s culture, goals, and vision. Transparency goes a long way, shaping open communications and improved collaborations since workplace expectations are clearly set from the get-go.

As such, you don’t have to worry as much about candidates rehearsing model answers for your interviews. What you see is what you get, and you can expect passive candidates to share their requirements explicitly, from incentives to salary requirements and everything in between. The wholesome onboarding eliminates misunderstandings and miscommunications down the road.

They Show Great Commitment

Passive candidates aren’t in a hurry to settle for the first job opening they can find. What this means is that they’re going to take a methodical approach in weighing their options and selecting a role that fits them best.

You can expect passive candidates to read up on your company’s values and understand what it means to become a part of your team. They engage in a slow and deeply conscious process when selecting a company, certainly not at the flip of a dime. As such, you can look forward to quality and dedicated contributions from someone who turned down other offers to join your crew. 

Passive Candidates Have Relevant Skills

Since passive candidates are fresh from the active workforce, they’ll possess relevant skills and expertise for boosting your company’s productivity. In some cases, a passive candidate could refine existing processes by sharing actionable insights based on their experiences with the latest industry trends. They’re bringing real-world solutions to your system and infrastructure.  

This could also result in cost-effective learning and development (L&D) since there’s less need for refresher courses and fundamental training.

However, this is not to say that your company should avoid or minimize training altogether. Industry research shows that companies that invest in training have a 24% higher profit margin. It’s just that your company can reduce the hand-holding required to get your passive candidates operationally ready.

How Do You Attract Passive Candidates?

While there’s much to gain from hiring a passive candidate, the question remains: How does one hire them? Based on their employment status and general attitudes toward finding a new job, it is safe to say that conventional hiring methods probably won’t work.

Essentially, there’s more convincing involved on the part of the employer. After all, passive candidates are putting their job security on the line as they take the plunge to join your team.

Promote Employee Referrals

Your current employees are some of the best company ambassadors available. In fact, market research shows that employee referrals account for 30-50% of all hires.

They can help spread the word about your organizational culture and benefits through genuine reviews and testimonials as an insider. As such, they can tap into their immediate networks to attract passive candidates who might suit the profile of an available role.

A robust referral program serves as great motivation for employees when it comes to promoting job vacancies to passive candidates. Effective referral programs should recognize and reward employees for their efforts while giving them the proper tools and information to attract the right talent.

For example, your referral program package could include an effective JD that clarifies role requirements and a mix of monetary and non-monetary incentives (e.g., gift vouchers and sponsored trips).

Build a Positive Workplace Culture

Safe and positive workplaces form a sturdy foundation for attracting top talent. News travels fast and as word spreads about the attractive nature of working at your company, it’s only a matter of time before you find passive candidates drawn toward your direction.

A positive workplace culture also contributes to greater employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention. By establishing a desirable company, you’ll encourage loyal employees to boost referral efforts while preventing them from becoming passive candidates themselves.

The success of a strong workplace culture occurs at the local and organizational level, which means that management and non-management team members should collaborate closely. Only by doing so can a company successfully identify the barriers to engagement and maximize performance and retention.

Diversity and Inclusion

Notably, an inclusive workplace with robust DEI initiatives can significantly improve employee engagement. In such settings, employees can expect fair treatment, recognition, and opportunities that contribute to their overall well-being and job satisfaction.

A global DEI survey reported that 82% of companies with a high level of engagement have a clear DE&I definition. Your company can optimize DEI practices by:

Endorsing and promoting employee resource groups (ERGs) –  These employee-led initiatives provide various communities with moral support and resources by establishing a common identity that fosters a sense of acceptance and belonging at the workplace. 

Gaining support from senior leadership – Buy-ins from senior leadership provide ERGs with the necessary resources for progressing through their programs while adding greater visibility to ongoing DEI efforts. 

Promote workplace safety – Open and effective communication at the workplace empowers every team member to speak up regardless of their background. By doing so, every individual has the freedom to voice their concerns and suggestions while nipping interpersonal issues and potential conflict in the bud.

Prioritizing DEI initiatives alongside other culture-building strategies can make your recruitment and hiring campaigns more appealing to passive candidates.

Reframe Your JDs

The final piece of the puzzle in attracting passive candidates lies in your JD – the portal to your company culture. Optimizing the text of your JDs can help connect you with passive candidates who happen to browse LinkedIn (or any other source of your posting) in search of better prospects. 

Your JD should remove all instances of gender-biased words and other exclusionary terms to maximize your talent pool outreach. Ongig’s powerful Text Analyzer tool helps you identify the negative and ineffective words and phrases in your JD and replace them with persuasive alternatives. 

With a positive work culture and refined JDs in tow, your company can entice passive candidates well-equipped to elevate your productivity. With the right support and encouragement, these starred hires might gradually refer other passive candidates, boosting your hiring practices altogether. 

Why I Wrote This:

Ongig’s revolutionary Text Analyzer solution is here to empower companies by kicking boring and biased JDs to the curb. By doing so, we help broaden the talent pool, opening doors to many attractive hiring opportunities, including elusive passive candidates.


  1. Keith Mackenzie, Workable – INFOGRAPHIC: 37% of US workers are passive candidates. Who are they?
  2. Nikki Jefferson, University of North Georgia – Investment in Employees is Key to Business Success
  4. Jessica Schatz, Gallup – 5 Ways to Increase Employee Engagement
  5. Aon – 2022 Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Survey
  6. Forbes, Forbes Council Members – Unlocking The Potential Of ERGs: 5 Actionable Strategies To Empower Your Employee Resource Groups
  7. Emeritus – 7 Ways to Build a DEI Strategy in the Workplace

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by in HR Content