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Tips for Attracting Passive Job Seekers

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: When we’re recruiting, what’s the best way to find good candidates who may not be actively job hunting?

A: Such “passive job seekers” are people who are open to something new but haven’t yet taken the step of beginning an active job search. While they may have decided it is time to get a new job, they are committed enough to their current position and organization to continue working while they look for a new opportunity.

It used to be frowned upon for an organization to recruit potential candidates who worked for a competing organization. This was called “poaching.” Social media sites such as LinkedIn have changed all that.

Now, organizations can post open positions online—on their own job boards or other career sites—while also searching LinkedIn for people who have the skills they’re looking for. This can identify candidates who might not have responded to the job posting, but the process is time consuming.

Let your employees know what jobs you’re looking to fill, and ask whether they know anyone who meets the qualifications.

I think a much better way to find passive job seekers is to ask your current employees for referrals. Let your employees—especially your new hires—know what jobs you’re looking to fill, and ask whether they know anyone who meets the qualifications. Most organizations reward employees who refer someone who gets hired.

Employee referral programs (ERPs) can be a cost-effective way of finding new talent. ERPs should be open to all employees and should have specific guidelines for how recommendations may be submitted and for reward eligibility.

A benefit of having an ERP is that it can help you judge morale in your organization. Unhappy employees won’t refer a colleague, friend, or relative, but people who are happy and enjoy their work may send you outstanding candidates who might not ever have seen your job posting online or in social media.

Some organizations fill more than half of their open positions through employee referrals. This is a good way to find passive job seekers at a reasonable cost. An ERP should be part of your staffing strategy, along with using LinkedIn and your online job postings.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].