4 Different Ways to Hire Passive Candidates
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4 Different Ways to Hire Passive Candidates

Mile Zivkovic Mile Zivkovic Last Updated:
Illustration of a spotlight on a man among a sea of candidates

This is a story on how to attract and hire passive candidates. PS! We at Toggl use a skills testing tool Toggl Hire for that. 

If you run a company and it’s your first time looking for new people to join your team, you’re in for a rude awakening.

You will soon come to find out that it’s much more complicated than posting an ad on a job board and sipping on some coffee, as you sit and wait for your ideal candidate to send in their application. In reality, hiring is most often a long, strenuous process that requires lots of time, resources, and good luck.

In your quest to find new coworkers, it’s a good idea to look at unexpected places. Instead of waiting for unemployed people to come to you, why not try and get someone who’s already employed?

We’re talking about passive candidates, of course. If you think someone who has a job isn’t going to be interested in your offer, think again. About 85% of the entire workforce is passively looking for another job and they would gladly accept a change in their work environment.

If we look past the fact that only 15% of the population is completely satisfied with their job (which is alarming on its own), this means that there is a huge pool of excellent candidates for your next opening – you just have to know how to reach them.

Why would you want to hire passive candidates?

With a number of unemployed applicants actively looking for jobs, targeting passive candidates specifically could be considered odd, but it has certain advantages.

First, because they’re not actively pursuing a new position, they won’t be interviewing with anyone else but you (hopefully). This means less competition.

Second, it’s highly unlikely that a passive candidate will lie or exaggerate on their resume. They’re content with their job (for the most part) and they’re not desperate to find their next gig.

Finally, you’re ideally looking for someone with a specific skill set that closely matches what you’re looking for. You know exactly whom you’re hiring and what they currently do in their position. This means less time and resources spent on training.

Hiring passive candidates is slightly different from standard hiring processes and it requires a unique approach. Here are some of the ways to reach a passive candidate and find your new ideal hire.

1. Make your company a place where people want to be

This goes without saying, but you should strive to make your organization into something where people are happy to spend 40 hours every week. If you hear someone bragging about how amazing their job is, you’re much more likely to be interested in working there too.

While salary plays a big part in how attractive your opening is to potential candidates, it is by no means the only relevant factor. There are other, equally (and more) important elements, such as positive work culture or the ability to work remotely.

In an increasingly digital world, plenty of jobs can be done from anywhere, as long as you have a laptop and an internet connection. The team at Toggl knows this, and they have staff in different countries, continents and time zones all over the world – and they function flawlessly.

toggl team

Working remotely can bring a range of benefits for the company and the employees. With passive candidates, it allows you to cast a wider net and look for people from all over the world.

Another factor that sells your company to passive candidates is culture. It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot lately, but it is of vital importance when hiring. Even more, it’s crucial if you’re looking to engage someone to switch from an existing position to your company.

Instead of dictionary definitions, one that describes culture best is this: it’s the guidebook for employees when they make decisions on their own – it tells you what to do when the CEO isn’t around.

Culture is an excellent hiring tool, and it can tell a lot about your company as soon as a candidate walks through your door.

For example, the well-renowned shoe company Zappos puts an immense value on culture – so much so that culture fit makes up for 50% of the decision if someone is hired or not. This makes them a very desirable employer – they’ve landed on Forbes’ 100 Best Companies to work for list on more than one occasion.

If you foster a great culture with plenty of transparency, cooperation, and trust, your employees will love you for it and will be happy to spread the word about how awesome their workplace is.

There’s no better magnet for passive candidates than seeing your current employees happy with their workplace culture.

2. Check up on rejected candidates from the past

Chances are, you’ve already met your perfect hire before. If this isn’t your first time looking for new talent, you should already have a database of previous candidates.

Using an applicant tracking system that has information about previous candidates’ skills and performance, such as Toggl Hire, you can check and see how they performed and why you wrote them off the first time.

If something stood out for a candidate but it wasn’t enough for you to make up your mind, now is the time to get back to them. Ever since your last contact, they may have gotten more experience. What’s more, they may have upgraded their skills to a point where they’re a great match for your opening.

Previously rejected candidates are potentially great hires, provided you took care of two things.

  • Firstly, you need to keep a database of previous applicants.
  • Secondly, you need to treat your candidates with respect throughout the application process.

Candidate experience throughout hiring is of vital importance, even for those candidates you don’t intend to hire. Show off the company culture and present yourself as a great place to be – even if they are rejected. This way, you have a greater chance to hire passive candidates from a past talent pool as they will be more likely to get back to you.

3. Ask around

If you haven’t already met your perfect hire in the past, someone you know might have crossed paths with them. Even though the Internet has immense importance in our everyday lives, it still hasn’t replaced word of mouth.

Ask around with your network of coworkers, colleagues, friends, and acquaintances. Ask if they know someone who might be great for your open position.

The more information you can provide about the job and the person you’re looking for, the better results you will get.

A great way to source new talent is by using employee referral programs. The idea is simple. If your employee finds you a new hire, they get a bonus for helping you with recruitment. However, there’s much more than money in referrals. Here’s what happens:

  • Your employees put faith in the new candidate because they need to show themselves in good light
  • You show your employees that you value their judgement
  • Your employees will only recommend your company if they think it’s a great place to work themselves

Looking at the bigger picture, employee referral programs are some of the easiest and hardest ways to hire passive candidates. They’re easy because they’re virtually free and your staff will do all the legwork for you. On the other hand, they’re very difficult because you need to create the kind of workplace that people want to bring their friends to.

4. Go where your potential candidates are

If someone is a passive candidate, it’s highly unlikely they will be browsing job boards for open positions. Why would they? Most likely, they’d have to go through a search, find a position and read through the ad. Then they fill out the application and send in their resume and cover letter, written specifically for that job. Not exactly a walk in the park.

In fact, they’d probably rather walk in the park than apply for a new job, even if it has a better work culture, salary, and benefits. The less complicated the application is, the more people it will attract.

In order to hire passive candidates, you have to think like one. Your ideal hire is more likely to browse Facebook with their first morning coffee than hang out on a job board. Why not use this to your advantage?

This is exactly what we’ve done with our most recent job opening. We needed to hire an SEO Manager and we wanted to get the absolute best person for the job.

We created a short skills test using Toggl Hire for sourcing the absolute best candidate. Instead of waiting for them to come to us, we went looked in the places they’re most likely to be – social media.

We created an ad for the job on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. However, given that this is a test – we challenged people, instead of simply asking them to apply for a job.

We targeted specifically those people with the title of SEO Manager, within Europe. In a little over a month, we got 240 visitors and 154 people who took the test. You can find out more about our hiring process in the link above.

PS. Some kind of incentive always works if you want to engage your passive candidates. Toggl Hire gave out free T-shirts to anyone who scored above the passing grade on their test.

I was one of the people who took the test and two awesome things happened as a consequence. One, I am now the proud owner of a super cool Toggl T-shirt. Two, I’m now writing this article for Toggl Hire.

Try out Toggl Hire

Passive candidates are an invaluable part of the talent pool and they can bring incredible value to your company. However, approaching them is a unique challenge, and trying to hire passive candidates is considerably different from hiring traditional candidates.

If you would like to make your hiring processes simpler and more effective, give Toggl Hire a try. In fact, Toggl used Toggl Hire to hire 68 new employees, with more than 1,500 applicants per position. Give it a try and see what skills testing can do for your recruitment process.

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