Passive Candidates are Reactive: How to Get in Front of Them

“Passive candidates”. It’s quite a misnomer when thinking about the connotations of the term. Yes, they are not actively engaging the market, most likely because they already have a satisfying job. But we at WorkTies call them “reactive candidates”. They react to opportunities that interest them enough to consider, even while employed. And because they already have a satisfying job, these reactive candidates are likely to be talented enough for other jobs. So, as a recruiter, you would like to tap into this pool of candidates. However, cold calling all employed professionals of a specific job title on LinkedIn is a very inefficient way of doing it. Below, I detail some tips and advice.

Be where they areUnlike active candidates, reactive candidates do not frequent job hunting sites. They read blogs that interest them and help them do their job better. Instead of posting to Indeed or Monster, you should find them wherever they frequent. If you happen to be recruiting in an area that you are unfamiliar with and don’t know where to start, do one of the following until you find the right publications:

  1. Use to find some of the top posts and blogs in a specific Work field (or use one of the other tabs if it fits better). Another aggregator is, as well as for magazines. With any of these, you will generally find links to the top publications in a particular industry.
  2. Simply Google the field or skill (e.g., “sales”), followed by the word “blog”, “tips”, or “news”.
  3. On, there might be specific section(s), called “subreddits”, that cater to the specific field (e.g., marketing). Search for that by Googling the field (in this case, marketing) followed by the word subreddit. Alternatively, use this spreadsheet ( to find the right subreddit. Make a copy onto your own Google Drive and re-sort it by industry, subscriber count, or any other column that you want. Once you find the right subreddit(s), look through the headlines to find links to blogs and news publications (you can also sort the subreddit by most upvoted stories submitted).

Outside of digital marketing, there’s also the set of field events that brings together industry professionals in one place. For conferences and expos, browse through or search on Google and save some of these events onto your calendar. Look into having a booth at one of these or even hosting / co-hosting one. Posting at any of the above destinations will get you better results with reactive candidates than job search sites, and even cold calling.

Get out there and stay out thereAccording to a blog post by Dr. John Sullivan in ERE Media, the top 10 percent of candidates are often gone from the marketplace within 10 days. I’m not sure what that technically means as I don’t have the exact methodology or his definitions in that statement, but we can go further to say that plenty of talent are never even “in the market”. Timing is everything, and you will reach many reactive candidates at a time when they are less open to new opportunities. Therefore, not only should you engage professionals wherever they frequent, you must do it consistently. Coordinate with your marketing department to get the best bang-per-buck for each event and online campaign, as well as to stick to a marketing calendar that doubles as a candidate engagement calendar. Consider services and solutions that help with engaging audiences through brand management and brand communications management. Examples include Jobvite Engage or ThisMoment’s employment branding solutions. While we have to recognize the reality of budget constraints, it makes sense to put as much muscle behind candidate marketing as we do customer marketing.

Maximize efficiencyWhile the above might sound effective if done well and consistently, time is a finite resource and you have other things to do. So how do you maximize efficiency?

  • Hire a recruiting coordinator. Your time is worth a lot, and that time is better spent on better sourcing and not scheduling. One company told us that they utilize recruiting coordinators to manage administrative functions such as scheduling, data entry, and reporting. Through simple training, these functions could also be done by administrative assistants or interns. In this case, the company went further and taught the recruiting coordinator to do some basic screening and sourcing. This saves the recruiting manager time and saves the company money.
  • Be smart about timing. For example, use LinkedIn to see how long a candidate has been at her job, and if she’s only been there less than three months, it’s unlikely that she’ll switch. Recognize industry-wide trends. For example, in many industries such as finance, hiring cycles coincide with the months following college graduation because of 2-year programs that start and end in the summer. Bonus season is effective for two reasons: it is typically the time that employees can become most disgruntled, and secondly, employees wait until after they receive their bonuses before leaving their job. (Full disclosure: My company, WorkTies, created an engaging mobile- and web-based job search app so that we make it easier for talent to opt into jobs, taking the guesswork out of whether a candidate is looking for a job. It’s about cutting the time spent on uninterested candidates by matching you with relevant AND interested candidates.)

Finally: Do NOT start them from the beginningYou’ve identified your top talent and have connected with them, and now you are bringing them into your company’s interview process. Great! What’s the first work of order? Get them to apply to the job through the online application so they can get into your system, right? Wrong! Sure, you want them to fill out the paperwork, but this is an opportunity to make a talented (but reactive) candidate feel like he is skipping the line. Even if your hiring process for him is largely the same, having the process start differently for him is enough to signal that you really value the candidate. Conversely, consider how a candidate would feel if she heard, “We picked you out because you are special, but start at the back like everyone else.” Make her journey seem like it’s a head start. Reduce frictions. Take a look at the below screenshot.

Remember this multi-page behemoth? All applicants hate this. All of them. Yes, this should not stop anyone from seriously considering a job or taking a job offer, but it is definitely a negative point. Even if you owned the nicest restaurant in town, you wouldn’t force your customers to come in through the kitchen entrance, would you? When attracting talent, don’t start in the negative. Take out as much friction as you can in order to make the hiring process seamless to the talented candidates. If you have to utilize this system (I understand it can be quite helpful administratively), at least introduce it much later in the process. Or, use that recruiting coordinator I suggested earlier to help fill out some of it with information already provided by the candidate, then pass off the login for the candidate to complete. In a different article, I’ve characterized the absurdity of including a cover letter as part of the application process. For top talent, who should feel like they are getting a head start, the absurdity of the cover letter rings even more true. Moral of the story: if you put your candidates through rigmarole, they will feel like they are rigmarole, and that is how they will think about your company.

Hopefully this has been helpful. Please leave any comments or contact me at feng.hong, followed by

John Assunto
Originally Posted on Linked In By: Feng Hong

About the author

Feng Hong is currently VP of Business Development at WorkTies, a talent sourcing technology platform. He works with industry leaders and high-growth companies to provide them with talented candidates while improving their recruiting process. Prior to WorkTies, Mr. Hong was an investment professional working with enterprise software and HR technology companies. Mr. Hong has a background in finance and marketing, graduating magna cum laude from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He is passionate about mentoring students and professionals in their career paths.


Posted on November 13, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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