Ask any recruiter: the top talent pool is full of passive candidates who aren’t looking jobs. In fact, chances are the best potential hires are highly satisfied in their current positions. Although they are content in their current role, many acknowledge wondering what may be at the end of the rainbow… thus they would be open to taking a new gig if the ideal opportunity came along.

So how do you reach these hidden gems and motivate them to make a job move?

Think like a job seeker, not a recruiter.

My focus is on high-level candidates in the Manufacturing industry, which includes HR Managers, Directors and Vice Presidents.

When I talk with successful people in this industry, I ask why they took their current job. I’m looking for people’s true motivators. The only way to discover those core motivating factors is to study people’s backgrounds and listen to them. Why did they move from one job to another? What is most important to them about their current position? Where do they see themselves professionally in a few years?

Asking questions helps build rapport and gives me insight into what makes a person tick. I often begin our conversation with this simple, yet insightful, question; “If an ideal role came across my desk after this call, and I knew right away I had to call you back, what it would look like?” At that next level of executive management, I hear over and over again that people are looking for career growth, not a specific job. People are seeking personal development, not just a title. They want to know they’re contributing, growing a team. Salary alone won’t get high-level candidates excited about going into work.

Passive candidates have the ball in their court and won’t make the leap unless you can compel them with a unique value proposition. To be successful you must figure out how to scratch an itch not being met by their current employer.

Hang out where your top talent hangs out – online and in person.

If you want to know who’s hot in your industry, go where the top talent goes – and listen.

You may have heard the cliché “birds of a feather flock together,” and that is especially true in business everywhere. My aim is to use in-person networking events, combined with social media tools, to connect with leaders in the industry and those they attract.

Savvy recruiters use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and other popular online tools to promote a company, often without even mentioning job opportunities. It’s also important to find niche sites where the top passive candidates in your industry spend most of their time. Relevant to a specific field or skill set, these groups are ripe for recruiting – but instead of soliciting leads, take some time to monitor the group, identify key contributors, and figure out how you can add to the conversation.

Present yourself as a subject matter expert, not a recruiter.

Top candidates want to build and maintain relationships with subject matter experts, not recruiters. Consider speaking at industry and networking events to make connections with professionals who are active and passive. If you’re connected, and know the industry language, you might want to offer yourself as an advisor on career decisions or share an interesting article or presentation given by one of your company’s leaders.

The key is understanding relationships are not transactional

Turn a company’s current employees into advocates.

Many recruiters say that employee referrals are a top source of quality hires. That’s not surprising, given that referred employees are faster to hire, perform better, and stay longer in the company. Passive candidate sourcing depends in part on how you treat your present employees. If present employees are genuinely happy in the workplace, they will spread the word to others.

Look for specific talents, not job searchers.

When you’re looking for referrals, instead of asking someone about people they know who are looking for work, say, “Who do you know with XYZ skill set?” Ask your contacts about the best people they know in a particular area of expertise. By asking “Who would you trust to lead the redesign of your benefit package and retirement account” chances are their answer will be thoughtful as it is personal.

Build relationships with the best people you know.

Recruiting passive candidates requires relationship building. When you meet someone and think, “Wow, I would hire this person,” make a note to add the individual to your pipeline. Start the list by asking yourself “Who are the people that inspire me to be my best and does the same for those around them?”  No matter the role we constantly see that excellence is attracted to excellence, and those are the people you want to surround yourself with in any company!


Fast Facts on Passive Job Candidates