Does every job requisition that crosses your desk immediately fill you with panic? Do you spiral down a long list of questions including, “Where will I find these candidates?” “How long will the search take?” “Will the hiring manager think I’ve presented dynamic individuals?” You can avoid that pit-in-your-stomach feeling by proactively building and maintaining a go-to source for the best candidates: a robust, high-quality passive talent pipeline. Learn how to grow and engage your passive candidate pipeline, to ultimately help increase quality hires and decrease time spent sourcing. Read on to understand:

  • The passive candidate pipeline
  • How to grow your pool of passive candidates
  • Best practices to engage passive candidates

Who Belongs in a Passive Pipeline?

Creating a clear distinction between passive and active candidates is the first step to building a high-quality passive talent pipeline. Active candidates are currently applying or interviewing for jobs; passive candidates are not currently applying for a job with your organization. You can identify passive candidates as any of the following:

Candidates you met at past events who did not apply to an open role

Whether it was a career fair, diversity conference or industry networking reception, candidates who didn’t directly apply to an open position can be excellent contenders for your passive candidate pipeline.
Action item: At hiring events, encourage everyone you meet to join your talent community, to receive your company’s latest announcements, industry trends and open positions.

Talent community members

Regardless of how they signed up, events, online or were a referral, individuals who joined your talent community are great leads, as they have already expressed an interest in your company.
Action item: Launch a communication campaign reaching members of your talent community who have joined, but have not applied for a job. Highlight new positions, employee testimonials and lesser-known company benefits, such as unique perks, career paths and industry accolades.

Past interns

Whether previous interns still have several years of school left, or are finishing up their final semester, this group of candidates could be your company’s greatest future investment.
Action item: Developing a memorable intern program is one of the best ways to build a passive candidate pipeline that results in post-graduation hires. Their positive experiences will reach their social and professional networks, continuing to strengthen your message and brand.

Former employees

Not all former employees are disgruntled. Many are likely to have left your company due to a life event, a relocation, or to pursue further growth opportunities. Fast forward several years, and these employees may be interested in returning to work for your company, or could be an excellent referral source.
Action item: Create an employee alumni newsletter or hold annual networking events to stay in touch. Keep updated on their career goals and encourage them to refer those in their network to your company.

Employee referral network

Employee referrals can help build a passive talent pipeline to scale recruitment efforts, by leveraging current employees’ networks. Referrals can be past colleagues of existing employees or other professional connections.
Action item: Implement a company-wide referral program to enable employees to refer candidates from social and professional networks to connect them with exciting opportunities. Leveraging employee referrals will help build a passive talent pipeline with minimal additional resources, by encouraging interested candidates to come to you.

Previous applicants

Just because previous applicants applied for a job and did not receive offers, doesn’t mean they aren’t an excellent fit for a different type of role with your company now or in the future. For example, a candidate who applied to a marketing role but was light on brand experience, might be a great client success candidate because of his or her excellent communication skills and great attitude.
Action item: Schedule regular check-ins with top candidates who you believe would be great company cultural fit for open positions in the future. Hiring for company culture fits doesn’t mean hire those who are just like everyone else – it means hiring those who hold the same values, ideals and work ethic as team members. Keep a pulse on these individuals’ career developments and evolving goals, to can keep them in mind when a perfect position opens.

Grow Your Pool of Passive Candidates

Once you have established the avenues to meet passive candidates, it’s time to fill the pipeline. As a recruiter, it’s important to continually review the ease in which candidates can interact with your company online and participate in activities outside of the job application process. Use the following tactics to make it easier for passive candidates to find and engage with your organization.

Spark a social media conversation

Make your company’s career-focused social media accounts stand out in a crowded space. Create and curate content, including industry trends, easily shareable images, or proprietary data that resonates on social media networks and will encourage your passive candidates to like, comment and share.

Appear where candidates are searching

Don’t always assume people will visit your company’s website to learn about your organization. Potential candidates are Googling your organization, searching on social media and relying on word-of-mouth. Monitor these messages by staying engaged and encouraging transparency among current employees.

Use metrics and tracking to your advantage

Set up Google Alerts for your company and implement a free social media monitoring service such as Hootsuite or Buffer, to gain further insight into what others think about you — not what you think about yourself. When posting jobs outside of your career page, use tracking links (e.g. or to gather insights on where you have the highest engagement. With metrics in place, you can start to analyze and target candidates on the sites that show the most activity.

Attend events with the highest ROI

Identify the career fairs that will offer the highest ROI and focus on providing attendees with the best experience. If you’re still collecting paper resumes and entering candidate data on spreadsheets, invest in the tools to help you retire this manual process. Implement recruitment software that allows candidates to upload their resumes and/or join your talent community on the spot. Create a post-event passive candidate communication strategy to ensure those in your talent pipeline stay informed, engaged and excited about your company.

Engage passive candidates

You understand the passive candidate and know how to grow your pipeline, now it’s time to engage! If a candidate joins your talent community, follows you on social media or is referred into your network and never hears from you again, their interest in your company is likely to diminish. Frequent and proactive communication is one of the best ways to engage with both active and passive candidates. The following ways can facilitate genuine conversations with candidates.

Streamline and automate communication

Use talent acquisition software to help organize and automate communication. A talent relationship management (TRM) system can automate email or text campaigns to increase candidate touch points and decrease additional hours allocated to candidate communication. For example, setting up passive candidate email templates makes it easier to send your passive talent pipeline regular communication, such as updates on company awards or accolades, open positions, industry events or networking opportunities. Regularly updating your careers page will ensure it reflects your current recruitment marketing efforts.

Support mobile-first recruiting

Ensure your company’s careers site is easy for candidates to apply for jobs or join your talent community via their mobile device. Sites that aren’t optimized for mobile give job searchers the impression your company’s technology and processes are antiquated. If you want to see how mobile-friendly your site is, try joining your talent community on your own mobile device and take note of any frustrations you encounter.

Use video to update recruitment marketing materials

Incorporate videos into your inbound recruitment marketing strategy and provide candidates added insight into what it’s like to work at your company. Film employees discussing work life, and hiring managers explaining their open roles. Post short videos to your social networks in lieu of a written job description. If positions are highly collaborative, film different team members explaining what goes on during a typical day, to create a day-in-the-life style video. Creating visual interest and insight into your organization is another way to grab people’s attention and excite them to learn more.

Are you ready to invest in your company’s next generation of talent? Find out how your organization can attract top talent and develop your passive talent pipeline.