Finding the Perfect (Already Employed) Employee / HR Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

How do you find passive candidates when they aren't applying for your jobs? Here are 5 tips and tricks for hiring passive candidates.

In small and medium-sized companies, each and every hire has the ability to influence a business in either a highly positive or damaging way.  When the stakes are so high, you need to make sure you are finding the "A Players" that are going to engage in your business and drive your company's strategy forward.  While 60% of the workforce is not actively seeking new employment, they are open to exploring their options (Tweet This).  So how do you find these hard-to-reach candidates when they aren't applying for your jobs?

Related:The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Who's on Your Team? Here are 5 tips to source the elusive passive candidate!

1 .LinkedIn + Boolean Search = A Match Made in Heaven.

Recruiters have turned to LinkedIn. According to Herd Wisdom, 89% of all recruiters report having hired someone through LinkedIn. With 94% of recruiters active on LinkedIn, how, you might ask, do you find the right candidates? Boolean searches (Tweet This). Boolean searches combine keywords with operators that produce the most relevant search results to help you weed through irrelevant candidates.   Boolean searches can be used in any candidate database, not just LinkedIn. Quotes -- If you want to search for an exact phrase, put everything within the quotation, for example "Account Executive".  You can also use additional modifiers with quotation marks if you are looking for a combination of skill sets or job titles. And -- If you are looking for multiple terms within a candidate use AND in between those terms    and the search results will yield those results.  For example "Account Executive" AND "Inside Sales" will yield candidates that have both exact phrases in their profile or resume. Or -- Similar job functions are often referred to as different job titles, so if you would like to broaden your search to include multiple key terms you can use OR.  If I am recruiting for a sales candidate I might use "account executive" OR "acct exec" OR "sales executive" to find multiple candidates that are relevant to my search. Not- When you are looking to cut your time to hire in half, the "NOT" results are almost as important as the AND 's and OR's.  If you have identified certain key terms that produce undesirable results, exclude those key terms from your search.   For example I might use "Account Executive" NOT "Director" as a way to identify individual contributors. Parenthetical -- Once you have mastered the Quotes, AND's, OR's and NOT's you can use parentheticals to develop complex candidate searches.  For example "Account Executive" AND (salesforce OR sage) which would help me find sales candidates that have Salesforce or Sage in their profile.

Related:4 Thing Your Startup Needs to Do to Attract Talent

2. Know Your Competitors.

When it comes to finding and retaining your top talent, it is just as important to know your local employment competitors as it is to know your business competitors (Tweet This).  You can use multiple sources to do research on your employment competitors.  At, we are looking for candidates that have experience in digital media, so I will typically research companies on Google and Linked In that are in the digital media space.   Most major metropolitan areas also have local "Best Places to Work" awards where you can easily get a list of the companies in your area that were voted by their own employees as best places to work.   Once you have identified companies in your area that would employ the type of talent you are seeking, you can combine those Boolean Search Tips to quickly identify your passive talent.

3. Passive Recruiting is a Form of Sales.

Develop a target list and craft personalized LinkedIn InMails or Emails for each candidate.  I highly recommend upgrading your LinkedIn Profile to at least the Talent Finder level which allows you to send up to 25 InMails to people you aren't connected to.  Remember, because you are reaching out to passive candidates that did not apply for your position, you'll need to use persuasive language that entices the candidate to take time out of their day to set up an initial call with you.  I suggest providing a short, high level overview of the company, no more than one or two sentences.   Flattery goes a long way; tell the candidate why you believe they could be a great fit.  Lastly, you want to close with a statement on why this opportunity is better than their current position and suggest a time for an initial call.

4. Always Sell Your Company.

Once you get this passive candidate on the phone, you can't expect to run a phone screening the same way you do for an active candidate; after all, you sought them out!   Be prepared to sell your company (Tweet This).  You will want to give a high level overview of your company and the available position as well as your unique culture.  You then want to find out why this passive candidate was open to taking a call in the first place.  This portion of the conversation will likely unlock a lot of questions and lead you through the rest of your initial call.  If you discover this candidate might not be a good fit for this particular role today, you always want the candidate to want to work here.   Most industries are relatively small and you never know who someone may be connected to, so you always want to leave a positive lasting impression.

Related:6 Small Business Perks that Will Recruit Big Talent

5. Be Involved in the Industry.

It is important for candidates to know who you are and your company's mission statement. A great way to gain this visibility is by hosting or sponsoring meetups at your office, or attending industry networking events.   This is something you need to continually do, not just when you are have open positions.  Attending and participating in these networking events will keep your company recognizable when you are reaching out to those passive candidates or top of mind when passive talent actively seeks new employment. Finding those hard to reach, "A Players" is a lot easier when you prepare yourself with an outreach strategy.  While 59% of recruiters agree, candidates sourced from social networks yield the "highest quality" candidates; you can't ignore passive recruiting tactics on sites like LinkedIn. So take advantage of these 5 recruiting tips and go find those "A Players" you need to drive your small business forward. (Image via

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