Corporate Eye

On the Hunt for Passive Candidates


The idea that high-value talent is concentrated among people not looking for jobs has become widely accepted in the recruiting community. And the potential to locate these “passive candidates” is probably the top reason cited for using LinkedIn as a recruiting tool.

So—how true are these propositions? And how does the hunt for PCs relate to the Careers website?

On the first proposition . . . just don’t miss Ronald Katz’s article “What’s So Great About Passive Candidates?” and the brisk discussion that follows it. Some highlights:

  • There is no bright line between the active and passive states.
  • Needing a job doesn’t automatically mean there’s something wrong with the candidate—especially in the present economy.
  • Finding and hiring passive candidates usually costs more. Worth it?
  • The mere fact of current employment isn’t necessarily a good predictor of potential value.

On the second proposition . . . it’s worthwhile to take a second look. Certainly there has been a swarming effect around LinkedIn for recruitment, and definitely it’s related to the passive-candidate hunt. But as LinkedIn increasingly becomes a database for recruiters, there’s no reason to assume that most (or any) people with LinkedIn profiles are “passive.”

And now that LinkedIn is a happy hunting ground, there are hunters aplenty. Although LinkedIn was a secret weapon when Lou Adler offered 10 Great Tips for Using LinkedIn to Find the Best Passive Candidates on the Planet in January of 2008, those were the good old days. By February of 2009, LinkedIn was releasing Talent Advantage, an extensive suite of search-and-woo tools for recruiters and companies.

That said, there’s still some room left for getting creative with LinkedIn—and you can even do it on a budget with PeopleToucher, a clever LI search application. One thought:  There are still some really passive candidates on LinkedIn, in the form of entrepreneurs and self-employed folk who in fact are using LI for other purposes than luring recruiters. In the rapidly changing talent landscape, these hold-outs may offer a new source of energy and ideas for companies that aren’t getting everything they need from conventional hires.

So what’s the connection between passive candidates and the Careers website? Arguably, these are the visitors who may demand the most from your site. Active candidates might love your site if it lists any jobs they can apply for, and ignore everything else while filling out forms and uploading resumes. If there are no applicable job listings, they may leave in a hurry (unless the site provides other rewards, and/or encouragements to stay connected).

But a passive candidate contacted by a recruiter may very well go straight to the company site for a look around. And what they find there could have a considerable influence on whether they decide to pursue the opportunity.

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Cynthia Giles has followed a serpentine career path from academia to publishing to marketing and design to information technology and corporate communications. There’s plenty of detail about this journey at, but briefly--the common theme has been ideas, and how to present them effectively. Along the way, she became an accidental expert on data warehousing and business intelligence, and for the past ten years she has combined corporate contracting with an independent consulting practice that focuses on marketing strategy for smaller businesses and non-profits. Having spent quite a bit of time looking for work, and anywhere from two weeks to two years inside a wide variety of American companies—she has given much thought to what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to creating a great employment fit.

Good article.

Another idea is to look for candidates that have just joinded LinkedIn, since they may now be looking for a new job. This is something that you can do with Advanced Search, but very few people realize it.

I actually have a blog entry that describes it at

3 places to find the best passive candiates. – They have an enormous database and posting automatically pulls resumes from the database from 1200 sites. – Scan Indsutry groups and you can see the membership list of all groups. I also do advanced searches on Linkedin. – Our sister company has an account and we can search for free. Its a great source but man is it expensive.

Hello Patrick and Richard – thank you both for those useful links.

What do you think of Cynthia’s suggestion that there is a potential pool of passive candidates in LinkedIn – people currently selfemployed or entrepreneurs who are not trying to use LinkedIn to find a job, but rather as a promotional tool? It might not be easy to change their mindset away from self-employment, but there might be options for outsourcing or contract work …

I think that all systems (linkedin, monster, careerbuilder etc) seperate passive candidates from active candidates and this is a fundamental flaw. You can post for free on and they include both passive and active job seekers for the job. I also like how monster makes resumes of passive candidates avaiable when you post but you have to pay-to-post and the resumes are extra. Seriously, I dont have a stake but try realmatch.

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