Fire them up! 3 ways to get passive candidates really excited about your company

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6 mins, 17 secs read time

Kathryn Minshew is the CEO & Founder of The Muse, a career platform used by over 50 million millennials and digital/technical candidates to advance in their careers. A WSJ and Harvard Business Review contributor, Kathryn has spoken at MIT and Harvard, and appeared on TODAY and CNN. Kathryn has been named to INC's 35 Under 35 and Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Media. A Duke alum, Kathryn worked with the Clinton Health Access Initiative in Rwanda before founding The Muse, and was previously at McKinsey & Company.

Understandably, you want to attract top quality talent to your company. But, unsurprisingly, often that top quality talent is already employed somewhere else.

Sure, they may be passive candidates—people who aren’t actively seeking a new position but would be open to a new opportunity if it seemed great enough—but these types of candidates are much tougher to get through your door even for just an interview. Think about it this way: a car salesman has a much harder time selling a new vehicle to someone who is already happy with the car they have. That new car would really have to be something special.

The same concept applies to recruiting. If you want passive candidates to seriously consider your company as a potential employer, you need to make a strong effort to demonstrate what makes your organization an amazing place to work. People need to be excited about your company before they’re ever even going to entertain the idea of talking to your company about an open position.

So, how do you pull this off? How can you get people interested in you, even if finding a new job isn’t their priority? Give these 3 tips a try and watch your ability to appeal to passive candidates go through the roof:

1. Identify what makes you unique and promote it

There’s a lot of competition out there. And, I’m not only talking about competitors who offer your exact same product or service. As you already know, there’s also a great deal of competition when it comes to recruiting and hiring.

In order to separate yourself from the pack, you need to identify what, exactly, makes your company a special or unique place to work and then highlight those qualities—in other words, your employer brand—in everything you do. And make sure to get specific! Anyone can say things like “The people are great!” or “We have an awesome culture!”. While those things may be true, they don’t do a whole lot to show people how you’re different. Clearly, you need to deep dive into the details.

So, how do you identify these selling points? Polling your existing employees for their thoughts and ideas is a great place to start. Ask what attracted them to your company, what sets you apart from the other places they’ve worked, and what their favorite parts are about their jobs, the team, and the work space. They’ll likely share some great attributes you wouldn’t have thought of on your own. Hearing it from the employee’s perspective helps put you in their shoes, seeing what they see.

Once you’ve put into words exactly what makes you stand out from other employers in your industry, it’s time to share that message. [Many times, it’ll be put in the form of an employee value proposition (EVP)]. In shaping your employer brand, you’ll want to incorporate it into your careers page and share it on your social media channels, but since passive candidates likely won’t be looking there, you’ll need to take action beyond that. Consider pitching your executives as speakers at industry events, hosting a panel discussion or networking meetup in your office space, or publishing content (on high-traffic third-party sites) that positions your company as a dynamic thought leader. And, most importantly, make your defining values crystal clear to your current employees, so that every time they talk about your company, they’re sharing the same message. This leads to point #2.

2. Engage existing employees

Your existing team members are your greatest asset when it comes to attracting passive talent—think of them as walking, talking advertisements for your company and culture. They’re not only able to spread the good news that your organization is a wonderful place to work, but they can also share postings of open positions with their own networks of skilled and qualified people. Hearing positive, honest feedback from employees themselves is an authentic approach to luring talent into your organization.

So, without a doubt, you want to make sure that your current staff is happy with their careers and work environment. If they’re going to be out there talking to others, you want them to be saying positive things—because no amount of clever marketing can completely undo the word-of-mouth complaints of your existing employees.

How can you step up your game to increase satisfaction in your workplace? Sure, you could immediately jump into planning fun outings or instituting casual Fridays in the office. But, your best bet is to be direct and simply ask your team members where you could improve. At The Muse, we conduct employee satisfaction surveys and 360-degree performance reviews (in which managers, direct reports, and colleagues review each team member) on everyone—the founders included!—every six months. These exercises always give us eye-opening suggestions for ways to foster a happier work environment—things much more core to our culture than “more snacks in the break room.”

3. Get personal

OK, if you truly want to pull in the most skilled and qualified applicants, you often need to pursue them yourselves. But I’ve tried that, you say. People rarely—if ever—respond to my LinkedIn messages.

Yes, the convenience of technology is great—particularly when it comes to recruiting and hiring. However, the internet can only get you so far. It’s easy for your messages to get lost among the mounds of emails received every day.

So to engage passive candidates, you’ll need to get out from behind your computer and start shaking some hands. Seriously. Go out to events in your community, be seen, and be heard. It’s a surefire way to grow your network and expand your hiring reach.

That said, simply meeting these people isn’t enough—you need to find ways to get them excited about your organization and the opportunities you offer. Offering just a job to prospective high-quality candidates typically isn’t enough in this competitive job market. They want the whole package—not just a steady paycheck.

So take note of the distinct value that you offer. Do you provide solid opportunities for professional development? Does your work culture promote the idea of employees taking initiative and spurring change? Do you have a generous tuition reimbursement package? Do employees regularly get applauded for their accomplishments in a structured format?

Identify what you bring to the table—aside from just health benefits and business cards—and make sure you share that information with the people you’re meeting. You never know what could be a trigger for someone, making them actually consider your company as their future employer.

Attracting high-quality talent to your company isn’t as easy as posting a job description and waiting for the submissions to roll in. But in the long-run, that’s a good thing. Defining, sharing, and living your employer brand means that the right candidates will want to learn more—even if they’re currently employed somewhere else.