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How to Encourage Passive Candidates to Apply for Entry-Level Roles

How to Encourage Passive Candidates to Apply for Entry-Level Roles

Today’s hiring climate means the best candidates for entry-level roles are likely already employed. Much of the current workforce is considerably overqualified for entry-level jobs, which leaves many talent acquisition teams feeling strained when it comes to filling entry-level roles. Fortunately, this is where passive candidates come in handy.

While enticing passive candidates to apply for your entry-level roles could lessen your hiring burden, it isn’t always easy. The amount of control passive candidates have over the recruitment process makes it more challenging to get in touch, land first-round interviews, and more. 

We’re all good-natured people, and “swiping” quality employees from another organization is only done with the best of intentions. When it comes to encouraging passive candidates to leave their current role, it takes the right kind of persuasion. 

We asked talent acquisition pros to share their best tips for encouraging passive candidates to apply to open entry-level roles: 

1. Alleviate the fear of change

Kristen FowlerIt is important to take the time to understand what the passive candidate enjoys in their current position and also what they would prefer to be different. Using this information, you have the ability to provide insight on how you could offer a new position that could continue to support their preferences or change things they currently dislike about their current position.

Keeping a passive candidate interested entails consistent communication and building a relationship on a one-to-one level. Encourage follow-through by continuing to remind the candidate of what they are looking to change or how this role would work with their current preferences. Keep in mind that people are scared of change. To alleviate this fear, walk through the process with candidates and remind them of the long-term benefits they have to look forward to.

Kristen Fowler, SHRM-SCP and Vice President at JMJ Phillip Executive 

2. Emphasize the potential for growth

Ellen MullarkeyThere’s a misconception that the most qualified candidates are the ones who reach out to you directly. Some people refuse to go out and actively search for candidates. But in reality, it’s possible that the person you’re looking for won’t come across your listing. You could be missing out on valuable assets because you’re waiting for someone to come to you. So, go out there and search LinkedIn, AngelList, and other job-hunting sites.

To keep their interest, emphasize the potential for growth. There are many recent grads out there who are looking for jobs where they can learn and grow, even if they have to start at the bottom. 

Ellen Mullarkey, Vice President of Business Development at Messina Staffing


3. Hone in on passion

Stephanie ParkerThe first step in starting a conversation with a passive candidate is to flip their switch and turn passive into passion. Job seekers are far more likely to take an entry-level position if it is a foot in the door to a bigger dream. In the talent acquisition field, we so often focus on the skills and assets and not the passion and the dream. In reality, the dream is what it is all about, so find that passion and leverage it to find new options to light a spark with your potential job seeker.

Another important aspect of encouraging consideration of entry-level roles is to look at the entire picture, not just the title. If a passive candidate is intrigued by other aspects — such as benefits, pay, prestige — they may be willing to start a little lower on the structure than first anticipated. Understanding what aspects besides title and position matter to the job seeker can help you overcome the apprehension and refocus the conversation on the possibility and the future, rather than the perceived negatives of an entry-level position.

Stephanie Parker, President and Managing Partner at TalentSpark

4. Creative emailing tactics

Morgan TaylorPassive candidates aren’t actively looking, but may be available for new positions if they are intrigued. This means they might respond to emails simply because they’re looking through their inbox. The key is to get their attention: “We are an actively growing, competitive business seeking out new talent to help our business achieve greatness!” It’s okay to be a little over the top, even. Sometimes theatrics can help.

Another way to entice passive candidates is by offering competitive benefits. Chances are, an entry-level position isn’t going to offer a lot more in pay unless your passive candidate is moving from another entry-level position. Instead, offer better benefits such as insurance, paid time off, or more flexible work hours. There has to be something that your job offers that their current job does not.

Morgan Taylor, Finance Expert & CMO at LetMeBank


5. Make it personal

Matt DunneA personable approach is key for getting the passive candidate to think about potentially leaving their current role. The more research you do on the individual in question, the more likely they are to respond. Why? Because they will feel a sense of achievement knowing you have chosen them specifically, instead of just sending the same generic email around to potential job applicants.

Keeping passive candidates engaged can be tough since they haven’t sought out the job themselves. So, to make both of your lives a little easier, ask the individual what it is they would be looking for if they were to accept another job, and what it is they enjoy in their current position. Promotion, progression, and pay/salary play a large part in why a candidate’s loyalty may falter at this stage. So, present the great company culture at your business and the different progression opportunities available.

Entry-level roles shouldn’t mean that an applicant feels they are at the bottom of the work chain. In fact, they will play a key part in the company. It’s important this is highlighted, as well as the progression opportunities that come after some experience working in the role you have to offer.

Matt Dunne, Hiring Manager at Africa Travel

6. Entice them with your employer brand

Sue AndrewsIt’s all down to the art of persuasion. If you’re trying to fill an entry-level role, you need to convince the applicant why it’s a good career move for them. If they’re currently in a different type of role but are open to a change of direction, they may be prepared to accept an entry-level role if they can see the longer-term benefits. If you can sell them the idea that a slight step back now could lead them to greater rewards in the future, you can then keep them interested enough to proceed to the next stage.

Having a strong employer brand is key if you want passive candidates to seriously consider an entry-level role. If your organization is known as an excellent employer, they’re more likely to be prepared to take a slight step backward to get in the door, as the long-term benefits will outweigh any short-term drawbacks. Building your brand takes time, but creating a positive workplace where the staff is recognized and appreciated goes a long way and having multiple positive reviews on external employee review sites will certainly help.

Sue Andrews, HR & Business Consultant at KIS Finance

Josh Tolan

Josh Tolan is the Founder and CEO of Spark Hire, a video interviewing platform used by 6,000+ customers in over 100 countries.