Human Resources Blog - Spark Hire

How To Uncover Passive Candidates

As recruiters and HR professionals, we have all become very familiar with the term “passive candidates” in the last several years.  The desire for highly skilled employees has lead to the hunt for this type of candidate.

Many recruiters who started in the industry when the economy tanked about five years ago, were brought in when all they needed to do was make a few calls in order to get that skilled candidate.  This is no longer the case.  Now, we must work harder and use many different sources to uncover skilled candidates.

There are multiple ways to identify passive candidates through your Applicant Tracking System, LinkedIn, Lead Generation Services, and your Referral Network

Applicant Tracking System

When fortunate enough to have a developed ATS, this is always your starting point.  Your ATS should hold professionals that your company has identified as skilled candidates.  Many of these professionals may now be passive candidates, no longer actively on the job hunt.


LinkedIn has become the go-to networking site for professionals.  Today, most professionals have a LinkedIn profile, regardless if they are interested in career opportunities.

In order to connect with these passive professionals, you need to build your network on LinkedIn.  Make sure your LinkedIn profile is completed, join relevant industry related groups, and link with the right industry related professionals.  Stay actively visible on LinkedIn by sharing articles and updates, keeping in contact with your connections, and commenting on discussions within groups.

Lead Generation Services

Lead generation services, such as ZoomInfo or Hoovers, provide contact information for professionals , searchable by job title and employer.  The value in this service is in finding professionals you may not be able to find within other sources.

When contacting professionals found on these services, you must be open to true cold calling.  Much of the contact information provided within these services belongs to the employer.  For instance, instead of providing personal contact numbers of professionals, many of the numbers listed are numbers belonging to the companies that the professionals work for.

While these services have their benefits, I prefer to go to this source after mining the ATS and LinkedIn.  From my personal experience, some of the information provided from these services can be dated and while many of these professionals may qualify as passive candidates, this does not always make them a quality candidate.

Referral Network

One of the best ways to network with passive candidates is through your Referral Network.  Some of the passive candidates you speak with may not be interested in considering a change at the moment.  However, chances are, they will know others with similar background and skills.  Rather than asking, “who do you know looking for work “ or  “who would be interested in xyz opportunity,” ask instead “who is the best person you know in this field”.

Identifying passive candidates is not easy, but there are many different resources that can assist with uncovering them.

What are some ways that you uncover passive candidates?  Please, share your tips in the comments below!  

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Julia Weeks

Julia is a skilled Recruiter with over 8 years of experience in sourcing, interviewing, and hiring within many industries globally. She works closely with hiring managers and job seekers to understand needs and desires, while offering guidance and ensuring the right fit. When not recruiting or writing, Julia enjoys spending time outside cycling, taking her dog for walks, or honing her sailing skills.