Recruiting Active vs Passive Candidates

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Regina Welle
Regina Welle
Global Staffing Manager

Table of Contents

While it’s intuitive to focus on recruiting active candidates, there is massive opportunity with recruiting passive candidates in a competitive job market like the tech industry. Learn what the differences are and how you can benefit from attracting both kinds of talent.
Published on
December 13, 2021
Updated on
April 11, 2024

Most companies focus on recruiting active candidates when assembling their dream tech team. Because active candidates are vigorously looking for jobs and are available immediately, recruiting them seems like the best thing to do. What companies often overlook, however, is a massive opportunity with recruiting passive candidates in a competitive job market.

Passive candidates — people who are currently employed and aren't actively looking for work — make a big part of the available market. They may not be available immediately but can join your team in the future as valuable assets. Seeking new employees in the blended pool of active and passive candidates is a more prospective option for every brand.

Read on to learn more about the differences between recruiting active vs. passive candidates. By the end of this article, you'll also find out how you can benefit from attracting both kinds of talent.

What’s the Difference Between Active and Passive Candidates?

Active and passive candidates refer to two very different groups of job seekers. Here are some of the main distinctions between them:

Active candidates

Active candidates are the type of professionals you usually think of when looking to assemble a team. They are available for work and can start immediately in a new position.

When sharing a job opening on a website or job portal, most applications you'll get will likely be from active candidates. These applicants may be unemployed or employed but dissatisfied with their job. Since they energetically seek new opportunities, active candidates tend to be very excited and receptive when recruiters contact them.

Passive candidates

Passive candidates aren't actively looking for work. They are usually employed and focused on their jobs. However, this doesn't mean passive candidates are uninterested in other opportunities. They may be open to new jobs or gigs, especially if they are dissatisfied with their current roles.

Unlike active candidates, however, passive candidates don't apply to new jobs organically. Instead, they typically use social media platforms like LinkedIn to network within their niche or industry, update their resumes, and add new connections. In contrast to active job seekers, passive candidates aren't as receptive or excited when you reach out to them.

Why You Should Also Focus on Recruiting Passive Candidates

Although it could be hard to get the attention of passive candidates, reaching out to them should be a part of every recruitment strategy. Here are the two reasons why:

Passive candidates make most of the talent market

According to LinkedIn research, passive candidates make about 70% of the global workforce. Overlooking them during recruitment means neglecting a significant amount of talent out there. If you want to reach out to all available professionals and make the best possible hire, you should focus on all candidates, not only active ones.

Moreover, passive candidates could be easier to hire because they're not looking into other opportunities. Active candidates are always on the move and could get unavailable quickly. Because they are searching for a new job, active candidates are constantly applying to open positions and interviewing for future roles, weighing their options. That's not the case with passive candidates.

Passive candidates are prequalified

Many passive candidates you come across are people with extensive knowledge and experience. They already have established or uprising careers and do not look for entry-level positions. With them, you don't have to go through excessive qualification steps to ensure skill levels - passive candidates have already been prequalified by their current companies.

On the other hand, you may have to test active candidates for compatibility with your company. A thorough vetting process of all the applicants to your open job role could turn out to be time-consuming and expensive.

Where to Find Passive Candidates

Since passive candidates make such a large part of a global workforce, finding them is not that difficult at all. You only need to know where to search.

Social Media

Social media is a great place to start looking for passive candidates. We'll focus on LinkedIn and Twitter since they are good sources of tech talent. However, if you're looking to access a wider pool of talent, especially a creative one, you may want to check out Instagram, Facebook, and Behance.


LinkedIn is an employment-based online service that works like a standard social media platform. It attracts people from all fields and industries, making a prospective pool of talents for companies. You can connect with all these professionals and reach out to them for open role positions. On LinkedIn, people are more open to talking to recruiters and companies.

Here are two features you can use to search for candidates:

  • Search function. LinkedIn has a robust search function that allows you to input keywords to locate passive candidates. You can use anything from location to role and industry. The keywords can help you narrow down your choices by filtering the candidates according to the education and experience needed for your open job position. This will allow you to connect only with candidates that make the perfect fit for your company.
  • "People Also Viewed" feature. Another way to find passive candidates related to your industry is to use LinkedIn's  "People Also Viewed" feature. It is a tool that appears on the right side of a company or candidate profile and gives insights into the people who viewed your company's page on LinkedIn. The feature sometimes shows profiles suggested based on commonalities, such as the industry or keywords.

Related post: How to use Linkedin Recruiter: Is it worth it?


Twitter is another social media channel you can use to reach out to passive candidates. It provides you with many tools for finding potential recruits, such as:

Twitter lists

Twitter lists allow people to curate groups of users with similar interests. For example, if someone only wants to read tweets from an indie game company's developer team, they can make a list with the accounts of all of the developers working at that company.

You can use Twitter lists to recruit passive candidates by gathering all of the people you want to contact in one place. Whenever you spot a potential candidate for your job post, you can send them a message and add them to the list. Making your Twitter list public will also stir up interest in your company.

When making your list, use a concise yet interesting name like "The Incredible Devs of [Company Name]" and keep adding people who would make great candidates for your job post. As more people get added to the list, your company will have a larger Twitter presence. This simple practice can boost your chances of getting responses from the people on the list if you decide to reach out to them through private messages.

Advanced search

Like LinkedIn, Twitter comes with an advanced search function. It allows you to locate candidates using criteria like keywords, hashtags, languages, and location. People can also use the tool to tag and mention users who may be interested in your job opportunity.


Hashtags can also help you locate candidates. By using skill-specific and concise keywords like #IndieDev and #RubyonRails instead of #gamedevelopment and #programming, you'll be able to find talent who may be interested in your job post. Consider using online hashtag generators and tools to help you generate, visualize, and use hashtags effectively.


Besides social media, you can rely on referrals from current employees to build a list of passive candidates. This method may have a higher success rate than social media. It is because your employees already know your startup's company culture, so they would only refer people who are a good fit. After all, they want to make a good impression on you, and bad recommendations could reflect poorly on them.

To encourage your employees to make referrals, you can send a dedicated email or ask them for an opinion in person. Also, consider giving them awards for making referrals, such as flexible hours, vouchers, and bonuses. The action will boost engagement within your workforce.

Resume Databases

You can also look for passive candidates using online resume databases. Monster's  SearchMonster tool allows you to find, engage, and retain top-notch talent on-demand. As with Twitter and LinkedIn, you can filter search results to find the right fit for your startup.

Another platform you can consider is  Indeed Resume for employers. With a paid subscription, you can search through 8.5 million candidates to pinpoint your next great hire.

Industry Meetups and Conferences

Although many aspects of hiring have moved online in the last couple of years, you can still find passive candidates in person. By attending industry meetups and conferences, you'll be able to talk to people face-to-face and get a better idea of whether they're a good fit for your company.

To get started, consider using websites like, and CitySocializer to help you find events in your area. You can also host your event and use these sites to promote it.

Internal talent database

Finally, you can use internal talent databases to find passive candidates. You may have rejected candidates in the past that were not right for the roles they applied to but would be a perfect match for your current vacancy.

Take a look at your Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and the stack of resumes that have accumulated in your email. Look at candidate resumes and their current LinkedIn profiles to see if they have gained any skills and experience since you last interacted with them. Some of the applicants you rejected in the past could be perfect for your company now.

Related: Tips and Strategies for Hiring Front-End Developers

How to Recruit Passive Candidates

To make the most out of the recruitment methods, one needs to put the best-recruiting face forward. Here are some tips for how you can do this:

Create an impressive recruiting profile

A unique recruiting profile can help you make a strong impression on passive candidates. Remember that passive candidates aren't actively looking for opportunities, so you need to create an appealing offer to attract them.

Consider including the following to give candidates a clear picture of what you're looking for:

  • A full job description, including:
  1. Responsibilities
  2. Required skills and experiences
  3. Details about the compensation package
  4. Benefits offered
  5. Working schedule
  • A full description of your company

Candidates are usually most interested in the role, responsibility, and salary. Consider preparing yourself to answer all their questions on these aspects and positively open the discussion. A good first impression can help you attract candidates and make them interested in your offer. This is very important when reaching out to passive candidates who already have stable positions at other companies.

Expand your network

Not all potential candidates are open to being interviewed, but that shouldn't discourage you. There is more than one way to reach out to passive candidates who seem uninterested in your job posting.

If a passive candidate has a higher salary or position with the current employer, refrain from sending an interview invite. Instead, ask to follow a candidate's profile and make a connection. It will allow you to communicate with the person and share business and career goals, the company's values, and much more.

Some candidates may change their opinion if they notice higher compatibility with your company. If not, they may recommend someone for a position or send other prospective candidates to your profile.

Be generous and flexible

When interacting with passive candidates, it's also essential to be generous and flexible. Since passive candidates aren't actively looking for new opportunities, you need to be willing to accommodate their needs and schedules. Your approach will make them feel valued and appreciated for their skills and experiences.

Instead of treating your passive candidates like active ones, give them more attention. Don't expect your passives to act like active job seekers and send you their resumes, portfolios, and other details. Instead, take on yourself to be subtle and ask for a chat or a meeting. Focus on communication and avoid standard recruitment processes. A friendly approach will make passive candidates feel more comfortable and open to your proposals.


All in all, passive and active candidates should be in your focus equally. Together, they make a vast talent pool you need to draw the best applicants and expand your workforce. Drawing applicants solely from one group can leave you without outstanding business opportunities.

Although attracting and engaging passive talents may prove more difficult at first, it gets easier as you learn more about them. With our tips for recruiting passive candidates, you'll have a higher chance of reaching the best talent, whether you use social media, referrals, resume databases, industry meetups, or other channels.

We are also here to help you with our expert guidance and tech talent platform. Reach out to us if you want a one-stop platform to source and hire candidates. Get matched with pre-vetted candidates within 3 days for software development, data engineering, QA, and other tech roles.

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