Sourcing Passive Tech Candidates

October 10, 2016

sourcing passive candidaes

You don’t usually think of “passive” as a good trait, but most passive candidates are anything but. A passive candidate is someone who is currently employed and not actively looking for another job, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t be swayed by the right opportunity.

Passive candidates account for 75% of the workforce, and 15% of these passive candidates are somewhere in between active and passive, slowly exploring their connections and options while continuing to focus on their current job.

The tech industry boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates of any industry, and this means that the supply of active candidates, people who are actively seeking new opportunities, is very low. This shortage of “available” talent has led us to the point where talented tech workers are being contacted by recruiters every week or even every day about new job opportunities.

However, just because someone has a job, doesn’t mean that they aren’t open to a new, better job. Here are some statistics on from Indeed’s 2016 Talent Attraction Survey:

  • 72% of employed adults agree it’s important for them to be aware of jobs currently out there in the market, regardless of whether they are employed or not.
  • 71% of people in the labor force say they are actively looking or open to a new job.
  • 65% of people look at new jobs again within 91 days of being hired.
  • 64% of employed adults say they would feel more confident that a job is the right fit for them if they picked the company and applied versus if a recruiter contacted them.

So, what are all of these data points telling us about attracting passive candidates?

For starters, the fact that the majority of employed adults think it’s important to keep an eye on open jobs means that your job advertising will still play a role in attracting passive candidates.

Next, the fact that the majority of workers look at new jobs within their first 3 months on the job means that passive candidates can be sourced even if they were recently hired.

Finally, the fact that most professionals would “feel more confident that a job is the right fit” if they found it without a recruiter, shows us that a hard sell is not going to work with passive candidates and that non-recruiters will have better chances of convincing passive candidates to make a move.

Passive Candidate Sources

In order to pitch your job opportunity to talented tech candidates, however, you need to find them. Once you know the skills and traits that the hire will need and post your job description, you can begin to explore passive candidate sources to find some people who you’d like to employ.


Professional Networks

Professional networks like LinkedIn give people the opportunity to showcase their employer, their work and their experience on a single profile, making them a great resource for discovering tech talent. Though membership allows you to search by job title, company and location, subscribing to LinkedIn Recruiter gives users access to advanced search options and access to every LinkedIn user.

Just don’t develop spamming tendencies. Skilled tech workers are used to receiving multiple communications per-month or even per-week from recruiters offering them a “better job,” and there are no guarantees that your job won’t be ignored as well. Respect when people aren’t interested in your offer and never send more offers if they are being ignored or declined flat-out.



Considering the fact that people feel more confident about jobs not presented to them by recruiters, your referral program can be an excellent source of passive tech candidates. In order for this candidate source to work, however, you need to generate a good deal of employee interest in filling your open job. While your tech employees are more likely to be connected to tech talent, you should get as many employees as possible to start generating referrals.

This way, instead of your job opportunity being one of many on a job board or presented to a passive candidates through an unknown recruiter, your open job is delivered to them through a trusted source: your employee. This personal connection to your employee adds legitimacy to your opportunity


Old Hiring Campaigns/ Applicant Tracking Resources

Remember that guy or gal who was skilled, highly recommended and, for some reason, passed on in a recent round of hiring? Your previous candidate searches and any Applicant tracking resources that you’ve invested in can be a great source for passive candidates, but this is only if you are on good terms with them.

If you never followed up with them when your open job became closed, don’t be surprised if they never follow up with you. Utilizing this candidate source can only happen if top tech applicants to your company are closed with like this:


Thank you so much for taking the time to interview with us. The position you applied to has been filled, but we found your ______ experience at _____ to be very impressive and we loved getting to know you a little better.

We think that you could be a valuable addition to the team and we encourage you to apply to our company the next time a ____ position opens up.

Would you like me to keep you updated on new positions and upcoming vacancies at our company?

This sort of personalized closer email is essential when you have to pass on a top candidate. Referencing the work they’ve done shows you’ve been paying attention and makes them more likely to accept your offer to keep them updated on future job openings. This way, you can extend an offer to someone who is expecting it or even looking forward to it, instead of someone who had a bad application experience with your company.

Appealing to Passive Tech Candidates

When sourcing tech candidates, you should keep these things in mind, but you should also keep in mind some of the things that make passive tech candidates different from the run of the mill.

Here’s another important statistic from the Indeed survey,

Top 3 Reasons Candidates Were Attracted to A New Job:

  • 77% Good pay/ Compensation
  • 54% Good location
  • 51% Flexible Hours

These statistics represent the desires of candidates in all industries, and their effect on tech workers will be different than for passive candidates in other industries.

First off, the median pay for tech workers is $81,430 and, given that the #1 reason why candidates are interested in a new job is the salary and compensation, it will take quite the price tag to stand out from the crowd.

The next largest draw to candidates is location, which has, historically, been a difficult bridge to cross with tech talent. Companies operating outside of tech hubs like Seattle, San Francisco, Austin, etc. can experience a higher level of difficulty when trying to recruit candidates. Fortunately, however this trend seems to be slowing down somewhat, as tech job creation in Silicon Valley slows and other players rise in prominence.

This being the case, companies seeking tech talent outside of these cities should try to spin their alternative location to their advantage. Maybe your company has an office instead of a campus, but you’re offering candidates the chance to be a big fish in a small pond and make a large impact in your organization. For instance, if you were trying to attract tech talent to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, you could appeal to nature loving tech candidates by displaying pictures of your surroundings on your company website or on social media.

passive tech talent data

The next largest draw to candidates is flexible hours, which is highly valued by tech candidates. Much of the work that tech professionals do requires a large amount of focus and a whole lot of trial and error. It’s complicated work, and offering flexibility in the way this work is done is a huge draw for tech candidates.

Reaching Tech Talent On Their Terms

Passive candidate sourcing can provide you with many contacts, but how many of these contact actually want to hear about your job opportunity? You can never know until you ask, and the process of identifying people worth asking is time consuming, let alone the process of building sufficient rapport to engage in some real negations.

Instead of trying your luck with professionals who may not be interested, use the tool that allows candidates to market their skills directly to employers.

skillgigs for sourcing passive candidates

Think of SkillGigs as the eBay of tech talent. Technology professionals use SkillGigs to create in-depth skill profiles that showcase their experience with specific tools as well as specific industry experience. SkillGigs candidates are also able to set a “reserve price,” which is the salary, benefits and location that they want at a minimum to leave their current job. This eliminates the tension and uncertainty that usually comes with approaching passive candidates and negotiating an offer that will get them to switch jobs.

[Get FREE 30 Day Access to SkillGigs Tech Talent Marketplace Here]

SkillGigs allows employers to send offers directly to candidates and allows candidates to schedule interviews through the platform. It’s the solution that takes both sides of the hiring equation into account, giving high quality candidates the exposure to connect with businesses around the country and find the next step in their career. Employers, on the other hand, are able to search through a network of active, engaged candidates based on the skills that they need most, ensuring that they get the right talent to get the job done.

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VP of Marketing at Digital Astronauts

Ronny Cheng is one of the Co-Founder’s of Digital Astronauts and has helped drive lead generation in the software industry for organizations of all sizes — from start-ups to Fortune 500’s. He helped build one of the first online software review websites, specializing in CRM, ERP, and HR software. He’s a nationally published author with extensive experience working with the HR/Recruiting industries largest brands. In his spare time, you can catch him on Instagram doing his best food blogger impersonation.


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