There’s not a day or conference that goes by where a herd of recruiters gather around and try to out complain one another about who hates LinkedIn the most. We watch this gladiatorial masturbation of hyperbole as if it were the latest Kardashian collapse. Much like a gun control debate after a school shooting, everyone points and swears off that “they are done with LinkedIn.” But you don’t. You don’t leave. It’s like Kanye: you hate the noise, but you love the sound. Since you’re not leaving, and no one wants to realize that their level of complaining rewires their brain for negativity, shouldn’t we focus on how you can make lemonade vodka out of lemons and spoiled potatoes?

Recruiting Takes Work

Some of the best candidates you’ll work with aren’t specifically looking for a new job. They’re passive candidates — satisfied with where they are, but open to hearing about their next great opportunity. LinkedIn’s 2016 U.S. & Canada Talent Trends report says 90 percent of professionals are interested in hearing about new job opportunities. But only about a third are actively looking; the rest are where you can find your knockout candidates — if you connect with them the right way.

The right way means that you are going to do a little more work. While that’s uncommon for some of you to do more than simply inMail blast, everyone that has the word “DevOps” in their profile, it means you’ll have to do some research. While you will get lucky 13% of the time when you layer praise on top the same candidates, catfish, and unicorns that everyone else is blasting, you could attract passive candidates for free by making a few strategic sweat equity investments. Here are the seven ways to attract passive candidates on LinkedIn.


1. The Journey

People who need a new job put all their emphasis on finding the job. They have resumes on Indeed, Careerbuilder, or their personal blog. People who don’t need a job can bide their time until something perfect comes along — and that’s not a job or a position, but a vehicle that gets them to where they want to go next. When you reach out to candidates on LinkedIn, talking about a particular role focuses all of the attention on the job. In doing so, you’ve sucked all of their ambition out of the conversation. Instead, focus on where the new vehicle will take them.

Sending a LinkedIn recruiting message about an open position isn’t enough — instead, offer specific details about the opportunities the position can deliver. Those opportunities could include stretch goals on an accelerated timeline, increased impact to an organization, greater recognition or opportunity for advancement. This approach can get passive candidates to start thinking about a change.

2. Be Present

At least once a day, I get an inMail telling me that recruiters are illiterate. They generally start with another recruiter telling me they  “Noticed your SOX and IPO,” or “With your use of AngularJS,”  that I would be “a great fit.” Surprise, surprise! This is not The Gap, and I am not here to try on a pair of khakis. Besides proving that you didn’t read my profile, you’re evidencing your disengagement in the recruiting process. You need to be present. People like to feel needed. If you can’t say why you’re contacting them on LinkedIn, passive candidates will wonder how you found them or what caught your eye, and that can plant seeds of doubt about the process.

Take note: I just wrote “if you can’t say,” and that is holistically different than “if you don’t say.” In your first contact, be present. Be upfront about what made them stand out to you. Know what made them stand out. Make sure it’s a particular experience, accomplishment, or career trajectory. A sentence or two about what makes them unique will help them understand why the opportunity you’re offering is a good one.

3. Be Googleable

After hearing about an opportunity, a passive candidate is going to want to know more about you. Part of being present is having a complete, fully-baked social presence on LinkedIn. An incomplete profile that’s missing a photo or website is going to look unprofessional to a LinkedIn passive candidate, so make sure you provide a company overview and describe your role.

Two-thirds of interested candidates will then check the company website, according to the LinkedIn report. They’re looking for information about the organization — what are its culture and values, what is the company looking for from employees and so on. If you can point the candidate to a company’s social recruiting efforts, such as a Twitter or Facebook account dedicated to sharing information about the employee experience and company culture, do so.

4. It’s a Social Network, So Be Social

As flattered as candidates may be when someone messages them out of the blue on LinkedIn, they don’t care. Just like how they don’t care about that call from a number they don’t recognize. If they don’t know who you are, they know you are wasting their time. At our most base level, we know we have a limited amount of time. We keep moving. A solicitation from an unknown is a low-return proposition. That means you’re starting from square one every time. Each new position you have to fill turns into a new search — and that wastes time and effort.

Instead, invest your time in building relationships on LinkedIn. Participate in groups dedicated to the industries and positions you’re often looking for. Devote some time each week to sharing news and insights about those industries on your page, and read up on what others share as well. Doing so will help those cold contacts feel a little less cold.

5. Give Without Expectation

Of the many things that I know Jess Roberts and I agree on is that you have to give, give, and give, again, to your community. First, learn who your community is. If it’s nurses, learn about nurses. Salespeople, learn about salespeople. If it’s about developers, learn about developers. Second, bring them value.

I like to give as much as I can up front before I muster up the audacity to go in for the “ask.” Although this is my go-to philosophy, it doesn’t always work, and that’s perfectly okay. It’s just the way of life, and I think we can all agree that being a good person on the upfront is always the best option regardless of what the potential “payout” might be. (Jess knows that I have to attribute this to St. Gary.)

My content strategy is a part automation with “If Then Than That” (IFTTT) and constant blogging about topics pertinent to my LinkedIn constituencies. Regarding IFTTT, I use a recipe to automatically post topics from NYT’s technology section to my LinkedIn feed.

6. Get Trendy

To help with blogging, research Google Trends to see what other people are looking for. You may get some insights into how to make yours show up in passive candidates searches. I make it a point to publish at least one article each week on LinkedIn specifically for these audiences.

While I’m working on the blog post, I also get to learn new things about what I am looking for in my candidates. If you caught my LinkedIn post on the future of UX, then you might realize that I was using that instance to have a conversation around mobile user interfaces, cloud computing, AI, and Amazon’s Alexa Skills Kit — which (holy shit!) I’m recruiting for on the reg!

7. It’s not About You

When you put others in front of yourself, whether intended or unintended, things just happen. It’s magical. Be it in life or business; I implore you always to seek to be the giver first. It’s as my wife says about “Seeking First.” If you can give without expectation, you’ve got everything to gain. It’s not an easy trait to acquire, but it’s certainly something I advise everyone to work towards. Not only will it make you feel good, but it’ll provide you the leverage that you can utilize if the opportunity comes knocking.

LinkedIn is a great place to attract passive candidates, but it means being transparent and active on the site, not just showing up at the bar at 2 AM and looking for someone to take home. Being part of the journey will help you find what you’re looking for faster.

About our Author: Brian Fink

As a member of Relus’ recruiting team, Brian Fink focuses on driving talent towards opportunity. Eager to help stretch the professional capabilities of everyone he works with, he’s helping startups grow and successfully scale their IT, Recruiting, Big Data, Product, and Executive Leadership teams. An active keynote speaker and commentator, Fink thrives on discovery and building a better recruiting mousetrap. Connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @TheBrianFink.

By Brian Fink

As a Talent Acquisition Partner at McAfee, Brian Fink enjoys bringing people together to solve complex problems, build great products, and get things done. In his recent book, Talk Tech to Me, Fink takes on the stress and strain of complex technology concepts and simplifies them for the modern recruiter to help you find, engage, and partner with professionals.