In the ever-evolving landscape of recruitment, finding the perfect candidate for a job can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Passive candidates represent a valuable yet challenging pool of talent. They often possess unique skills and experiences that can greatly benefit your organization, but they aren’t actively applying for new roles. The good news is though, there are several retargeting strategies you can use to get your job openings in front of passive candidates and convince them to apply.

In this article, we’ll explore the world of passive candidates, the benefits of retargeting and effective strategies to engage them.

Defining Passive Candidates

Let us first clarify what we mean by “passive candidates.” Passive candidates are employed professionals who are not actively looking for a new job. They represent 70% of the global workforce according to LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends report, and while they may be open to new opportunities, they are not spending time submitting applications or networking for job leads.

The challenge for recruiters here is finding ways to get on the radar of passive candidates, capture their attention, and motivate them to pursue a new job opportunity. This requires outbound recruiting techniques versus waiting for them to apply on their own.

Why Should You Retarget Passive Candidates?

Focusing recruiting efforts on passive candidates can benefit your company in many ways:

  • Access a hidden talent pool: Passive candidates aren’t actively looking for jobs, so including them in your recruiting efforts widens your pool of prospects and effectively gives you an advantage over your competitors.
  • Higher quality hires: Passive candidates are often some of the top performers in their current roles. Since they aren’t urgently looking to leave, they need to be convinced that a new opportunity is better than their current option.
  • Reduced Time-to-Hire: Retargeting allows you to reach candidates who have already shown interest by visiting your site or interacting with your content. These people are more likely to respond than completely cold prospects, which means faster recruitment.
  • Lower cost than paid search: While still an investment, retargeting passive candidates is typically more affordable than paying to advertise open roles to a broader audience who may or may not have heard about your company.
  • Remind candidates of your openings: People often research jobs casually without applying right away. Retargeting serves as a reminder and keeps your openings top of mind with engaged candidates.
  • Keep your brand visible: Consistent retargeting keeps your employer brand and job opportunities in front of prospects. Even if they aren’t considering a job switch now, you’ll stay on top of their minds when they are ready for a career move.

Retargeting Strategies for Passive Candidates

Here are some creative ways to get your open positions in front of passive candidates across the web and convert them:

1. Email Retargeting

Always start with the low-hanging fruit. Your marketing automation/CRM platform most likely allows the creation of email drip campaigns that retarget cold leads. If someone clicked a job posting in an email but did not complete the application, follow up with a series of reminder emails. Each message can include links back to the job description or application page to give them an easy way to convert.

2. Social Retargeting

Social platforms offer options for retargeting ads to engage people who have previously shown interest in your company. For example, you can create LinkedIn ads that target people who follow your company page, visited your careers page, or engaged with previous content. These individuals can be served job ads across LinkedIn when they are not actively searching for jobs. You can take a similar approach with Facebook and Twitter by serving ads to people who engage with your social pages.

3. Site Retargeting

If people have visited relevant parts of your website, like your careers page, About Us page, or a specific job description, you can retarget them with display ads when they visit other websites and apps. For example, serve them an ad with the job title they previously viewed or a link back to the careers page to re-engage them. This targets previous visitors who showed initial interest but did not apply.

4. Content Retargeting

You can use display ads to target people who read one of your blog posts or downloaded a whitepaper on an industry topic. Use website traffic and content download data to build audience lists for retargeting. You’ll definitely want to stick to relevant content though, so limit these ads to content pages that align with the types of positions you are trying to fill and the skills you are looking for.

5. Event Retargeting

Industry conferences, trade shows, and other live events are great opportunities to make connections with potential hires, including passive candidates open to new roles. You can create custom ad audiences by uploading your obtained registration lists, badge scans or lead lists to platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, and display targeted ads about open positions to these groups as they browse other sites.

6. CRM Retargeting

The database of your Candidate Relationship Management (CRM) system likely includes contacts who are not current prospects or leads but represent potential talent targets. You can create ads and custom audiences from CRM records, like past employees or people who inquired about jobs, then serve them job ads through your LinkedIn, Facebook or Google campaigns.

7. Multichannel Nurturing

The most effective approach combines multiple retargeting methods listed above over time. Continue nurturing cold leads through email campaigns, social ads, site retargeting and more. The goal is to stay top of mind and eventually convert passive prospects into applicants for your open roles.

Following Up with Engaged Leads

When passive candidates do show interest by clicking on job ads or content offers, you need to have a process in place to follow up while their interest is warm. Here are some ways to engage them:

  • Send an email, LinkedIn message or InMail within a day to connect and provide more details on the opportunity. Ask targeted questions to gauge their interest and fit.
  • Equip recruiters to call and explain why the role may be a good match and worth a more serious look based on their profiles.
  • Use lead scoring rules to route promising leads for immediate follow-up calls and start screening.
  • Segment leads who seem very interested versus just mildly curious and customize outreach appropriately.
  • Provide easy links for passive prospects to share resumes and begin a conversation.

Tracking Results and Optimization

It is important to continually assess the effectiveness of your various retargeting campaigns and fine-tune messaging and targeting. Here are some key metrics to analyze:

  • Click-through rates on job ads
  • Conversions from retargeting ads (form fills, resumes submitted, etc.)
  • Website traffic referred from retargeting ads
  • Quality of inbound leads driven by retargeting
  • Cost per lead or applicant from retargeting channels
  • Hires attributed to retargeting sources

Based on results, you’ll be able to identify the audience segments, platforms, and campaigns delivering the highest ROI. Over time, you can increase investment in the best-performing approaches and limit spend on those producing fewer viable leads.

Final Thoughts

Recruiting passive candidates requires a mixed approach along with some creativity and persistence. When executed well, the strategies discussed above can help you attract broader and higher-quality talent pools to your company, and the results only get better the more you approach retargeting systematically, track results rigorously and focus your budget on the strategies that have delivered you the best applicants.

Huda Idris

Huda has been writing about all things tech for over 10 years. She’s currently a Senior Editor at SelectSoftware Reviews, a website committed to delivering unbiased software recommendations. By researching, demoing, and testing various solutions in the HR and TA Tech space, the team at SSR helps thousands of Recruiting and PeopleOps professionals build solid tech stacks.