Half of US employers can't find candidates with the skills they need to fill open positions. This is even more of a challenge for the tech industry, where over 90% of the companies we speak with at Triplebyte have roles that have been open for six months or longer! If you're one of those employers who is looking to hire, you probably know that 70% of your potential employees are passive candidates who aren’t actively seeking out a new job. But if your passive candidate recruitment strategy starts with a LinkedIn search and ends with a LinkedIn InMail, you’re missing out on a huge group of non-traditional candidates.
"The average great software developer will apply for, total, maybe, four jobs in their entire career."
- Joel Spolsky, Stack Overflow Founder
Passive candidates are often a vital and valued part of a thriving company, so neither their role nor the company they work for is in danger of going away anytime soon. However, just because someone is happy at their current position doesn't mean they couldn't be even happier at your position! Matt Rivera, VP of Marketing and Communications at Yoh once said, “It doesn’t matter whether people are active or passive. It matters whether your opportunity aligns with their drivers and interests.The data would seem to support that statement, with 90% of professionals saying they are open to new opportunities if presented with the right role.ref3">
Where can you find passive candidates?
When you're not just casting a wide net to see what you might catch, you need to be focused with where you spend your time and energy. A LinkedIn search might help you narrow down candidates by schooling, experience, or coding languages, but if you don’t want to compete with every other company for the same passive candidates, you need to source non-traditional candidates that aren’t found with a simple search.
- Conferences and events: Good developers are passionate about what they work on, which means they probably go to conferences and events for their industry, and the specific languages that they code in. Looking to hire an iOS developer? You better get a ticket to WWDC! Trying to hire someone who knows their way around the cloud? They're meeting peers at Google's Next. To identify non-traditional candidates, you want early adopters who are excited by hot new technologies, so go to their conferences, or find related events on sites like Meetup and Eventbrite. Attendance might be lower at smaller events, but you'll find developers there who are curious about new technologies, and always improving and expanding their skill set, and there will be less competition for their time and attention.
- Social media and forums: Good programmers like to talk about programming, which means they're going to be on less mainstream social media channels like Reddit, Github, and Stack Overflow, participating in discussions that are relevant to their interests. Start by searching for the programming languages you're looking for, and establish lines of communication with the developers who are actively discussing those topics.
- Triplebyte: Our developer quiz can be taken just for fun, and the results are confidential, so developers who just want to see how they’d do can take the quiz without worrying that their current employer might think they’re trying to jump ship. This is a great way to find non-traditional candidates like self-taught coders, former entrepreneurs, or area specialists who want to test their skills without the pressure of a full application to a specific company.
- Referrals: Your current employees probably hang out with people who have similar interests, and they also know the types of resources your company needs to succeed, so make sure it's easy for them to recommend other developers who you might want to speak with. You'll want to be careful with how you approach referrals, because a bonus system that's too generous has the potential to flood you with candidates that aren't great fits, but an occasional reminder might come at just the right time when an employee is having after work drinks with a friend who mentions that they've started to consider whether it's the right time to explore other options.
- DIY database: When you meet new people using one of the above methods, it's important to keep track of potential hires, since they might not be open to a specific opportunity at this exact moment, but you never know when a new role might open up that's a perfect fit. You should keep track of their contact information, qualifications, experience, strengths, and where and how you met them, so that when it's time to find someone to fill a role, you'll have an easy way to search through past contacts and see where you should focus your energy.
How do you recruit passive candidates?
Hiring passive candidates is a trend that has taken over the recruiting world, which means your competitors are probably out there right now trying to build relationships with the same developers you are. So how do you create a strategy that will help you recruit a passive candidate once you've found them?
- Study their current company: If they're happy with where they're working, it's important to understand the culture, work environment, benefits, and opportunities that they currently enjoy, so you can properly position the strengths of your own company, and also find areas where their current company might fall short, and how your opportunity can fill in those gaps.
- Determine their needs: Passive candidates are generally happy with their current role and the team they're part of, so it's going to be hard to convince someone to make a change if the only thing you can offer is a different job title or job security. Instead, you'll need to figure out the other needs that you might be able to offer, such as a more comprehensive compensation package, a better work/life balance, or the opportunity to work on a new project that represents a challenge they're interested in tackling.
- Rethink the job description: A traditional job description is designed to weed out people who aren't a good fit, and typically includes a list of skills, experience, or requirements that a candidate should have to be considered. However, when you're going after a passive candidate, you should have already done the work to make sure the person has the skills that you're looking for, which means your job description needs to focus more on the expectations for the position, the results you're looking for, and what it will take to be successful in that role.
- Do your homework: If you're planning to attend an event where you'll hopefully have the chance to meet a few of your ideal candidates in person, make sure you've done your homework and are up to speed on their latest projects, interests, and writings. A little research and a quick Twitter review can give you the information you'll need to help conversations flow better, and you'll demonstrate that you're interested in them and what they're working on. A little flattery can go a long way towards opening doors and making connections.
- Sell the opportunity: Offering more money is a short term win, but most candidates are looking for more than just a raise if they’re going to switch roles, and talented developers are probably well compensated at their current position anyways. Instead, you need to highlight how your company and position represent an opportunity for long-term career growth, or the chance to take on a leadership role in a growing company.
- Be persistent: You don't want to annoy someone by clogging up their inbox with message after message, but if the person is a great fit for your company, it's important to stay on their radar so that when the time comes, they're thinking of you when they're ready to make a change. If you send a cold email and don't hear back right away, just remember that everyone lives busy lives, and your main goal should just be to open up a line of communication so that you can both stay current with what's happening with each other.
Finding and recruiting passive candidates is a great way to 'hire for attitude, train for skills'. The ideal candidate is someone who shows a passion for your industry, and demonstrates that they can be a great part of a successful team, regardless of their specific skill set. Skills can be taught, but the right attitude can be the difference between a long-term hire and a short-term problem.
Something we hear from a lot of clients is that they like how Triplebyte can help source non-traditional candidates that have the right attitude, and a wealth of relevant skills, even if they don’t have a well-polished LinkedIn profile that’s filled with coding languages and easy-to-find buzzwords.
Hiring a passive candidate is going to take more work than just putting out a job description and waiting for candidates to come to you, but if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. You still need to do proactive outreach to convince a non-traditional candidate that your position, and your company, are worth considering, but that time will be better spent on people who aren’t already receiving a barrage of other messages.
Triplebyte helps engineers find great jobs by assessing their abilities, not by relying on the prestige of their resume credentials. Take our 30 minute multiple-choice coding quiz to connect with your next big opportunity and join our community of 200,000+ engineers.