How to uncover passive talent

Did you know that 85% of the talent pool is passive? This means you cannot just place a job ad on a board or on social media and expect the right talent to crop up. Being in the right place at the right time is somewhat coincidental, and that’s only applicable for potential ‘active’ candidates who are actually in search of work. Sourcing passive, hidden or undiscovered talent – variations of industry terminology referring to the same thing – requires an innovative strategy and specialist input.

The transactional methods of traditional recruitment – which rely solely on feeding recruitment teams with resumes – can no longer meet the demands of modern businesses. Tapping into the pipeline of passive talent requires a business partner that understands how to navigate the complexity of the new hiring context with a longer-term, broader perspective. But what are passive candidates and how can businesses access them?

Let’s begin with the basics and try to understand the nature of passive talent.

What is hidden talent?

Passive candidates (otherwise known as undiscovered or hidden talent) are those who are not actively on the hunt for work. 

These individuals are not looking at job boards or scouring social media in search of a new work opportunity. Hiring managers or recruiters need to use alternative means of connecting with these candidates. 

Many of them are currently employed, but would be open to exploring a new opportunity, should a better offer be placed on the table. The offer does not necessarily need to be better only in terms of salary, but could also include improved benefits, more appreciative employers, opportunities for career growth,  realistic working hours or possibilities for hybrid or remote work.

Diverse candidates await an interview opportunity

How can passive talent display itself?

According to leading talent acquisition experts, passive talent can be classified in a number of ways:

  • Fallen through the cracks – People who would be willing to respond to queries and engagement, but have failed to reveal themselves in searches.
  • Easy to find and engage – These are the popular candidates. They are already known by recruiters, but they are in-demand and tough to pin down. Unfortunately, for most organisations, there is simply not enough talent to choose from in this area. 
  • Deeply hidden – Talent that does not appear in searches and would not respond to outreach. Job descriptions could be flawed, leading to lack of alignment between recruiters and candidates. 
  • Hidden in plain sight – Potential candidates that could easily be found, but are not engaged by sourcers. This is often because recruiters are biassed and don’t have the capacity to contact all candidates. These individuals may have left skills out of their CV because they aren’t actively looking for work. 


Recruiters meet potential candidates

How can you improve your hidden talent search?

Tapping into the pipeline of passive talent is easier said than done. 

In an age of information overload, recruiters need to be at the frontline of the company’s recruitment efforts. This not only takes time and specialist resources, but also requires a strategic, adaptive sourcing model, enabling a search to evolve based on the reality of the market and feed insights back into the company’s HR processes.

A manager interviews a candidate to uncover passive talent

Here are some suggestions to uncover the passive talent hidden in the deepest layers:

  1. Improve inbound talent attraction and resurfacing of talent from the ATS. Review candidate experience and make it simpler for passive candidates to engage.
  2. Make the search broader. Pre-screen candidates that don’t explicitly meet all the search criteria. You may discover a hidden gem who left a vital fact out of their resume.
  3. Pipeline and nurture future talent who are not currently interested in engaging.
  4. Use talent market data and HRIS data to validate and edit assessment and search criteria to influence and re-evaluate job descriptions and workforce planning activity.
  5. Capture interest by investing in company branding and content. Take the time to craft compelling messages to potential future candidates. 
  6. Reevaluate your company’s screening, assessment and selection processes based on their success and efficiency in hiring quality talent and keeping it.
  7. Assess the successfulness of the company’s recruitment technology. Consider reviewing and upgrading the technology used to benefit the talent pipeline.
  8. Review candidates’ experience of the hiring process from the perspective of the successful and unsuccessful.

Adjusting your hiring practices to seek out passive talent can become an overwhelming process. Find a TA partner who can guide you forward and help you welcome otherwise undiscovered candidates into your talent pool.