5 min read

The Pros and Cons of Passive Sourcing


What is passive sourcing? It’s the idea that top talent is not always found in the people who reach out directly to your company through job posts or social media. And the statistics back up the theory. One in every 72 passively sourced candidates is hired, compared to one in every 152 direct applicants.

But passive sourcing isn’t as simple as headhunting and poaching talent from competitors. That can get messy in a hurry. But there are pros and cons to ethically sourcing passive talent. Let’s take a closer look.


Let’s start with the positives. There are plenty of ways to find top talent not currently engaged in an active job search. Why are they a good fit for your recruiting strategy?

Less Competition

While there are considerably more passive candidates than active ones, there is little to no competition for their talent in the marketplace. Active job candidates are, by and large, low-hanging fruit, so recruiters and hiring managers will focus on that segment of the talent pool.

By sourcing passive talent, you have expanded your pool and found candidates less likely to be wooed by your competition since your competitors may not have been looking for them in the first place. 85% of employed people would consider switching jobs; they just need the right incentives and environment to make that leap.

Better Time Frames

One hidden benefit of recruiting passive candidates is that their job acceptance is less urgent than an active job seeker. That means you have more time to work around your hiring process. Hiring managers all know that the death of any job search can be the hiring freeze or connecting to all the corporate aspects to get everyone on the same page.

A passive candidate is already employed and less concerned about the time frame. They can continue at their current employer and not provide their notice until your job is signed, sealed, and delivered with a firm start date. Passive sourcing and other improvements to your time to hire and recruiting ROI are all beneficial to your company.

More Experience

The new employees you bring on board who come from passive recruiting sources will have the right skills where you need them most. They are 120% more likely to want to make a positive impact, 56% more likely to work with a corporate culture that matches their personality, and 17% less likely to need additional skill development.

Finding and engaging with passive candidates through online content is one helpful way to find people interested in transitioning to a new position in the future. They learn, prepare, and engage with your company making it easier to connect for an introduction when the need arises.

Well Prepared

For the same reasons, passive candidates are generally more prepared. Without the sense of urgency or constant contact with multiple companies and sending out resumes regularly, they have time to research your company in depth. They may talk to your employees, past and present, to give themselves the best tools to make their decision.

70% of talent acquisition leaders believe that passive talent has a better motivational drive to succeed. Already having success in a similar industry will also give them a leg up as they navigate a new company.

Cons of Passive Sourcing

However, not every passive sourcing situation is going to pan out. What are the reasons this recruitment strategy may not be the best solution?

Turnabout Is Fair Play

The truth is, if you find passive candidates through your competition, competitors may be doing the same to you. While it’s often referred to as poaching, the comparison to illegal hunting isn’t exactly accurate. If an employee leaves your company as a passive candidate, there is likely more to the story.

Only four in every ten employees feel like they have the opportunity to do their best work every day. The key to ethical passive sourcing is to utilize multiple channels to engage talent who are not currently searching. Don’t specifically hunt for them in the ranks of your competitors. And, once you bring someone on board, focus on retention to keep them engaged.

Talent Drain

You should never put all your eggs in one basket in terms of passive sourcing. Focusing on any one source of talent will lead to more significant problems down the road – specifically, a talent drain. Along with passive sourcing, you should also concentrate on internal mobility.

Candidates are likely to stay 41% longer at companies that also have good internal mobility. That’s true, especially for passively sourced candidates. As they take on a new role, if they don’t see the significant reasons for transitioning, they will be just as unhappy in your company.

More Money

When you want higher caliber candidates, you will pay a higher caliber salary. This means you may need to allocate more money for a pay rate than you intended. Other methods may be more budget-friendly, including upskilling and reskilling. While you should always pay an employee what they’re worth, you can engage current employees rather than go through the complete recruiting process from start to finish.

It’s essential to look at the bigger picture. What does it cost when you lose an experienced employee? Losing an employee can cost two times the employee’s salary.

Possible Regret

Hiring passive talent can also lead to regret for either party. Even though you and your candidate may have prepared well before starting the job, there are always potential factors that can lead to second thoughts. According to a recent study, 23% of Americans regret their decision to change jobs.

The number one reason for this regret, the study shows, is missing former bosses or coworkers. There are always unforeseen circumstances that can come up, but companies can give themselves a better chance in the hiring process.

Conclusion: Use Talent Intelligence for Passive Talent

By utilizing talent intelligence, you can give yourself the best advantage when considering passive talent. It will also give your potential candidates a better shot at a good opportunity. By understanding the motivations and the fit of your candidates, you’re better able to help them succeed once they start.

Further Reading

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