recruiting top talent

How to Lure Unemployed Passive Job Seekers: Part 2

This is the second part of a three-part series on how your organization can attract and hire top talent by targeting Unemployed Passive Job Seekers as part of your overall talent recruitment strategy. Warning: There are still a lot of fishing references.

Setting Sail For New Waters

Imagine a passive job seeker–employed or unemployed–who one day, on a whim, visits a job aggregator like Indeed. He might search for a certain type of position, or one in a particular industry, or one with a particular salary range. Perhaps he discovers some exciting results. Maybe he clicks on one and begins reading about a particular company’s work culture and gets excited. He might think “Wow! This sounds like an awesome place to work!”

But the timing is not right, any number of different factors may steer him off course: he is still enrolled in school; he is committed to a few short-term projects; he is not physically able to meet the job requirements at that time; he’s unsure about childcare arrangements. What happens to this opportunity? Does it close when the browser is closed? Does that excitement die with the job seeker as he returns to “passive job seeker mode”?

It doesn’t have to.

An organization can continue to interact with once-interested job seekers–even passive job seekers–by providing these individuals with a way to stay connected, and then making sure to use hiring software to proactively communicate with them. Organizations can also get creative with their job descriptions to increase the likelihood that these passive job seekers are motivated to act immediately and apply for an open position that excites them–right when they see it.

Get ’em While They’re On The Hook

Try tweaking your job descriptions so that job seekers are motivated to apply right then and there. This might be as simple as using your applicant tracking system to allow individuals to begin the application on the same page as the job description, or offering job seekers the chance to apply with Indeed or LinkedIn. Fishermen call this setting the hook.

Don’t let them think they’ll be wasting their time if they apply. If you wish to actively source Unemployed Passive Job Seekers for certain positions, then job descriptions should be written in a way that is not only inclusive of applicants with diverse experience, but that provides those applicants with confidence that they are qualified for the job.

Put yourself in the unemployed passive job seekers’ shoes and tell them what they need to hear. Let’s revisit their motivations mentioned in part one of this series as a guide:

They hold a part-time job.

Perhaps the position can be “part-time to full-time” for the “right candidate”. Or emphasize benefits for full-time employees. How it meets the job seeker’s needs: One can keep both jobs or go full-time and gain benefits–he/she has options worth exploring.

They do small contract jobs/projects.

Again stress the benefits of a full-time position. Depending on the type of position, it may make sense to include language such as “weekly/bi-weekly pay checks”, “consistent hours”, “flexible work schedule”. How it meets the job seeker’s needs: A job seeker that works on a project basis may face inconsistent work or unpredictable pay. She may also want to keep a few projects alongside full-time work, so mentioning flexible hours keeps that option open.

They are stay-at-home parents.

As with the others, you really need to stress benefits–especially family health care and flex-spending accounts for childcare. “Flexible work schedule” or “work from home” are also terms that might encourage a stay-at-home parent to consider working full-time. Of course, salary will also be important if the cost of childcare threatens to exceed earnings. How it meets the job seeker’s needs: The cost of childcare is a big item for families considering dual employment, as is time with children and time needed to maintain a household in general. Yes, a parent could earn enough to cover childcare expenses, but if he misses out on attending after-school activities or ends up spending all his free time on household chores, maybe a full-time job isn’t the right choice. You need to address those needs–offer attractive wages and flexible hours.

They have specialized experience in an industry that is not hiring/growing.

This individual has looked and looked, but her job is just not out there. Again, get creative with your job description. If your position is for an oil rig mechanic, but you’ve had great luck hiring former airline mechanics, then write a job description with a heading like: Need Experienced Airline Mechanics For Growing Industry. How it meets the job seeker’s needs: Some individuals have a decade of experience, a flawless attendance record, and glowing recommendations, but they’re trained for a job in an industry that is not growing. You need to open their eyes to new opportunities that require their unique skill set and experience.

They are in school or training.

For these job seekers, post far ahead of your anticipated start-date. Offer part-time to full-time transitions or internships. Tuition reimbursement is a great incentive too. Just be sure to specifically target your message to individuals who have returned to school too–not just your 20 year-old college student. How it meets the job seeker’s needs: Whether the job seeker is in her early twenties with minimal work experience or is an experienced worker seeking to re-train or make a career change, it’s important to provide comfortable, attractive transitions for students. Their investment in education will be an investment in your organization.

They are discouraged.

 Job descriptions or career pages that tell the story of current employees–their path to success at your organization– can encourage the discouraged and light a path for the job seeker to follow. But reaching these individuals is difficult, so it’s especially important to use social media as a channel to promote your open positions to these job seekers. Imagine the out-of-work teacher who wistfully explores #ClassroomInnovations, when suddenly an exciting job opportunity drops into her feed and encourages her to act. How it meets the job seeker’s needs: This is probably the most difficult passive job seeker to attract. One has tried and tried, and now he or she has become disillusioned with even the idea of searching for, let alone finding, the right job. You have to interrupt this person with your exciting opportunity, and this is best done via social media.

They are ill or disabled.

Post your open positions early and, of course, include the start date. Specifically message to the ill or disabled, reassuring them that this opportunity will be available and applying now does not necessarily mean working now. Or, if it is an immediate opening, mention that assistive technology is available to help disabled individuals do their jobs. Offer flexible hours or begin with part-time, transitioning to full-time. Top talent is top talent, regardless of whether they’ve been on the sideline for a bit. How it meets the job seeker’s needs: Those who are genuinely ill or disabled may find it hard to focus on a job search when they are focused on getting healthy. But if you have flexibility in your start date, and are in a position to offer part-time hours initially, attracting these individuals can be fulfilling in more ways than one.


Hopefully these tips spark some creative ideas of your own. The key is to put yourself in the job seekers’ shoes and write with their motivations and needs in mind. And as with any type of communication: the more personal, the better.

But…what if they still don’t bite?

Check back next Wednesday to learn how you can land the big catch by keeping a line in the water and trying out a few new fishing holes.


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