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In today’s fiercely competitive job market, the search for top talent surpasses mere job postings. This write-up builds on our latest Coffee Mornings episode, where Sam, our CEO, and Robbie, a Senior Recruitment Consultant at Northreach, discuss a crucial yet often overlooked aspect of talent acquisition: proactive candidate engagement. They highlight key strategies for reaching out to passive candidates—those not actively on the job hunt but who could be an ideal fit for your organisation.

“Building relationships with talent outside your immediate reach pays off long-term. The goal is not just immediate hires but nurturing potential future connections.” – Sam Ingram, CEO of Northreach.

A ManpowerGroup survey highlights a critical challenge: 69% of employers globally face difficulties in securing the right talent, marking a decade high. This talent crunch compels businesses to broaden their search beyond active seekers, making talent pipelining a strategic necessity. Proactively managing candidate pipelines, especially alongside crucial moments like funding or data acquisition, promises a streamlined and efficient hiring journey. Yet, it necessitates effectively balancing candidate expectations to ensure a seamless experience.

A staggering 70% of the global workforce comprises passive candidates, according to LinkedIn, with 87% of both passive and active job seekers open to new opportunities. This untapped resource offers a prime opportunity for employers to gain a competitive edge. Recruitment dynamics have shifted from merely seeking out talent to ensuring your business is the one being found. Aberdeen Group’s research supports this shift, showing that engaging passive candidates can enhance the quality of hire by 42%.

This evolving landscape demands a nuanced approach to talent acquisition, where building and nurturing relationships with passive candidates becomes a cornerstone of strategic hiring. Join us as we explore the techniques and insights essential for tapping into this vast potential, ensuring your business remains at the forefront of talent acquisition.

Building on the foundation laid out in our introduction, where we’ve identified the competitive edge that engaging passive candidates can provide, it’s essential to further explore who these individuals are and what motivates them. If you are an SME that is rapidly scaling, invest and nurture your internal talent to fill future roles.

 “Effective talent management involves not just external hiring but also identifying and nurturing internal talent for future leadership roles.” – Robbie Blake, Senior Recruitment Consultant.

Understanding passive candidates becomes our next focal point, offering a lens through which we can better appreciate the nuances of their position in the job market.

Understanding passive candidates

Passive candidates are individuals currently employed and not actively seeking new job opportunities. However, they remain open to learning about new roles and may consider a switch if the right opportunity presents itself. Unlike active job seekers, who are actively submitting applications and engaging with job postings, passive candidates are typically content in their current positions but could be persuaded to change for a better offer.

According to LinkedIn, while active candidates are motivated by immediate needs such as unemployment or dissatisfaction with current roles, passive candidates are more likely to be driven by long-term career advancement and the prospect of a more appealing company culture or benefits package.

“Anticipating future hiring needs and preparing accordingly can mitigate the impact of unexpected departures, ensuring your team remains strong.” – Robbie Blake, Senior Recruitment Consultant.

Importance of engaging passive candidates:

  1. Market presence: It’s estimated that passive candidates make up about 70% of the global workforce. This untapped market holds a significant pool of potential talent that companies can access to meet their hiring needs.
  2. Quality of hire: Studies suggest that passive candidates often bring higher quality to the roles they fill. They are 120% more likely to want to make an impact and 33% more likely to seek new challenges than those actively looking for jobs, according to research by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB).
  3. Reducing time to hire: Engaging with passive candidates can significantly reduce the time to hire. Building relationships with these candidates before an active need arises means that when a role becomes available, there is already a pool of interested candidates. This proactive approach can shorten the hiring process by weeks or even months. A report by LinkedIn indicated that companies with strong talent brand strategies, which include passive candidate engagement, see a 43% decrease in the cost per hire and a 20% reduction in time to hire.

Having explored the nuances and importance of understanding passive candidates, it’s clear that simply recognising their value isn’t enough. The next logical step is to actively engage these potential talents in a way that resonates with their unique position in the job market. This brings us to our next critical segment, Strategies for proactive engagement.

In this part of our discussion, we will explore the practical approaches and innovative strategies suggested by Sam and Robbie in the episode. These methods are designed to change how companies engage, attract, and ultimately persuade passive candidates to become eager members of their teams when the time is right.

Strategies for proactive engagement

Content marketing

Thought Leadership impact: Leveraging compelling content to establish thought leadership not only attracts active job seekers but engages passive ones. A LinkedIn report notes that 75% of job seekers evaluate an employer’s brand before applying, with strong brands seeing up to a 2x increase in applications. Insights, trends, and predictions help your company stand out.

“Our work with a biotech firm underscored the power of aligning hires with company culture. A multimedia promo visually articulating the culture, technology, and environment significantly boosted applications.” – Sam Ingram, CEO of Northreach.

Resonant content types: Success stories, case studies, and behind-the-scenes glimpses into company projects particularly resonate, showcasing your company’s impact and growth potential for candidates. This is an opportunity to highlight our multi-media package for employer branding, as exemplified by our work with Enara Bio.

Social media engagement

Culture showcasing: Utilising platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram to display company culture and employee experiences significantly impacts passive candidates, with 79% of job applicants using social media in their job search (Glassdoor survey).

Platform-specific engagement: Each platform offers unique engagement methods. LinkedIn is key for professional networking and direct messaging with passive candidates.

Networking and community involvement

Events for Brand awareness: Engaging passive candidates through industry events, webinars, and forums boosts brand awareness and connections. Eventbrite highlights that 84% of leaders view in-person events as critical to company success, beneficial for talent acquisition.

Connection building: Encouraging employee participation in events aids networking and indirect recruiting through word-of-mouth.

Employee Referral programs

Leveraging internal networks: Referral programs are highly effective for reaching passive candidates, with referred employees often fitting better and staying longer. Deloitte identifies referrals as the top source of high-quality hires, expediting the hiring process.

“Asking for referrals effectively means inquiring about excellent collaborators from past experiences, not just those actively seeking new opportunities.” – Sam Ingram, CEO of Northreach.

Program benefits: Enhancing referral programs boosts hire quality and employee morale, incentivising the recommendation of high-calibre candidates through substantial rewards.

Third-party agencies

Crucial agency role: Recruitment agencies are instrumental in efficient talent pipelining, crucial for clients aiming to hire within 6-12 months post-funding. They possess the expertise and networks for engaging passive candidates effectively.

“For those seeking both speed and quality in hiring, leveraging agencies and enhancing online visibility are key. Showcasing your company’s culture and values can attract passive candidates effectively.” – Sam Ingram, CEO of Northreach.

Strategic Partnerships: A partnership with recruitment agencies can fill vacancies faster and improve hire quality, with 90% of employers satisfied with their agency’s understanding of needs, according to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation.

Building long-term relationships

Building long-term relationships with candidates, especially those who are not actively looking for a change, is crucial in today’s talent acquisition strategy. Continuous engagement plays a pivotal role in this process, keeping potential candidates informed and connected to your brand over time.

“In today’s competitive market, it’s crucial to remember that top talent is always in demand. Building pipelines and relationships, even with those not immediately near, pays off in the long term. As a recruiter, I’ve learned not every interaction leads to an immediate job placement, but nurturing these connections can open opportunities months or even a year later. That’s why we maintain a database, to revisit these discussions when the perfect opportunity arises, highlighting the importance of foresight and building long-term relationships in recruitment.” Sam Ingram, CEO of Northreach.

Here’s how to enhance this strategy with practical advice and data:


  • Regular touchpoints: Send out monthly or quarterly newsletters that include company news, industry insights, employee spotlights, and upcoming events or webinars. This keeps your organisation top of mind for passive candidates.
  • Personalisation and Segmentation: Use data to segment your candidates and personalise content, which can increase engagement rates. According to Campaign Monitor, emails with personalised subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened. Tailor content to the interests and industries of different segments of your talent pool to make the newsletters more relevant and engaging.

Company updates

  • Showcase growth and success: Share milestones, product launches, and other achievements to signal your company’s growth and stability, which is attractive to potential candidates. A study by LinkedIn showed that companies that regularly update their profiles and post about their accomplishments see a 2x higher engagement rate.
  • Employee advocacy: Encourage employees to share company updates and their own experiences working at your organisation on their personal social media. This not only amplifies your reach but also adds authenticity to your brand. Nielsen’s Trust in Advertising report notes that 92% of people trust recommendations from individuals—even if they don’t know them—over brands.

Industry insights

  • Position as a thought leader: Share cutting-edge research, trends, and your company’s perspective on industry developments. This not only showcases your company as a thought leader but also attracts candidates interested in being at the forefront of their field. Edelman’s Trust Barometer found that 58% of people cite thought leadership as a key factor in enhancing their perception of a company’s trustworthiness.
  • Engage in discussions: Participate in and facilitate industry discussions on platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. This helps in building a community around your brand and keeps the conversation going with potential candidates. A LinkedIn study found that members who engage in conversations with a company are 3x more likely to consider a job opportunity with that company.

Practical tips for implementation

  • Use a consistent tone and Brand voice: Ensure all communications reflect your company’s culture and values, making your brand more relatable and engaging to potential candidates.
  • Track engagement and adjust: Utilise analytics tools to track the engagement with your newsletters and updates. Look at open rates, click-through rates, and engagement on social media to understand what content resonates with your audience and adjust your strategy accordingly.
  • Invite feedback: Encourage recipients to provide feedback on your content. This not only engages your audience but also gives you valuable insights into how to improve your engagement strategies.
  • This long-term strategy ensures that when the time comes for them to consider new opportunities, your organisation stands out as a preferred employer.


As we wrap up our discussion on proactive candidate engagement, it’s clear that the timing of our actions plays a pivotal role in the success of talent acquisition strategies. Robbie Blake, a Senior Recruitment Consultant, encapsulates this sentiment perfectly for the biotech industry, though the principle applies across sectors:

“In biotech, timing is crucial. Waiting until funding or positive data arrives puts you behind in securing the talent necessary for growth.” – Robbie Blake, Senior Recruitment Consultant.

A quick recap

  • Proactive engagement is key: Begin engaging potential candidates well before the immediate need arises. This ensures you’re not caught in a rush to hire when funding or positive results come in, giving you a competitive edge in talent acquisition.
  • Build a Talent pipeline early: Start creating relationships with passive candidates early on. This approach ensures you have a ready pool of interested and qualified candidates when you’re ready to hire, avoiding delays that can impact growth.
  • Utilise continuous engagement strategies: Keep potential candidates engaged through newsletters, company updates, and industry insights. Regular communication keeps your organisation top of mind, building a sense of community and belonging among passive candidates.
  • Showcase Company culture and growth: Highlight your company’s culture, achievements, and growth potential. This attracts candidates who are looking for dynamic and forward-thinking environments, crucial in fast-paced sectors like biotech.
  • Invest in Employer branding: Develop a strong employer brand that resonates with your target talent pool. A well-articulated employer brand can significantly impact a candidate’s decision to join your organisation, especially when they’re evaluating opportunities pre-emptively.
  • Leverage data and analytics: Use data analytics to understand the effectiveness of your engagement strategies. Adjust your methods based on what resonates with your audience, ensuring your efforts are as impactful as possible.
  • Encourage Employee advocacy: Motivate your current employees to share their experiences and successes. Personal stories from employees can significantly enhance your appeal to passive candidates.
  • Partner with Recruitment specialists: Partner with industry-specific third-party agencies to leverage their deep expertise and expansive networks. These agencies are adept at quickly linking you with the ideal talent when you need it. With their access to a broad pool of top-quality candidates, whom they have carefully nurtured and understood in terms of career aspirations, these agencies can precisely match your organisation with talent that harmonises with your culture and values at the opportune moment.
  • Emphasise speed and flexibility: In industries where timing is critical, being able to quickly move through the hiring process can be a deciding factor for top talent considering their options.
  • Prepare for immediate and future needs: Always plan with both current and future growth in mind. Anticipating the skills and roles you’ll need down the line allows for smoother transitions and continuous advancement.