Passive vs. active candidates: Email do's and don'ts

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By The Fetcher Team

Passive vs. active candidates: Email do's and don'ts

6 mins read

Email dos and dont's
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In recruiting, candidates fall into two main categories: active and passive. Active candidates are actively looking for work; they are researching new opportunities and applying for open roles. On the flip side, passive candidates aren’t pursuing a position.

As a recruiter, these are candidates that you and your team source and reach out to, to build more awareness about your company and its open positions.

Communication is key with both types of candidates, and in many ways, outreach will look similar. However, because their motivations and expectations differ, you’ll want to adjust your email strategy accordingly when emailing passive vs active prospects. Below, we take a look at what to consider when emailing passive candidates vs active prospects, plus tips for successfully engaging both groups.

What to Keep in Mind When Emailing Active Candidates

Active candidates have already demonstrated their interest in an open role or your company; they want to hear more from you! How you respond to them depends on the individual candidate and situation. Do they seem like a promising fit for your team? Is there a role that’s relevant to their skills and experiences?

Emails to active candidates allow you to manage their expectations and keep their interest level high. Remember that people who are actively looking for work:

  • Want to engage with you, whether they’ve applied through your website, messaged with your team on LinkedIn, or reached out via email. Don’t let them down by ignoring them or leaving them with a negative perception of your company. How you respond, especially to rejected candidates, could impact your company’s reputation.

  • Have already put invested time and energy into your hiring process. Acknowledge and respect their efforts with transparent, timely communication.

  • Might be under a lot of stress. They could be looking to relocate or switch to a fully remote role. If they’re employed, there’s a reason they’re looking and aren’t satisfied with their current situation. If they’re not employed, they could be worrying about financial security, healthcare coverage, etc.

Do’s & Dont’s of Emailing Active Candidates

  • Do thank them for showing interest.

  • Don’t leave them hanging - let them know when they can expect to hear back about their application.

  • Do include links to social media and other channels so they can learn more about the role and your company.

  • Don’t send completely generic, automated responses. At a minimum, add personalization fields to emails that include their name and the role they’ve applied for.

  • Do include the contact information of the person the candidate can reach out to with questions.

  • Don’t forget to ask where they heard about your company or the open role!

What are the must-have elements to include in all your recruiting emails? Talent experts share their tips for making a splash with their talent pools.

What to Keep in Mind When Emailing Passive Candidates

Passive candidates aren’t looking for a new role, but as we always point out, it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t consider it! 70% of the workforce is comprised of passive candidates, so don’t want to leave them out of your recruiting efforts!

Under the right circumstances and with the right messaging, passive candidates represent a huge opportunity, to find your next great hire and build a sustainable, long-term pipeline of talent.

When trying to engage passive candidates, remember:

  • They may have little to no awareness of your company. Taking them from a completely cold prospect to an enthusiastic candidate can take time, but the investment is worth it: passive candidates are more likely to be satisfied in their current role, and more likely to make an impact at the company.

  • They won’t want to jump through a ton of hoops. Most likely, they’re already employed and don’t have the time to go through a tedious application or interview process.

  • Multiple companies may be recruiting them at the same time. Especially for technical roles like engineering that are constantly facing a talent shortage, you need to stay top-of-mind through consistent, targeted communication – and by emphasizing why they’re uniquely qualified for the role. Make them feel special!

Do’s and Dont’s of Emailing Passive Candidates

  • Do be upfront about why you are emailing them: introduce yourself, the company, and the role.

  • Don’t lead with hard CTAs or big commitments. Ease them into the process with softer, lower commitment asks, like “Let me know if you’d like to talk further.”

  • Do be flexible with timing. If they aren't they aren't available or can’t jump on a call immediately, set a reminder to follow up.

  • Don’t overwhelm them with all the details before you know they’re interested. Keep your initial emails short and sweet.

  • Do show vs tell when it comes to your company culture. Use natural language and let your personality come through – more than half of candidates say culture is more important than salary in considering their next role, but it’s important to be authentic.

  • Don’t be discouraged if they don’t respond after one email; even after three touchpoints, nearly one-third of candidates respond as interested!

Recruiting emails are one part of the equation

Whether active or passive, candidates want communication that’s clear and relevant to them. Your emails are one element of the candidate experience and in many cases, they are the first point of direct contact with your company. From the first impression to the follow-up, it’s important to build an email strategy that aligns with the rest of your employer branding and hiring processes.

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