Having trouble attracting passive job seekers to the public sector? Try these 4 tactics


Passive job seekers are some of the most difficult people to hire. These are the people who are already employed, are staying home with their kids, or who are making a successful career out of freelancing. They are happy with their current situation, and as a result, they’re not actively looking for a new role. However, they’re also talented professionals, as such, may consider other options if the opportunity seems like a beneficial direction in their career, which gives your organization a shot at “seducing” them.

Working in the public sector usually means dealing with two main obstacles when it comes to attracting passive job seekers: first, you need to convince them that they should change their current situation, which they may be very happy with; second, you’re going to be competing with the private sector – something large corporations – who are also looking to poach these talented workers. If your organization haven’t been able to overcome these hurdles to successfully recruit passive job seekers, luckily there are a variety of innovative tactics you can implement.

1. Encourage and reward employee referrals

One idea you could borrow from private companies is to institute a referral bonus program. Ask current employees to submit any friends or former colleagues that they feel would be a perfect addition to the team or specific position that’s open. Let your employees know that even if their contact is not currently looking for a change of scenery, you would still like their information for future reference.

For such a program to truly sustain itself, employees need to be rewarded for the referrals successfully placed. For instance, if an employee refers a stellar passive candidate to your public agency and that candidate is hired, the employee receives a bonus check for a specific dollar amount after a certain amount of time. This also encourages other employees to submit their referrals, keeping your collection of resumes of passive job seekers fresh in case you ever need to dip into it.

Employee referrals are good for two reasons. First, they help you to expand your search to people you would not have heard from otherwise. Second, if you end up meeting with this person, having someone they know working with you already will help to convince them to join.

2. Host an open house

With an open house, your goal is to bring in people and to showcase the type of work that you do. By bringing in new groups of people for a casual light-hearted event, potential passive candidates won’t feel like they’re being actively recruited. This is simply an opportunity; for them, to get to know your department or organization better, and for you, to project a positive reputation in the back of their minds should they become active job seekers.

During your open house, display some of the projects, achievements, or awards that your organization is proud of. In addition, encourage current employees attend the event who can share positive stories about what their work and company culture is like. Finally, make sure the event is fun – provide food and entertainment, or even host the event at a fun location. Do whatever you can to ensure the event is a good experience for anyone who attends.

3. Start an internal work culture-driven blog

Building up your Internet presence through a simple culture-focused blog can be a rather inexpensive way to attract passive job seekers, among other benefits. (If your department or institution doesn’t have a blog, set one up as soon as you can.) A blog is a great place to write about the work you’re doing, the fun and meaningful events you’re throwing, or testimonials from current employees about their experiences working there. Think of your blog like a company newsletter, but a newsletter that anyone outside of your department can check out.

In each blog post, be sure to include a message at the end letting readers know you are always looking for new talent, and how they can get in touch with you to learn more. If someone just read about all the great things your department/company does, what better time to gently pitch them to come and work for you?

Finally, your department should also have active social media accounts, and these blog posts should be shared whenever you complete one. This helps them to reach a wider audience, and people can more easily share them around if they know someone who might be interested.

4. Form connections with potential candidates

If you end up meeting a passive job seeker who you’d really like to come and work for you, it usually isn’t enough to make a simple pitch and then give up. You should take the time to connect with these candidates further to build a solid relationship. We’re not suggesting you immediately friend them on Facebook, but you could connect with them on their LinkedIn or other professional online accounts, or even interact with them on their personal blog if they have one. Take the time to engage with them, even if it isn’t about work-related things.

While you don’t want to come off as overbearing, the goal should be to build up a solid reputation with this person so that they might be more open to joining your team in the future. Be persistent in showing that you place a great value on them, without coming across as rude or intrusive.

Bringing in the best candidates means reaching those who aren’t actively looking

Whenever it’s time to hire someone, you want to have the largest talent pool to select from. If your agency is only searching through those people who are actively looking and applying for job opportunities, you’re missing out on some other talented people who don’t know to look beyond their own employment. By integrating these tactics now, you can start to sway passive job seekers to come and work for you. Then, when it comes time to hire, you’ve already put much of the ground work needed to convince these candidates to change their situation and join you.

To learn more about bringing in passive candidates, talk to your current staffing partner. They will be able to discuss with you how they bring in passive candidates, and how the two of you can work together to bring in more for your department. Bringing in the best candidates should be a long-term goal, and by working with your staffing vendor, you can discuss specific tactics that will benefit your department for years to come.

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