One Way To Find Passive Candidates You Can Use Today

by David Mandar

getting referrals


As I stated in a previous article, the value passive candidates bring to the recruiter table often surpasses active ones. That said, active candidates still bring value. In some scenario’s such as when hiring contractors, they often are the best fit. But in general, passive candidates usually come with fewer challenges and I always make the extra effort to find them. So, how do we source passive candidates in today’s market?

Some of the most obvious ways are social media, user groups and direct sourcing. All are effective and each come with their benefits. But one of the most basic and easiest methods that you can start applying today is acquiring referrals.

Why referrals?

Sounds so simple and obvious, yet getting referrals is an often overlooked way of sourcing passive candidates. In my experience, wherever you get them from, referrals are usually better than your average candidate answering job ads. That’s because, people will only recommend someone who will not reflect poorly on them. They will refer someone who stood out on their team or was a major contributor on their last project. These are the candidates you are looking for. The problem is most recruiters do not ask for referrals as a habit. Sometimes they ask, but if they don’t seem to get any, they eventually stop.

Start Asking

That’s a shame, because there are some handy and easy ways to increase the number of referrals you get. First rule is to remember to always ask for referrals. Make it part of your telephone screen or interview process. Imbed it in your forms so you are reminded and have a place for the info when it comes. You should be getting at least 3 referrals, so shoot for 6 to 9 new contacts. Every candidate knows dozens of people. Think of it this way: every candidate should have three references you can contact to conduct a work reference on, and then turn the reference call into an introductory call to you and your company’s services. (Remember to do a good job on the reference as he or she is also a potential client.)

How To Ask

Like I said, everyone has at least three colleagues from previous jobs or projects that they could recommend based on a good reputation in the company. When asking for a referral, be specific. Ask for people they would have worked directly with in their department or collaborated with on other teams. And finally ask for at least three managers. This can mean project managers, team leads or department managers. There may be some overlap, but that’s OK. You still end up with a good list and more names than you started with. Call them all and get referrals from them as well. You will grow your network in a very short time.

Before Asking, Gain Trust

The key is to establish some level of trust before you ask anyone for personal information like a friend or contact’s name. So, ask it at the end of the conversation, after you’ve established rapport or further in the hiring process. If you are conducting a face to face interview with a candidate you are screening for a current opportunity, help your candidate understand what services you provide during the job search and how you will support them long term as their career counsellor. You will be doing a lot of work for them and your time and services are valuable. Any contacts they provide you will also benefit from your services.


Getting for referrals may seem like a lot of work at first or maybe a slow way to source candidates, but by turning it into a daily habit, you will see the payoff in steady industry referrals and a high level of quality candidates, which has many payoffs such as happy clients and a steadier stream of income. Consistent incoming referrals are a great way to even out that revenue roller coaster.

Like I said it takes time. All good solid things do. But just by implementing new referral strategies in your hiring process, you are one step closer to greater service and greater rewards. So, where in your process will you start asking for referrals? Map it out today – why wait?


David Mandar


Utilizing over 20 years of experience within the Information Technology field, David has grown progressively through his career in Recruitment and Staffing. He is currently a Curta Coach, assisting fellow recruiters and agency owners, new to the industry and experienced, get off the recruiting merry-go-round and reach their revenue targets and work satisfaction by applying smart work processes that raise the quality of hires and result in a greater business and personal brand.


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