Why Smart Employers Are Targeting Passive Candidates

WRITTEN BY: Jörgen Sundberg

As many of our listeners will know, the global talent shortage continues to create new challenges for the employer branding and talent acquisition space.

Millions of job openings remain un-filled, Baby Boomers continue to retire, and it’s not just a hangover from the COVID pandemic. Key demographic shifts show that the labor force has actually shrunk in two areas: 16-24 year-olds and 45-54 year-olds. In other words, we’re dealing with a smaller talent pool to fill both entry-level and leadership positions.

In the latest episode of The Employer Branding Podcast, we talked about all of these issues with Kelly Cruse, the VP of HR and Chief Diversity Officer at Atlas World Group. They’ve taken a unique approach to talent acquisition by developing relationships with passive candidates—people who aren’t actively looking for a new job but might start listening once you put an offer in front of them.

Fierce Competition for Tech Talent

Like so many, Atlas has struggled over the past few years to fill key positions and attract younger talent in IT and technology. It’s the same for everyone: these are big areas of need, but also one of the most competitive talent marketplaces out there.

For Cruse, the first step is to accept the scale of the challenge you’re facing. As she puts it, “How do we make sure we’re engaging them and making them feel like they’re a part of the culture? We talk about employer branding, but how do we execute that once they get here?”

In a world where every technology and IT position is remote, you need to make sure you’re competitive in those areas while delivering on the promises made by your employer branding efforts. And part of that is recognizing that engagement might look different for younger generations of talent.

Bringing Flexibility to More Roles

Like many companies, COVID completely shifted things for Atlas both in terms of what was possible to get done remotely and how that enabled them to offer more flexibility to their team. And these changes have served to broaden the potential hiring pool to talent that might not have considered Atlas in the past.

“We want people to be able to bring their whole self to work but to do that, some people need more flexibility based on what their home-life situation may be or whatever other factors they may have,” Cruse says. This is especially important because they’re not just struggling to fill tech positions. In fact, entry-level customer services positions constitute a significant area of need, and offering flexibility for those roles has been a game-changer.

Cultivating Passive Candidates

Cruse and her team have shifted their focus to primarily focus on passive candidates. As she puts it, “We’re trying to get the people who aren’t looking, who may even be happy where they are.”

The goal isn’t always to immediately move them down the funnel into a job placement, rather, they want to start a conversation and a relationship that could yield benefits further down the line. “As we have future openings, we’ve already pipelined some of that passive talent,” Cruse explains.

LinkedIn Recruiter has been an incredibly helpful tool for their targeted approach, and they’ve also seen results leveraging the social media of current team members, who will share job openings on their profiles.

This strategy requires some patience, but it’s yielded impressive results. Cruse has seen a noticeable jump in candidate quality, both in terms of skillsets and the behavioral pieces they value at Atlas. They’ve gone from a “post and pray” approach that yielded radio silence to seeing several strong applications come in for each position they post.

While the talent marketplace continues to be competitive, Cruse emphasizes the importance of candidate care. You want every candidate you interview to leave with a positive impression of your business and what you stand for. Even if it doesn’t work out today, you never know what tomorrow may bring.

To follow Kelly Cruse’s work in employer brand, connect with her on LinkedIn. For help identifying the values and culture you want to create in your company, get in touch.


Our newsletter is exclusively curated by our CEO, Jörgen Sundberg, for leaders who make decisions about talent. Subscribe for updates on The Employer Branding Podcast, new articles, eBooks, research and events we’re working on.


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