Recruit and Retain Passive Candidates for Future ‘A-Player’ Roles

The hiring process can become a source of burn-out for your team if challenged with high turnover and mis-hires. Posting job ads and screening candidates over and over is, well, overwhelming.

One solution to consider isn’t an overnight fix but will pay dividends: cultivating an ‘A Player’ network of passive candidates for future open roles. We call it building your Virtual Bench.

To be clear: this is NOT about poaching in-demand employees from other companies. It’s about being top of mind for future candidates by being proactive, competitive, consistent and innovative.

Be Proactive in Your Passive Candidate Hiring Strategy


In Topgrading’s two-day Virtual Workshop President Chris Mursau likens solely relying on job ads for hiring success to relying on lottery tickets for retirement. You either win big (a rare occurrence) or you spend a lot for very little return.

To achieve hiring success, you must get out of the quick-hire mindset and focus on long-term strategy. It’s all about being proactive – and one sure way to do that is to fill your team with ‘A-Players.’

A team of ‘A Players’ – high performers who fit your culture and match your core values – will ensure you retain more and hire less. But eventually, someone will vacate their position. Do you have top talent “on the bench” and ready to jump in?

Think of it as “talent insurance” for your company. Having a network of passive candidates is a safety net of ‘A Players’ who already know your company, your products and services, your reputation and your values.

Topgrading Tip:

Ask yourself, “which roles would have us in trouble if they were suddenly vacant – who could we quickly recruit to fill them?” Then, make a list of five ‘A Players’ and five connectors (people who may not be a good fit for the role/company, but know others who would be) for each role.

If you can’t think of five people, build your Virtual Bench … and keep building it.

Ann Drake was CEO of the third largest company (CSI Logistics) in Chicago run by a woman, and at weekly staff meetings and all-company meetings she would preach, “We all recruit all day, every day, with everyone we meet.”

Building and maintaining a network doesn’t need to rest on the shoulders of one individual – it’s the work of many. Your board, employees, family, friends and community should all be encouraged to promote growth and positive branding to anyone who would be a good fit for your company. Then, it’s time to cultivate your growing network by staying top-of-mind for prospective candidates with a consistent, positive presence.

How do you keep a relationship alive with passive candidates? Communication.

Keep your website content updated. This is often the first impression someone will have of your company.

Consider paying “bounties,” awards when an employee recommends someone who is hired. Celebrate the employee looking out for the company as you pay the person $100 or more the day the person is hired. Managers should not be paid – recruiting is part of their job.

Newsletters. Email is NOT dead; if you make the content delightful to consume, your audience will eat it up and look forward to future tidbits.

Social media. A positive presence on social media is critical. This is where you show the human side to your company and really spotlight the culture.

Word of mouth. An oldie, but a goodie; actively communicate news and job openings with peers in the industry, alma maters, to internal personnel and board members. Ask them to spread the word.

Be active in the community. Participate in community service and local business events. Host workshops, conferences and social events.

Keep the door open. Informational interviews with passive candidates are excellent for gathering feedback, building rapport and growing your network.

Always be on the lookout for potential ‘A Players’ during any interaction – even when you aren’t actively hiring. Invite them to stay in contact and be consistent with your communication to stay top-of-mind for them if/when they consider a job change.

Stay Competitive: Retain Passive Candidates and A-Players with These Tips


What makes someone leave a perfectly good position? It’s not always about more money. One of the most common reasons for The Great Resignation was people not liking their manager.  Topgrading is great at revealing leadership styles; with candidate-arranged reference calls there is no reason to hire someone who is a negative leader.

Do your research and find out what your target demographic considers an ideal work environment and position. To stay competitive, you need to provide the solutions for a passive candidate’s desire for work-life balance, pay, benefits, culture and more.

Always make sure you are in-market when it comes to compensation. If you think you can’t afford to pay more, consider the cost of mis-hires and turnover: when you have more ‘A Players’ you can afford to pay more because you have to hire less.

Put Your Network to Work


Once you’ve built up your network and continuously maintain it, put it to work.

Use those “connectors” to find top talent and quality candidates. Connectors know your brand, your industry and your reputation well enough to provide qualified leads – and also give you feedback and competitive analysis.

Always have your ideal candidate persona and job description ready to share with anyone in your network. “We’re looking for a [role title] with [skillset] to [goal]. Are you or anyone you know a good fit for this?”

Passive candidates will appreciate a simple and efficient means for applying to positions. Ensure they aren’t deterred by asking for too much right away. A tool like Topgrading’s PreScreen Snapshot is easy to use for candidates and gives your hiring team a great advantage with accurate, concise data that shows if a passive candidate is your next ‘A Player.’

Topgrading can help. Contact us today to learn how we can cut down or eliminate the cost of mis-hires and find the right people for the right roles in your company.

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