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Best PracticesSourcing & Outreach

11 Untapped Sources for Recruiting Passive Talent

Lauren Shufran

Lauren Shufran

Content Strategist

Posted on

October 4, 2019

When it comes to finding talent, LinkedIn reigns—but it's not the be-all-end-all. Here's are some less-commonly-used sources for recruiting passive talent.

With 630 million-plus members and 303 million active monthly users, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network. There’s not a single recruiter we speak with at Gem that doesn’t spend the majority of their time on LinkedIn for recruiting passive talent; and because so much information lives there, it’s likely to remain the most vital tool in your sourcing toolbox for years to come. We believe this so thoroughly that we’ve even built our product on top of it.

But while the strongest sourcing strategies will always include LinkedIn, they won’t necessarily be limited to it.

The sourcers and recruiters we speak with say that when they discover talent outside of LinkedIn, they nearly always return to the platform to learn more about the prospect’s work history and achievements. But the great thing about varying your sources is that you’re likely to uncover a broader range of talent—which means the more diverse and dynamic your pipeline will ultimately be. So it’s worth keeping one hand in LinkedIn while the other creatively moves through other spaces where qualified talent lives. (We won’t dive into the other major social networks—Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter—here. They demand their own search strategies; and we cover them elsewhere.) Here's our shortlist of less-commonly-used sources for your passive talent searches:


With 2 billion monthly active users, a lot happens on YouTube—including videos on professional topics posted by subject matter experts. Sometimes these experts maintain their own channels; sometimes they’re featured in videos about the domains in which they’re authorities—including videos posted by their employers. So what are the skills or the role you’re looking to fill? C++? Digital marketing? Lead generation? Search for those. Maybe you look for “tutorials”; maybe you start with a basic single-keyword query. The first few seconds of a video will alert you to its legitimacy. (So will the number of views.) Click into the YouTubers’ name and then into the “About” section, where they may have listed their website, social media handles, or contact information. Or return to LinkedIn, and search for them there.

Google Play Store

The Google Play Store may do wonders for your developer pool. We suggest you keep up on new app releases in particular. Every app in the store includes an email; often these emails will connect you directly with the developer who built the app. If you use Gem, you can also return to LinkedIn to find their email addresses... and reach out to them from there.


This one’s for your designer pool. Dribbble is a design portfolio and networking platform for digital designers of all kinds—web design, UX/UI, graphic design, illustration, and more. With millions of visitors per month, it’s one of the largest online platforms globally for designers to share their work. You can message designers directly from the platform or find them through whatever other profiles they’ve listed: Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Behance, etc. If they share a LinkedIn profile, all the better. Download their information in Gem and reach out from there. (You’re noticing a pattern here, yes?)


Medium is an online publishing platform on which people post thoughtful pieces on a wide variety of topics. The platform allows you to search for keywords and topics, or browse tags. Users writing about Pythonproduct management, product design, and data science likely have deep experience in these subjects. What’s more, they’re passionate enough to write about them in their spare time. Running a search on any of these topics (and more) will serve you up a variety of talented individuals. What’s more, it gives you something specific to rave about in outreach to them. When you find a prospective candidate, dig into their profiles and find out who they follow and what posts they’ve recommended (“clapped” for). If they’re fervent about the topic, they’re likely following and promoting people who are, too.


The public Q&A site is another place for recruiting passive talent. Users’ answers get “upvoted” and rise to the top of the page, so you don’t have to sift through poor-quality answers to find those who really know what they’re talking about. As with Medium, search for a topic related to the position you’re looking to fill—or a question you imagine a professional in that field would be able to answer (“What are the best books about data science?” “How do you manage your first sales reps on your SDR team?” “What does a great product manager at a tech startup do day-to-day?”) The subject matter experts who have upvoted answers to these questions are typically professionals. Return to LinkedIn to see their full work history and further personalize your outreach.


Okay; there are some uninformed and uninformative book reviews out there; but there are also some very informed ones that might lead you to promising talent. A person who leaves a thoughtful review on C# advanced features, for example, or on an “expert’s guide” to product strategy, probably knows what they’re talking about. Click into the reviewer’s name and see what else they’ve reviewed (double points if they’ve written extensively on books around the same topic).


Foursquare’s Swarm app allows users to “check in” and share their locations. For privacy reasons, there are limitations to what you can see and know. For example, users’ locations are only shared publicly if they choose to share their check-ins on Facebook or Twitter (in which case, you’ll discover them through those social platforms’ respective search features). Otherwise, their locations are only shared with friends in Swarm. But those second-degree connections can be important. Have a friend who’s just checked into The Recurse Center? Send them a note and ask them to keep you in mind with each new programmer they meet there.


With 291 million monthly active users, the social network and “visual discovery engine” is a great place for recruiting passive talent of the design-minded sort. Indeed, many web designers are using the platform specifically to build their personal brands and share their portfolios. Sourcers can search by tag or keyword (“web designer,” “graphic designer”) to locate design projects—though we recommend experimenting with your search terms, since the results will depend on the text users enter alongside their images and in their bios. You can also enter your query into Google, asking it only to serve up search results from Pinterest. Even a simple search such as ux design will serve you up collections of users’ favorite UX/UI projects; many of these will take you to individual designers’ Behance or Dribbble pages. Of course, head on over to LinkedIn to confirm whether or not that person is your purple squirrel.


Mogul is an award-winning platform—dubbed “the Reddit for Women” and “the Global Media Empire for Women”—that connects professional women, empowers them to interact and share knowledge with each other, and exposes them to career opportunities. The platform has “impacted over 124 million people across 196 countries and 30,470 cities”—and it’s certainly connected to some of your prospective candidates, both active and passive. Indeed, the networking platform has been ranked by Inc. as both a Top Site for Finding Top Talent and a Top Resource for Female Job Seekers. In other words, it’s become its own recruiting channel. Mogul has options specifically for employers: posting a job on the site, sharing your company story, and an “Invitation Only” product that allows you to “match your senior positions with top female candidates.”


Colleges and universities are expected to award over 3.9 million degrees—from associate’s to doctoral degrees—in the 2019-2020 school year. Nearly 2 million of those will be bachelor’s degrees. Handshake Co-founder Garret Lord calls his platform a “first LinkedIn.” The site equips college students with a rudimentary professional profile that they can flesh out in their journey to professionalizing. It may very well transform your university recruiting initiatives. As of last year, Handshake had a user base of over 500 schools serving over 9 million students. The platform claims that it’s “democratizing opportunity. Because building your career shouldn’t depend on where you go to school, what you’re majoring in, or who your parents know.”


AngelList is best known as a job board for tech startups, yes. But while it helps organizations get inbound applications from active job-seekers, there’s also a feature that lets you search passive talent—from recent college graduates to top-tier technical talent. It’s free for you; there are no middlemen; and prospective candidates get to see salary and equity up-front. This great for your organization’s diversity initiatives in particular. Why so? Because nearly 61% of women would take a company’s pay gap into consideration when applying for a job; and a recent LinkedIn study found that “knowing how much a job pays is considerably more important for women” than it is for men (68% to 58%). You can search AngelList with Boolean searches on Google; just include

Creative sourcing strategies aren’t exhausted with this list; but it may give you some inspiration for where to start. Play around and see which of them offers value to your sourcing efforts. That said, the sooner you can take the various conversations they spark onto email and into your talent CRM, the better. We’ve given you some potential goldmines here; but you’ll ultimately want all your data in one place.


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