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Passive Candidate Sourcing on if You Dare

Passive Candidate Sourcing on

You can search for executive recruiting — if you dare. Just because you can conduct passive candidate sourcing there, it doesn’t mean you should. (See warning below.) Yet, whenever you discover places filled with potential candidates where few recruiters go, you gain a competitive advantage. That talent pool, effectively, is all to yours.

When sourcing for candidates, I’ve come to appreciate government databases that I first used as a journalist. Since virtually every recruiter uses LinkedIn, there are few competitive advantages to be gained there. No doubt, it is a must-have recruiting resource for candidate sourcing. Yet every passive candidate that you find on LinkedIn is discoverable by your competitors. When you turn to other sources besides LinkedIn, you are setting a strategy to boldly go where your competitors do not.

Become a Passive Candidate Sourcing Contrarian

When you search other sources of passive candidate information, you find amazing candidates who are not on LinkedIn, Despite its 850 million candidates, the LinkedIn talent pool is overfished. When you scour other sources of candidate information, you will also discover candidates who are on LinkedIn but impossible to find because profiles are so minimalistic or out-of-date. That’s why it pays to become a candidate sourcing contrarian. Instead of looking for passive candidates where everyone else is looking, look in the opposite direction. Searching outside LinkedIn you set a strategy to uncover star executive talent that your competitors haven’t yet found.

Search the Deep Web for Passive Candidates

Conducting Boolean searches to search the Internet is also a useful technique. But again you’ll be going head-to-head with any competitor that has built out their candidate sourcing function. In addition, Internet searches only take you so far.  Search engines can only crawl websites and return information that is discoverable on those sites. In other words, the information that search engines return has to be there to begin with. So it is not too surprising that you’ll find little about star executives and technologists at highly secretive corporations that include Apple. Secretive companies intentionally keep their top talent under wraps. You won’t find them mentioned in articles, on corporate websites, or as speakers at conferences. The best-of-the best-talent at secretive companies, your ideal passive candidates, are encouraged to stay on the down-low.

There are other reasons you will not find top talent with simple web searches.

  • Sometimes a senior executive claims credit for innovations created by his underlings.
  • Sometimes a gifted executive or technologist doesn’t have time to step into the limelight by giving speeches at conferences.
  • Sometimes the CEO serves as the primary spokesman for the company, leaving brilliant talent in the shadows.

All of the above possibilities can cause outstanding candidates to remain off-radar unless you do your candidate sourcing off the beaten path.

Passive Candidate Data on

One unusual place to source for candidates is the Federal Election Commission database. In 1971, Congress created the FEC to administer and enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act, which governs campaign finance. The independent regulatory agency discloses finance information, enforces contribution limits and prohibitions, and oversees the public funding of Presidential elections. Whenever an individual makes a federal campaign contribution, the SEC records the event, the FEC database captures the name of the person making the contribution, the title, and the employer’s name.

Let me repeat.

For every person who donates to a federal election, the FEC captures the Name, Title, and Employer.

Before You Start Searching, Check with Legal

Now, before you stop reading and start searching for your next hire, there is something you should know. The Federal Election Commission restricts the use of individual contributor information. Specifically, it says:

” . . .information about individual contributors taken from FEC reports cannot be sold or used for soliciting contributions (including any political or charitable contribution) or for any commercial purpose.

Under the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act), information about individual contributors taken from FEC reports cannot be sold or used for soliciting contributions (including any political or charitable contribution) or for any commercial purpose.

— Federal Election Commission

The Federal Election Commission gives examples of permissible and impermissible uses of the information. So before you dive in, check with your legal team to ensure you don’t violate the “sale or use” restriction. It is somewhat nuanced. Ignore that step at your peril. FEC data is “salted” with fictitious contributor names, a method of detecting whether the names and addresses of individual contributors are being used illegally.


So you need to ask a lawyer whether passive candidate sourcing on is allowed. For instance, if you google the name, title, and company of an individual contributor you found on, and the person is discoverable elsewhere online — does that original research make it okay? You haven’t copied any FEC data. You’ve conducted original research and discovered a viable executive from information that is not on Rather, your original research was inspired by what you found on

A lawyer would need to determine whether that use would be disallowed because your subsequent original research is a derivative of data. (In criminal law, there is a Derivative Evidence Doctrine also known as the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine that throws out the evidence (the fruit) when it is obtained through illegal search and seizure (the poisonous tree). “Under this doctrine, not only must illegally obtained evidence be excluded, but also all evidence obtained or derived from exploitation of that evidence.”)

(Clearly, I have watched far too many Law & Order episodes. I’m not a lawyer. So find one and ask.)

Hypothetical Executive Search Research on tells website visitors how to search its individual contributions database.

The Individual Contributions filters enable users to search for individual contributors by Name, Zipcode, City, Employer, and Occupation (Title). You can limit the search to more recent contributions.

Example: a search for “Microsoft” in Employer returns 644 contributions from Microsoft employees since 01/01/2021. When you click on each person’s name, you can view their Occupation (Title).

Learn to Ask “Where’s the data?”

Whenever you begin an executive search, ask yourself what government agencies have dealings with the company that you are sourcing for candidates. Ask what government agencies might intersect with employees at your target companies. Next, check to see if government data exists online. is but one example. Whenever a job requires licensing — there are state licensing databases you can search for accounts (CPAs) and health care workers (i.e. MDs, RNs). Whenever the are court cases, there are court records and if they are public, a great deal of information is often revealed.

The nice thing about checking government records is that so many of them exist. Just think about the points of contact any individual has with the government: voter registration, driver’s licenses, professional licenses, as well as state and federal court. Every time we collide with a government agency a record is created. Only this time, the government’s famed bureaucratic red tape works in our favor.  The information might help you gain a competitive advantage. You gain a competitive advantage by looking where others do not.

For more tips on candidate sourcing, check out our blog post How to Crush Candidate Sourcing.

(This article was originally published by ERE Media. We have since updated the information.)

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Krista Bradford

Krista Bradford

Founder and CEO of Intellerati | The Good Search. Retained executive search headhunter. Former investigative journalist. Wife of saxman. Mama of MD. Co-worker of Hamlet the Corgi. TikTok addict.View Author posts

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