Active & Passive Candidates - What Are They?

There are no such things as active or passive candidates in the recruitment market, there are only good candidates and the rest. OK, I know that at any one time there are people out there who are actively scouring the market for a new job, and many more who are not. But the point is that this is a candidate perspective, not a recruiter one. Where recruiters can go wrong is in looking for sources of new candidates who are not looking for a new role or may be unavailable to their competitors, i.e 'passive candidates', but can still be delivered to them as if they were 'active'. 


I can understand the problem.  I worked for an exec-level job board where much of our early growth came from companies looking to us as a different candidate pool.  They and all their competitors used the same job boards and came up with the same candidates for the same jobs, for which of course they were all in competition. If we were successful for one agency, it was not long before the competition turned up in force.  Good for us, but the same problem for the recruiter.


But looking for active or passive candidates is missing the point.  And it's lazy recruiting practice. Recruiters get paid to find the right candidate. Sometimes it will be possible to find the right candidates from a job posting, as at any one time some, but by no means all of the most eligible candidates will be looking to change jobs. But to be consistently identifying the best available candidates  means getting of your butt and approaching the people your client would want you to be talking to. You cannot expect a 'passive' candidate to come to you. To find the right candidate you need more than one string to your sourcing bow, and with the wealth of information online there has never been an easier time to do this.  Recruiters - get out there and engage!

Views: 542

Comment by Slouch on June 23, 2011 at 1:41pm
I think most smart people would consider a career change if it proved to be an enhancement over what it is they do today. If you look at it that way, most people can be looked at as active. You just need to present it in this way when you get them on the phone. If you ask everyone you call if they would be interested in a new opportunity, you will get a lot of people saying no and it's just an objection that you need to overcome. I think it's silly to think of people as passive or active. If they have the skills to do the job and they work at a company that is the right company to recruit from, whether they woke thinking today is the day for me to change jobs or not is irrelevant. Most people will change jobs for something better. Something better comes in a lot of different shapes and sizes.
Comment by bill josephson on June 23, 2011 at 1:48pm
Most qualified prospects I encounter are extremely happy where they are when I speak with them over the phone.   They have no reason to change besides money.  Those are the prime people who'll take counter offers as there's no real reason for them to leave.  They're only curious as to how much they're actually worth wanting ego gratification and will waste your time.
Comment by Sandra McCartt on June 23, 2011 at 3:40pm
I've had some of those too Bill.  I fixed their wagon.  I came to work early, cut the crossword puzzles out of the newspaper, went through their desks and took all the library books and Bride Magazines as well as the treasure trove of food that they had stored like squirrels for the winter.  When they came to work the scurrying was more fun to watch than a sit com.
Comment by Paul Alfred on June 23, 2011 at 4:26pm
I guess I too have to disagree our entire model is based on the Premise that the Best candidates are not on the Market that is the one of the first statements a potential client  hears from me when they ask why should we work with your firm  we totally go after candidates that are "Happy where they are" and were not looking.  Perhaps more suited for niche markets ...  We live in Brian Keith's (earlier post)  20% never looking  and the 60%  not actively looking world... Indeed I agree with Sandra in the end  all placements(candidates) have to be sold regardless of the World they come from active or passive..
Comment by Sandra McCartt on June 23, 2011 at 5:15pm
I think what we should say instead of passive is, "this is one of those candidates that you can't find and can't interest because you aren't a recruiter."  You are in fact of that noble new breed called a "talent scout" so you go scout and see what you can see and i'll go find and deliver the ones that aren't in plain site.
Comment by pam claughton on June 23, 2011 at 7:15pm

Whether a candidate is passive or active is irrelevant. It's simply a matter of timing. Just because someone is passive, doesn't mean they are are better than someone who is active...I've often found the opposite to be true. When you recruit, you have to hit it from all cylinders, cast a wide net, sometimes the best candidate is also an active candidate who responds to a posting, but something in your very well written ad struck a cord with them and converted them from passive to active.


Frankly, to dismiss any source of candidates, job boards, postings, referrals, whatever, is to potentially miss out on the best person for your job. Just because your client has access to job boards for instance, doesn't mean they have the time or inclination to use them. To automatically cross that resource off your list is to potentially miss out on placements.


If you do it all, cold call recruit, post, search paid databases, generate referrals, etc, you'll likely land a great candidate for the search and it could come from anywhere.

Comment by bill josephson on June 23, 2011 at 7:28pm

If your clients don't mind you finding candidates on job boards not being a duplication of their efforts--go for it.

My clients work with me knowing I'll find candidates they wouldn't have had access to, confident they won't have them in their database, plus justifies my asking for and getting a higher fee than their fee schedule terms

Comment by Paul Alfred on June 23, 2011 at 10:38pm
Hmmm some clients really do understand when I say we focus on the Passive Candidate Market. Its one of the key reasons they decide to give us a chance and we also have clients that tell us point blank we don't want to see anyone from the Job Boards they invest in ... Yes Pam the Passive candidate market is real our company was founded on that total premise ... Timing has nothing to do with it you either have the ability to sell a Passive candidate over to being on the market or don't ... I never said not to use all your resources but the the definition "Passive" stands the candidate is either on the market or not on the market ...
Comment by John Comyn on June 24, 2011 at 3:20am

Referals work! I never let a candidate walk away from an interview without refering me to at least one person. I always ask "I'm going to help you and in return I want you to help me. Give me the name of one person you admire and look up to". I agree with the author. There is no such thing as an active or passive candidate. They could be passive today and active tomorrow or in a years time. There are also no short cuts to finding them.

Comment by Ben on June 24, 2011 at 4:03am

I’ve got to agree with you Sandra, which leads to a new title not mentioned on this thread yet.  If going with the premise that everyone has a price - whether it is financial, promotional, lifestyle change etc. Then it could be argued there is no such thing as a truly "passive" candidate.  A "semi-passive" candidate yes but a truly "passive" one? I’ve never met one yet. Who out there wouldn’t change roles if it meant increased remuneration, improved career prospects and matching / improved work-life balance etc.  If a role came along that offered even the most loyal and stable employee an opportunity that would significantly improve the lifestyles of themselves and their family then I’m sure they’d entertain it.


So there you go folks. Another title to mull over.  As if there weren't enough labels out there already!


You need to be a member of RecruitingBlogs to add comments!

Join RecruitingBlogs


All the recruiting news you see here, delivered straight to your inbox.

Just enter your e-mail address below



RecruitingBlogs on Twitter


© 2019   All Rights Reserved   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service