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!

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Comment by Paul Alfred on June 29, 2011 at 8:54am
Bill I agree with you to the tee ... ( Not golf Tee:) ) ... I am surprised that our veterans Pam, Jerry , Sandra and others are not seeing this in the market place more often ....  Damn Bill we could swap Clients and would not know the difference... Your revelation actually scares me a little ... I will keep my thoughts to myself as to why - but I think you already know the answer to that question ...
Comment by Jerry Albright on June 29, 2011 at 9:01am

Dear Bill and Paul:  I could not work with the clients you seem to be wrestling with on a daily basis.  There are many companies that want (and need) to hire right now without the combative nature of the situations you're describing.


Mind if I ask they you choose to work in those situations?   Seriously.

Comment by Jerry Albright on June 29, 2011 at 9:11am
@Paul - I think you've got the wrong idea here.  While I can't speak for Pam or Sandra - I can assure you I have seen what you're talking about.  The difference being - I see it - and move on.  Too many companies that need my help to get caught up with those who would rather not work with me.
Comment by bill josephson on June 29, 2011 at 9:29am

Paul,  I know where you're going revelation wise......I also learned to keep my true innermost thoughts to myself as I don't like to frighten people and there's always a chance I could be wrong.   To be honest, I work scared every day.


Jerry, I appreciate where you're coming from.  You understand.  I'm working with clients I find or who find me by ex recruiters I've worked with elsewhere and this is the drill as Paul and I have described.  I'd be happy to find clients with inept HR recruiting departments and non competitive environments easier to succeed in.  But those aren't the ones I find.  It's like a parallel universe to what I'm living in--and have lived in really since 2001.

Comment by Jerry Albright on June 29, 2011 at 9:42am

Bill - why would you assume only companies with inept recruiting departments are my clients.  (Not that you said that directly - but I'm thinking you're making that assumption.)


I work with internal recruiters at several clients.  I get to know them.  They are talented people who also see the VALUE in my service.  They may have 40 open positions they're personally working on.  There is no way they can get them all covered.  So you find out which ones you should focus on and EXPECT that when you've identified someone they will respect your effort.  At the very first hint of the "let me see if I can prove we should have already had this guy" - - - I"m gone.  I don't accept it.  I won't.  I can't.

Comment by bill josephson on June 29, 2011 at 9:55am
Jerry, I don't have or find any clients within your parameters of what you describe.  For me, that existed 11 years ago.
Comment by Paul Alfred on June 29, 2011 at 9:56am
Jerry ... You forget that I said I saw this trending in the last 5 years and yes we embrace the kind of clients you work with as well I would have not have much of a team left if we did not ... But my point in this entire dialog is there is a Passive Market out there, as Bill has described, they pay great fees as alot of recruiters refuse to take on these challenges - but we do and we are quite good at it. This is a significant part of the kind of business we do ... Would I love to get more Juicy American clients that says " Here is what we need here is the fee go Nuts ... " YES! Love those clients do we have those types of clients yes ... But just try and think a little more about what is really happening in the market place... and like Bill I saw this coming just after 2001- more in 2002 ... I have even gone in undercover to learn more internal thinking of Hr from the Corporate side to confirm what I have been seeinig in the market... Bill has already pointed this out in earlier posts...
Comment by bill josephson on June 29, 2011 at 10:02am

2001 the hiring feezes began.  2002 the offshore outsourcing, H1B, L1 visas, and aggressive use of technology in recruiting completely changed the I/T market I'd been in since 1983.  Paul's exactly correct.  Shrinking corporate payroll numbers here in the US, increased contractors, visas, and overseas workers instead.


For me, I tried to warn my Recruiting compadres and others in my sphere.  I guess this impacts everyone at different time intervals, and I was impacted early.   I've stopped warning as peoples' experiences determine their beliefs--not my experiences.  Since then I have people remind me they remember I warned them about this years ago......specially in our corporate sector employment depression since 2008

Comment by Jerry Albright on June 29, 2011 at 10:17am

Bill - sorry to hear of your market's demise.  Why don't you just shift to another market?  10 years this thing has been happening and you're still there?  I'd have to pull the plug.


I work in IT.  Big companies (Fortune 50) and tiny companies (Fortune 10,000).  Some have HR involvement, some don't. 


I do not sell any of them on my "passive" candidate service.  In fact it never comes up.  They don't care.  If a candidate has (in whatever form) been connected with a company recently then I just skip it.  There are some occasions where I suspect an agency may have not been able to make something happen for a qualified candidate (for whatever reason) and I'll take a shot.  Half the time I win.  The other half I lose.


Bill - the IT world is going nuts here in the Midwest.  Maybe you should consider calling around here?


All I can say it this year will go in the record books. 

Comment by bill josephson on June 29, 2011 at 10:23am

No record books here, Jerry.  Left I/T in 2003.  Moved to Defense Engineering as that's where some of the massive number of let go HR recruiters surfaced taking me with them.  Defense suffered paralysis due to Washington budget wrangling/cut backs/fear of cutbacks/not knowing when they'd get paid...and a movement to Manufacturing where companies looking have trouble in that so much is manufactured in China and only assembled here.  So I persevere on. 


Companies I once worked with 100 in HR, now have 2-3


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