There is no such thing as a ‘passive candidate’

I have to admit I am sick and tired of hearing talk of ‘active’ and ‘passive’ candidates. Even though I admit to freely using the terms myself… until very recently.

But I am going to stop doing that.

People ramble on about ‘passive’ candidates, as if this is a totally fresh breed of human being, that only new-age, especially savvy recruiters know how to connect with. The ‘passive candidate’ has become a mystical ‘super-talent’, somehow superior and different to the bog-standard ‘active’ candidate, who has demeaned him or herself somehow, by actually sinking to the low of actively looking to change jobs.

Well here is a newsflash. There is no such thing as a passive candidate.

In the modern world of sustained talent shortages in niche areas, and evolving job-search behavior, today’s recruiters must think like this…

Everyone is a candidate, all the time.

What I am saying is that the only difference between an ‘active’ and a ‘passive’ job-seeker is a question of timing!

Everyone is ‘active’ if you convert them.

And therein lies the modern recruiting challenge. Yes, to identify and locate the talent with the skills we need. But then it’s up to us to convert them to ‘active’ status. That’s right, you “runner of job-board ads”, you “searcher of the tired old data-base”. It’s your challenge to find them, connect with them, seduce them… and in time, entice them to consider a new role.

So lets not talk about ‘passive’ anymore. It’s meaningless. All candidates are active… some just have to have their new job search ignited!

I feel pretty strongly about this topic, and am acting as MC to the cutting edge evolve2survive conference in Sydney and Melbourne, where global sourcing experts will coach on how to find those active talent who just need a little ‘ignition’.

I imagine I will be learning a great deal there, and so might you


‘Like’ the The Savage Truth Facebook Page, for real time opinion, updates and observations from around the recruiting world


Views: 1832

Comment by bill josephson on May 1, 2012 at 8:21am

I think we're getting bogged down on semantics.  I'll tell you exactly what I'm required to find for my clients--and everyone else can place their own label on them.


My sole purpose and why my clients pay me a fee is to find people they can't find which, since my clients all have technologically savvy internal recruiters, means people not looking to be found.  I receive assignments because the candidates they can readily find directly aren't, for some reason, being hired. 

So, if a professional doesn't have their resume on the Internet actually not having an updated resume, isn't sending out resumes to jobs, isn't networking to find another position, not on social media, and literally sitting at their desk working when I happened to call to recruit them with an opportunity they thought sounded in their best interest to consider who then they (client) acknowledge they'll need to sell on joining them THAT's the candidate companies want me to present.


Are they passive or really aggressive just hitting them at the right time?  Wrong question/statement in my opinion.  My job is solely about finding candidates my clients can't find on their own.


Call them whatever you want.  I consider them "passive/invisible" candidates

Comment by pam claughton on May 1, 2012 at 9:02am

Excellent post! It's interesting too how often candidates who can be found easily are not always the easiest to recruit....that's what we are really paid for, not just 'finding' the name, but recruiting the individual, and turning passive into active.

Comment by Andy Stanczyk on May 1, 2012 at 9:14am

Is anyone else exhausted with this argument?  Yes, every candidate is active if you convert them.  The active vs. passive candidate, while not a black and white topic, is a clear and simple way to describe whether or not a person is currently seeking out new employment on their own time.  It’s that easy.  It is a phrase we use to help explain the ever changing ocean of candidates we have the opportunity to fish from.  Some are hungry, some are not.  Let’s leave it at that.   

Comment by bill josephson on May 1, 2012 at 9:19am

Andy, in my experience it's more a matter of visibility versus invisibility.  Anyone visible my clients can at least access to recruit.  They can't recruit people they can't access. 


That's where I come in.  Finding invisible candidates--almost 100% likely to be passive--and recruit them for my client to sell them on wanting to work for them. 

Comment by Theresa Hunter on May 1, 2012 at 12:49pm

Hi All,

I am new to this blog and thought that I would jump in and introduce my self.  My name is Theresa Hunter and I am a legal recruiter specializing in Intellectual Property Attorneys. My introduction with people who ask what I do I tell them that I locate invisible talent for my law firm clients.  Which means to me people that are not actively pursuing a job search on their own.  So basically to my client they are invisible, if it were not for me they would never know about this particular candidate.  To Andy even if you convert them does not mean that they are active.  I have had two deals over the last 2 months blow up because the candidates decided that the did not want to move even though I ask them extensively during the candidate interview process if they were ready to make a move if the client extended the offer and on both occasions the answer was yes.  It is more about reading what the candidate is saying and here is the key "doing" that lets me know if they are truly active when it comes to working on securing a new opportunity.

Comment by Peter Ceccarelli on May 1, 2012 at 1:15pm

I don't believe anyone can seduce or convert a candidate if they're not interested in making a job change.  Even if the salary is higher.  The so called passive candidate may play along with you just to see, but at the end of the day, people tend to change jobs because they're not happy where they're at, or don't believe in the leadership of their current company, they hate their boss, or have to relocate for a spouse/significant other.  Money is way down on the list.  You can't budge someone from a job they're in if they're happy.  Not going to happen.  Theresa's example is a prime example of that.  Therefore there are passive and active candidates.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 1, 2012 at 4:45pm

Theresa, I placed several IP attorneys last year.  I got the very best candidates from an ad i posted on Monster.  Better response from Monster on those cats than CB and who knows why.  Maybe attorneys read monster. and much better and ready to really move when they actually were not looking than the ones i called direct.

They didn't have cv's out there anyplace just saw the ad and responded.


I think recruiters get caught up in their own myths.  I think Greg is on target with timing being the issue.  The big myth about elusive, invisible candidates ,unfindable passive candidates i think has largely been created by recruiters to sell their services or trainers who want to make money teaching recruiters how to find "passive candidates".  It has been my experience that the guy who isn't looking in March may be in April depending on all the factors Peter mentions.  Active one day, passive the next kind of like chicken one day , feathers the next.  Just submitted a candidate who pratically told me to drop dead in January.  His MBA finals are over this week so all of a sudden i am a wizzard when i hit him with a top job in his backyard this week.


Candidates who are not looking at the present moment are like fishing for trout.  You don't plop a big hunk of bait in the water and expect them to hit it like a starving cat fish.  You put it out there and let them swim around it until they are ready to bite.  And don't jerk the line or they leave.


I need another horse like a fish needs a bicycle but anybody who knows me knows that if a big black one comes along who needs a home and i just banked a big check i might have another horse.  Right now i am not out there looking for one but who knows.

Comment by Theresa Hunter on May 1, 2012 at 5:18pm

Congrats on the IP placements!!  I have been working in this area for 6 yrs and I have not had any success with Monster on IP Attys.  The only time that I used it was when I needed a contract Atty for a document review type job.  I am going to show my ignorance what is CB?

Yes, I do understand about the timing issue.  I was working a Partner deal and spoke to what I was hoping was a potential candidate and he said to me I am not looking at moving right now because of bonus but contact me in October and we can talk then.  I said great and put him in my calendar for October.  Funny thing when I went to contact him to get the ball rolling he had already made the move to another firm.  I do reach out to people who say to me I am not looking right now especially if they have a very good background because things can change with them in a heartbeat and all it takes is a call from a recruiter with a new oppty to get them to move.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 1, 2012 at 8:55pm

the first boss i ever had in recruiting told me not very much but one thing that stuck was ,

"Never totally believe your candidate or your employer, everything is almost always subject to change if the right thing is put in front of either of them if it is half way reasonable."


CB is Career Builder.  :)  Ads like everything else in recruiting and maybe life in general depend on the timing in my experience.

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on May 1, 2012 at 11:52pm
Passive = prospect. Once they're interested they become a candidate. Problem solved. :)


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

© 2024   All Rights Reserved   Powered by

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