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


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Views: 1786

Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 2, 2012 at 1:03am

I will go on record to attest to the fact that some of those "not looking, invisible candidates that i have dug out of the muck of currently employed should be left there.  There are a lot of reasons why people are invisible and not looking, not the least of which is that many of them are lucky to find their way to work, keep their head down and not make waves.  No ambition, the personality of a slug and the motivation of a tree sloth.  The words that make me wish i had not gone on this archealogical dig are, "You're a what? Oh , i have heard about headhunters but none ever called me before."  "I can't wait to tell my wife a headhunter called me today, wow".

I always have a quick flash of Dagwood Bumstead run through my mind.  I have a new friend for life.  Sometimes it's nice to be old.

Comment by bill josephson on May 2, 2012 at 7:53am

I would agree with Amy.  They clearly aren't a candidate before contacting them, but become one when starting the interview/hiring process.  And they may well only be a candidate for one specific job or company meaning they're really a passive candidate.

I look at more visibility versus invisibility.  Finding the prospect Amy can't is why she'd (and my clients) utilize me. 

Comment by Peter Ceccarelli on May 2, 2012 at 4:31pm crack me up!

Comment by Greg Savage on May 2, 2012 at 4:36pm

Sandra, I would write blogs if the ONLY benefit was to read your comments they inspire.....

"No ambition, the personality of a slug and the motivation of a tree sloth.  "


Comment by bill josephson on May 3, 2012 at 6:57am

Again, I believe Third Party Recruiter's livelihoods are predicated on candidates being more invisible, than passive.  How much longer till all employees in every discipline are accessed through social media like LinkedIn and TPT's rendered obsolete? 

Every candidate I send who's also on LinkedIn can be networked through by every corporate recruiter finding similar skilled professionals ultimately not hiring our candidate sent, but one through the spider reach of technology>


Just asking.

Comment by Amanda Selleck on May 4, 2012 at 12:31am

I agree with Amy. If that prospect still takes you a year or two to convert, it dosen't matter. You built the relationship and you converted. Therefore everyone is a prospect or a candidate all the time, just as Greg said, it's all about the timing. Great post!

Comment by Ian Harvey on May 4, 2012 at 4:41am

I agree Greg.  There are only active and passive recruiters.  Here's a clue.  You never hear a headhunter talk about active or passive candidates.

Comment by Greg Savage on May 4, 2012 at 6:14am

Very good point Ian..that is true.

Comment by bill josephson on May 4, 2012 at 7:37am

But you do hear Recruiters talk about visible and invisible candidates.

I'd much rather find an "invisible" candidate my clients can't find, than a "passive" candidate my clients have already approached and been declined.


It's about finding prospects your clients can't find, or we're obsolete.  When companies can access everyone we're basically only needed for the "Confidential" assignments.  That's what I see social media doing.....more and more encroaching on uncovering the "invisible."

Comment by Ian Harvey on May 4, 2012 at 1:30pm

Bill - you are arguing about angels on a pin head.  Whether you are after visible, invisible, passive or active candidates, or whatever you want to call them, you won't find them unless you reach out and make contact with them.  That's the point here. The horrible truth is that you are in competition with your own clients, as many recruiters are, and the only thing that currently they don't possess that you do is the will and commitment to put time and effort in to doing exactly what you do. You don't own or have access to anything that they can't find, if they really wanted to. Sorry, but there you go.


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