Originally published in 9th July 2017.

Imagine you are head of HR at a big company and assigned with filling an important position. Imagine further there were two candidates you could choose from: One is highly skilled with years of experience but doesn’t care about your job ad and the other one seems very eager to work, however he does not have much experience but promises to have what it takes. Who would you choose?

This basically reflects the comparison of passive and active candidates.

Jobseekers themselves are well aware of that they are active candidates. However, active candidates are not necessarily unemployed. They have a variety of reasons to look for new opportunities, as, for example, their current employers might not be able to fulfil their demands, both intrinsic and extrinsic ones. Active candidates are indeed a fresh and eager source of labour for your organisation, so of course you pay special attention to them to select the best fits for your vacancies.

However, you are missing a huge chance of getting the right people. Modern recruiters know there are talented people out there who never read a job ad. They are taking senior positions or are partly satisfied with their current works. Above all, they have the right skill sets and experiences for the position that you need to fill in which is sometimes hard to find in active jobseekers. Those are called passive candidates. A passive candidate is someone who is considering a position but is not actively searching for a job. While active candidates are those who are actively looking for new employers, passive candidates are those who employers are looking for.

There are questions about business ethics in terms of passive candidates. Let’s look at Peter as an example. Peter was well-paid at company X until one day, a gentleman called him and kindly asked: “Would you consider working for us?”. Together with many eye-popping promises for salary and career advancement Peter agreed and eventually became a key role of company Y. At that moment, managers at X faced a dilemma in finding an alternative to Peter. His leaving is considered a huge loss to them, both time and money. Can company X blame company Y that they lured him from their organisation? Yes, no, or both. The issue was hot when Liz Ryan, a journalist at Forbes, called it “shameful but true and realistic”. In the free world, people have free choice about where they want to contribute their know-how. Ultimately, you cannot blame others for taking your skilled people, but yourself for not able to retain them.

Advantages of reaching out to passive candidates

The fact is that there are more and more recruiters that seek for passive candidates. They  are often considered to be higher quality candidates, but they can also be more difficult to engage and convince to make a career move. LinkedIn reports that “Passive talent accounts for 79% of working professionals around the world.” Because of that, targeting passive candidates should always be a part of your recruiting strategy, especially for rare & hard-to-fill roles. There are five transparent advantages that recruiters find in attracting passive candidates for their organisation, according to David Lowbridge (2016), Managing Director at TwoFeetGroup.

  • They are desirable:They have some skill, training, qualification or trait that makes them highly desirable to that employer and you.
  • They have nothing to hide: Since they aren’t actively looking for a job and feel secure in their current position, their CV isn’t going to be inflated. Passive candidates will be more honest in their expectations from the company – meaning they, and you, won’t be disappointed when it comes to hiring.
  • Passive candidates alignment: A passive candidate is more likely to want their next position to be more aligned to their own beliefs. This can be highly beneficial as it increases employee engagement, productivity and can decrease integration time.
  • Passive candidates want to make a greater impact: According to The Undercover Recruiter, passive candidates are looking to have a bigger impact in their next position. However, this might mean that the candidates will want more recognition at workplace.
  • Limited Competition: A passive candidate won’t have sent out their CV to other employers, and therefore, you only have their current employer’s compensation package to better – making it far easier to come to an acceptable agreement.

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