Hiring Strategies for Active vs Passive Candidates

In the recruitment space, there are lots of discussions around the idea of active versus passive employee candidates. Candidates are either passive or active. The two groups have different motives in their job search so you need to create different strategies in accordance with that.

The debate circles around whether it’s more effective for recruiters to spend time approaching active or passive candidates. Should they be tackling both, or putting more efforts onto one of them?

What are active and passive candidates?

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Active candidates are ones who are openly and actively looking for new job opportunities. 71% of adults in or looking to enter the labor force say they are actively looking or open to a new job, and 58% of these same adults look at jobs at least monthly.  Not all active candidates are unemployed, quite the opposite, there are a range of different reasons why people in this group might be looking for a new role:

  1. Perhaps their current job doesn’t give them the level of responsibility they think they’re ready for and so they’re looking for a new opportunity in order to progress further in their career.
  2. It might be a case that they’re worried about the business’ security and want to make sure they’re not in the same company anymore in case it shuts down and causes lots of hassle.
  3. Perhaps their employer managed to outsource their job for a lot cheaper and so they became redundant?

Active candidates fill roles easily because they’re looking for what you’re offering. The simplest way to reach out to active job seekers is through job boards and job postings.  This is normally where they’re looking for roles and so putting your roles in front of them is a guaranteed way to attract the attention of the talent who are looking for new opportunities.

If you want a further method of finding active candidates, you can try and source them yourself. Active candidates are normally found working on their own personal brand in an attempt to make themselves as desirable to potential employers as possible in order to secure the top roles. This means they leave their C.V in lots of places and with a few searches on social media or through various search engines, you can locate these candidates and reach out to them directly.

How to attract active candidates?

When looking for active candidates, it’s important to show how flexible and accommodating you are as an employer. This could be anything from offering late interview times as you know most might not be able to get the time off work for an interview. You might also offer them the chance to have an interview over video-chat if they are unable to make it to a face-to-face initial interview.

There’s another type of candidate who fits right between passive and active. They are seen as being right of the edge. These are people who are not yet at the stage where they are applying for roles, but they know they want to leave their current role and are preparing for this. These types of people will generally use their networks in order to seek out opportunities. As they are still in the beginning stage and yet to apply for any roles, they take a gentle approach to their job hunt.

These candidates are reaching out to people in their own network and circle so it’s important, if you want to attract these types of candidates that you have a system in place whereby employees are encouraged to refer other potential candidates.” If you can attract the attention of these candidates right at the beginning of their search, you have a high chance of securing top talent.

In order to do this effectively, be sure to have your recruiting software ready, and let your current employees know what job openings you have available, and what a qualified successful potential candidate actually looks like so they have an idea of the quality you’re after.

Another thing to bear in mind and prepare for is these candidates might not have all of their documents such as a tailored C.V and cover letter ready. This is something you should prepare for. You should allow time in your plans for them to get their documents together.

Passive candidates

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Further along the spectrum we have passive candidates. These people are employed and not currently seeking out new opportunities. At any one point there are always more passive candidates than active candidates. This means there’s a whole bunch of potential candidates you’re missing out on attracting.

If you can pique the interest of a passive candidate you have a major added bonus in that they are probably unlikely to be interviewing at other places, whereas active candidates, you may have to compete with multiple there companies.

When approaching passive candidates it’s important to go about it with an air of caution. Remember, as far as they’re concerned, they’re not looking for a new job. They, at this stage, probably haven’t even shown any interest in your company. You need to be able to get them excited. This is a different tactic from the other two types of candidates as you have to work that little bit harder to convince them they should be questioning whether staying in their current role is right for them.

When reaching out to passive candidates, you need to be certain you’re providing them with enough information about the benefits of a role with your company. If you’re able to, research the candidate and provide them with direct examples of how their experience would benefit the company. This shows personalization and may make them consider hearing more about your offer.

When approaching passive candidates, you need to make sure you are adapting your job description in the right way.

The job description should explain clearly the things they need to do in order to perform well and be successful in the role. You need to define the job requirements in light of what results you want to achieve, not what qualifications you want them to have.

Think about the ideal candidate who is applying for your role and question what would make them consider moving to a new company.

Think about what could persuade them to change their current role and consider offering that as part of the package, this might mean offering a better work/life balance or it might mean offering more money.

Extreme passive

There will be some candidates who are at the end of the passive scale, where they are very content in their job and do not wish to engage in discourse with you regarding the roles you have available. In these cases, it’s important to understand and know how to act so you don’t step on anyone’s toes or upset anyone.

It’s not important at this stage to get them to consider moving to your company as this is unlikely to happen. The only thing you need to focus on at this stage is building relationships with key candidates so in the future, if they are looking for a role they would consider opportunities at your company.

As we have discovered, it’s crucial you create a different strategy for the passive candidates, the active candidates and all those in between. They are at different stages of their recruitment process and so the strategy you use needs to reflect that.

The debate

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Some believe the top candidates are the active ones as they are keeping their eyes on the job market because they understand the benefits of advancing their careers. For this reason, many think it’s not fruitful to approach or try and approach the passive candidates as there is less chance of hiring them anyway?

Some argue when you have to convince someone to consider your company before they’ve even looked at the job role, it can become time consuming to attract top talent and the more time you spend searching for talent, the more expensive your talent search becomes.

Many passive candidates, they are open to discussing roles with new companies, as long as there are benefits for them. Normally these benefits come in the form of a pay rise of up to 15%. 

Which fares better then? For many recruiters, passive candidates are the best candidates to go for because they seem to possess the qualities of a good candidate more so than the active ones. However this simply doesn’t make sense. Recruitment is all about finding the right people for the roles you have to fill.

Just because someone is looking for a new role doesn’t necessarily make them any less of a worker than someone who is happy in their role. There are a range of reasons why someone might be considering a different job role.

Perhaps it’s a case of an a active candidate is no better than a passive candidate and a passive candidate is no better than an active one, the only thing that differs is your approach to them and if you are able to adapt your approach from one to the other with ease then you will find that you can attract both types of people. If you have the skills to be able to contact both types of people then it really doesn’t matter which type of candidate you’re approaching as the skills should be transferable.

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