Passive To Active

The approach to hiring for a vacant position continues to evolve. It has transformed from placing an ad in a newspaper or hanging a “Help Wanted” poster in the window to posting a job description online or leveraging a professional recruiter to help find a healthy pool of candidates. When contemplating how to recruit new talent, it is important to also consider who to recruit.

There are two pools of people to consider – “active candidates” and “passive candidates.” Active candidates are individuals that come through the job boards. They may be employed or unemployed, but they are actively pursuing new opportunities and able to start immediately. Passive candidates are generally employed, are not necessarily looking for a change, and may or may not be interested in hearing about new opportunities. Although it may appear active candidates are the low hanging fruit, passive candidates may be worth the extra effort when they make up 75 percent of the market.

There are pros and cons to both types of candidates…

Active candidates are immediately available, but you can also assume if they applied to your job they applied to others just like it, so competition may be fierce. The job posting may attract a lot of candidates, but are they all qualified? Not likely. It may take time filtering through resumes to find the diamond in the rough.

Passive candidates are not usually immediately available, which means time to hire may take longer. However, that could work in your favor. Since they are not necessarily looking for a change, the chances of losing them to a competitor diminishes. Recruiting passive candidates is also more deliberate, which means they probably more closely identify with job requirements and qualifications.

Ben Slater from Beamery metaphorically summarizes this concept through the use of fishing: “’Active candidate recruiting" is a little like fishing with a net. You're casting it far and wide in the hope that you catch what you're looking for. You're usually successful, but you have to spend a lot of time filtering out all the other fish to get to the ones you need. Sometimes fishing with a net doesn't cut it though, sometimes you need a spear.

When you recruit passive candidates, you carefully select people that are a great fit for your business. As a team, you make a conscious decision about the candidates you're going to go after. It's more strategic, and you can be a lot more targeted.”

The biggest difference in connecting with active and passive candidates is the approach. Active candidates come to you whereas you have to go to passive candidates. But in order to find the right fit, it is possible you will have to engage with both types of candidates. While the position is posted on quality job boards and you are letting it do all the work of collecting resumes, also be thinking outside the box on how to reach candidates that won’t apply directly. This could include:
  • Using social media, whether that means broadcasting the position on your company’s social media page or reaching out to potential candidates you find on social media.
  • Creating an email blast to send to professional networks asking for referrals. Even tap into asking for referrals from current employees.
  • This is a less popular approach and can be rather intimidating, but contact potential candidates at their current place of employment.

In today’s market, qualified candidates are out there but it will most likely require more effort to find them. Use the resources available and start bringing in new talent!

About the Author

Janae Swartz is a consultant with Morrison, working primarily in our People Solutions practice. To get in touch with Janae, please find contact information for Morrison here.


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