Are We Nearing A World Without Passives?

Mar 6, 2014

Talent trends overGetting the cold shoulder from your LinkedIn prospects? Maybe it’s just bad luck that you’re sourcing for high demand candidates who may be in that rarefied category called “super passive.”

Most of the workers of the world who visit LinkedIn are open to a new job and, in the U.S. 43% of them are open to talking to recruiters. Even the ranks of the super passives are in decline, dropping 25% globally (from 20% to 15%) since a survey in 2012.

In the largest survey the business networking site has undertaken, more than 18,000 LinkedIn visitors shared their attitudes about job prospecting and career satisfaction. Several hundred from each of 26 countries participated, in many cases expressing very similar feelings about how actively they are looking for a new job and what it is that would prompt them to make a switch. (The full report is available here.)

While every person is different, the LinkedIn survey offers powerful insights into job change motivation. In the U.S., about 10% of the 935 respondents are actively looking for a job. At the other extreme, 21% fall into the super passive category, saying they are completely satisfied where they are.

The 69% in between those extremes are those who, in varying degrees, would be open to a job change:

  • 13% are reaching out to their network;
  • 13% are checking on jobs a few times a week;
  • 43% — close to the 45% global average — are open to talking with a recruiter.

Job seeker motivations linkedin 2014While this may be bad news for employers who want to retain workers, it’s a clear opportunity for agency recruiters. Counting as active the weekly job searchers and  those who are determinedly pursuing a new job, LinkedIn says this 23% of the workforce is not necessarily dissatisfied with their current job. Their motivation is driven by a desire for more advancement opportunities (26%), more challenging work (21%), a job that is a better fit for their skills (29%), and better pay and benefits (29%).

When you compare those job change drivers to what the passive candidates say would entice them to pursue a new opportunity, a very different picture emerges — one that should influence how recruiters approach passive prospects. By far what passive candidates told LinkedIn is that money talks. Of the 19 items reported in the survey, 55% of U.S. passive candidates said money and benefits are one of the three most important factors that would get them to change jobs.

Everything else was far down on the list: better work/life balance (30%); advancement opportunities (21%); more challenging work (12%), and; a better fit for their skills (14%) were the top five choices on the list.

The report is a roadmap for approaching candidates. Besides telling you what factors appeal best to passives and actives, the report also includes a similar ranking of what’s not important to each group. In the U.S., neither group cares greatly about job title or office location or developing a stronger relationship with their manager. Elsewhere in the world, motivations are different, but only in some countries is that strikingly so.

For LinkedIn’s director of global talent acquisition, Brendan Browne, the decline in the number of super passives signals a worldwide change in the ease with which talent can identify opportunities — a change that began way back with the first online job boards, and continues today with the sharing of openings and even impending opportunities among connections and friends on social and business networks.

Posting on our sister site,, Browne lists several ways his recruiting team is leveraging the opportunity that the decline in the “no way, not ever” passives presents. Aimed more at corporate recruiters, his suggestions about pipelining, branding and particularly leveraging your network to make “warm introductions” are equally useful to agency recruiters.






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