Which Candidates Are Better?

Jun 13, 2001

I recently participated as a panelist at a workshop that focused on recruitment and online recruitment. A very interesting question was brought up: Are active candidates getting more active and passive candidates getting more passive in this economy? I thought this was a good question, and worthy of further discussion. As a recruitment professional, I have always questioned the notion of “active” candidates vs. “passive” candidates. What makes an “active” candidate active and a “passive” candidate passive? To many of you, the answer may appear simple. An active candidate is someone who proactively posts his or her resume online or is actively pursing a new job. Passive candidate, by standard definition, are those who may have their resumes posted on their personal homepage or have information about their job and themselves listed somewhere on the Internet (in press releases, for example). It can also mean someone who is happy with their current work situation and may not have any information on the Internet about themselves, but has been identified as a top candidate by a peer or competitor. Are we not all open to hearing about an opportunity that is better than our current situation? Wouldn’t you listen to someone from another company if they had an opportunity to present to you that was so outstanding, you would be foolish not to at least listen? What if someone came up to you and offered you $1,000 for the leather jacket you were wearing? You had no intention of selling your $200 jacket, but for the right price, you would certainly consider it. Most people would be inclined to at least listen to a new opportunity. You may not be out seeking a new job, but one may come to you. What this means is that we are all active candidates in some way, but we may not be as active as other candidates that are proactively pursuing a new opportunity. This leads me to the original question, are active candidates becoming more active and passive candidates becoming more passive? With the nature of the economy, where layoffs are more common than they were a year ago, this theory would seem to be true. An individual’s sense of “security” has been stripped away by all the doom-and-gloom economic and employment predictions. Because of this, active candidates are much more aggressive at pursuing opportunities today. If a candidate doesn’t hear back from a recruiter within a day or two about an opportunity, then most likely that candidate will be on the phone trying to find out their status. This is a far cry from eight months ago, when you couldn’t buy a return phone call from a hot candidate! When you look at passive candidates, I am hearing that it is much more difficult to pry them away from their current job if they still feel secure. What is often overlooked is that passive candidates today can become an active candidate at any moment. I would say that anyone and everyone could be an active candidate for the right opportunity and price. Finally, you need to ask yourself one question, “Do I need passive candidates to fill my open positions?” If you asked this question last year, people would have laughed at you, but today, it is a real consideration. It is much easier to locate, engage and hire candidates who are actively seeking a new job. If you determine that passive candidates are still necessary to fill your positions, then you may find it even more challenging to lure them away from their present employers. Make sure that you do your homework before approaching any passive candidates. You will need to be able to show them that your opportunity is better than the one that they have currently. Once you have built some rapport with a with a passive candidate find out what their hot buttons are, such as money, environment, schedule. This information will allow you to address and overcome most, if not all, of their objections. The bottom line is that all candidates have learned that they need to look out for their own best interests. If they are actively looking for a new job, they will probably be more aggressive and eager if approached with a good opportunity. If you have approached a potential candidate who is not currently looking, you will have to work that much harder to lure them from a safe and seemingly secure job. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

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