Stop With the Recruiting Fashion Trends

It’s a brand new year, great things are on the horizon … and for me, I have had it up to my eyeballs with a particular topic. I am so fed up with this topic that I want to climb to the highest peak and scream, bang my head against a wall, and even toss my desk around the room over and over. This topic that’s making me and others so irritated is Passive Candidates.

Yes, that’s right. The topic or even the mention of passive candidates now a day makes me want to throw up. In conducting my own personal year in review and through scouring HR topics, articles, blogs, etc., it seems as if 2011 was the year of the “Passive Candidate.” My response … so the heck what.

I guess I am at a loss as to why there is so much over-emphasis on “passive candidates.” Whatever happened to simply hiring the most-qualified, best-fit individual who can add their strengths in order to advance the organization? Now we have resorted to “Commandments of Recruiting Passive Candidates,” “Rules to Recruit Passive Candidates”, “Your Guide to Passive Candidates” — you get my point.

So here are some questions for you to ask yourself and answer:

  • What does passive mean?
  • Are “passive candidates” better qualified than active candidates?
  • Are “passive candidates” perfect?
  • Do “passive candidates” even know they are passive?
  • Are “passive candidates” just acting passive and playing the recruiting game?
  • Do hiring managers even know what passive means, or are they following another trend?
  • Has a “passive candidate” ever been hired and then performed poorly, or are they all major rock stars?
  • On a company employment application, where is the check box that asks whether one is passive or active?
  • Is there something wrong with being an active seeker?
  • What is most important to you in making your next hire?
  • Why does it seem that some of these “passive candidates” seem to change companies like it’s nobody’s business?
  • How come when I am speaking to a “passive candidate” and ask that individual what other opportunities they are currently looking at, the list is most of the time extensive?

Passive, active, semi-active, inactive, submissive, reactive, retired, separated, etc. — shouldn’t we want to hire the best and most qualified individuals for our positions? Don’t we want to seek out and hire those who possess the strengths to improve the organization?

Right now, there are individuals knocking at our doors, and while not all of them are qualified, a lot of them are very qualified. Yet, a lot of these individuals are facing discrimination by hiring managers and recruiters who want someone who is working or someone who is passive. I have yet to see any study or statistical data that proves passive candidates to be more qualified, make better employees, or add additional value than those employees in the “other” categories.

I am after the most qualified individuals for my positions. I hire for experience, qualifications/strengths, and fit. I have never asked whether an individual is passive or not because to me it doesn’t matter. If you have the skills, meet the criteria of the position, and are determined to be a fit, then there is a great possibility in making a match.

I recently completed an internal search for an executive-level position in one of our most prestigious business units. After taking the order and obtaining full details, I started my search process. Fast forwarding to the end, I presented five candidates in my final slate: two passive, two semi-active, and one active. The end result — the active candidate received the offer after a thorough and extensive interview process.

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It turns out this active individual came from a competing company who had shut its local doors months prior. To no fault of her own, a little bad luck had her now in a position that she had never been in before — in active search mode. In my own evaluation, I found her to be no less qualified than other passive candidates I interviewed for this same role. In fact, she was the most qualified and turned out to be the best fit.

I call on my fellow HR and talent leaders to not follow trends or fashions. Rather, stick to and follow the fundamentals of recruiting and search, build relationships, treat others well, hire for skill set, fit, and strengths, interview like a pro, and lastly maintain an open mind.

Morgan Hoogvelt

Morgan Hoogvelt currently serves as director, global talent acquisition for Acelity, a leading wound care therapy organization. Drawing on his expertise in human capital strategy, executive search, RPO, essential hiring practices, candidate sourcing, Internet recruiting, and social networking, he provides organizations targeted, best-of-class solutions and employment branding strategies that help his clients meet the challenges of recruiting, technology, and retaining and rewarding top talent. He is also passionate about delivering excellent customer service and building positive, productive relationships. He can be contacted at morgan.hoogvelt@acelity.com.