Passive Candidates: Are They Better Hires?


Passive candidates ‘The holy grail of recruitment’.

The recruitment industry is buzzing about the quest to find and hire passive candidates, but what is it about these candidates that makes them the holy grail of recruitment and do you need to change the recruitment process in order to get them on board?

For many organisations and recruitment companies advertising is the main source for attracting candidates. There is a broad range of media channels being used from traditional job adverts in national and local press to digital media and job boards, such as Monster and Totaljobs.

Only 34% of the labour market is active in the job market.

According to data from the Bureau of Labour Statistics only 34% of the labour market is seeking employment or a new job, active candidates. Job adverts are effective at reaching these active candidates, but what about the remaining 66% of passive candidates. These are a rich source of talent that organisations and recruitment companies are eager to attract, but how do you source them?

Not all organisations will have the resources to build.

Social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ are being hailed as the new channels to reach these passive candidates. But its not just a case of posting your job adverts to these platforms and expecting passive candidates to apply you need to take a proactive approach to engaging with and developing communities. Candidates actively engaged in job searches are using these social networking channels and the definition of a passive candidate can become clouded. Not all organisations will have the resources, skills and needs to justify the long term investment required to build and maintain these social communities. Recruitment companies that specialise in specific sectors and have already developed talent pools of passive candidates that they are engaged with are viable alternatives to building your own.

Different approach needed to engage with passive candidates.

Engaging with passive candidates requires a different approach altogether. Industry knowledge, experience and the ability to communicate on their level are needed for establishing credibility. Being seen as an expert in your field with the gravitas to consult and offer advice on industry and career related subjects are essential for developing relationships with passive candidates.

Adapt the recruitment process for passive candidates.

Organisations need to adapt the recruitment process to accommodate and secure more passive candidates. First interviews should be informal and focused more on the candidates needs, aligning their career goals and interests with those of the organisations. You need to impress passive candidates with the quality of people they meet, executives who can share the vision and sell the opportunity of joining the organisation are far more effective at gaining buy-in and commitment than formal competency based interviews.

The interview process needs to be concise 3-4 stages with psychometric profiling and presentations left to the end of the process. Too much emphasis on registration and detailed job application forms do not help attract passive candidates. Delays in the process and the lack of constructive feedback causes a loss of momentum increasing the risk of losing a passive candidate in the early stages.

Job offers need to be compelling.

Once you get a passive candidate through to the final stage and you are ready to make an offer be prepared to negotiate. Passive candidates have a greater need to feel valued, they are usually well paid by their current employers. Career opportunity and long term benefits are key factors, however the salary and benefits package still needs to be compelling enough and will ensure an offer is accepted. Passive candidates are not engaged in active job searches and are unlikely to be looking at other opportunities. The biggest risk comes from a counter offer from their existing employer when they go to hand in their notice. Putting a compelling offer on the table minimises the risk of a counter offer. It’s worth considering the amount of time and effort that has been invested in getting to this stage. Starting the process again can be more costly than not being flexible on package at the final stage.

Are passive candidates better hires than active candidates? I don’t think it makes a difference if you have two candidates at final stage you are going to select the best candidate based on qualifications, experience, personality and ability to do the job, whether they are active or passive shouldn’t make a difference. The benefit of engaging with passive candidates is greater choice and better quality from these talent pools of highly qualified individuals.

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