Candidates and Tasty Kool-Aid

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Active and Passive CandidatesWhen it comes to understanding this legendary candidate dichotomy, recruiters are quick to forecast with wild-eyed certainty that one type is intrinsically more valuable than the other.

One school of thought seems to suggests that job seekers “actively” looking for work are less desirable and hence unemployable. Recruiters who subscribe to this belief must have deep rooted suspicions about the job seeker — Why would a candidate just jump into their lap? They must have been FIRED or they’ll ultimately pan out to be a BAD LEAD.

On the other hand, proponents of the active candidate feel passive leads are a waste of time – perpetual tire-kickers that’ll string you along, only to disappoint. Where some recruiters discount job boards because of their “low-quality” candidates, these recruiters LOVE job boards because they are real, active candidates interested in a new job.

Sounds like some tasty Kool-Aid on both sides.

In reality, these sweeping generalizations do nothing for the recruiter or the candidate. Both sides have their pros and cons, so it’s essential to dispel some long-standing myths surrounding each classification:

1) Active Candidates are not synonymous with unemployed or unemployable. Even if there was a correlation, it seems like a wasted opportunity to discredit someone’s eligibility based on their current work status. A huge amount of hires come from job boards. Additionally, most people discount candidates without jobs. The reality is that often very senior candidates are often unemployed between jobs. The length of time to find a job actually increases the more senior the candidate. You can find Chief Technology Officers on big job boards that will take a year to find a job because of their position. It doesn’t mean anything negative about them as a candidate. Labeling candidates can cost you a placement or internal hire.

2) Passive Candidates are not better or worse. But they do require a different recruitment strategy. Remember these candidates need to be convinced to leave their current position. In order to take your job, they need to first leave theirs. The recruiter is chasing THEM. The candidate’s bargaining power holds more weight and it’s often takes a degree of tact and strong networking skills.

3) Active candidates aren’t desperate, Passive candidates aren’t bloodsuckers. These are just people looking for jobs. The Recruiter needs to understand both sides of the equation and present two different value propositions. It’s not the quality of the candidate that we’re talking about here – what matters is the differing recruiting process required for each individual.

So what’s the big deal? Does it even matter which is which? Where do you spend your time? Will it be with candidates that definitely want new jobs or with candidates that might be interested in a new job?

Ultimately, a Recruiter’s goal to find the best fit for the job, so it might be more realistic to shed these arbitrary categories. There’s a compelling theory that suggests most job seekers belong to a semi-passive category anyway.

And if you think about it – it makes sense. Everybody is a semi-passive candidate in the end – everyone wants the right job, you have to just give them the right offer.

For most recruiters, it makes sense to build out both channels. For every job you have, research and don’t discount the active job seekers and candidates that are out on the job boards and applying to your positions. But no matter what profession or industry you recruit for, you want to also build relationships with employed candidates as well. Developing your optimal mix of recruiting sources will take time, but it’s generally important to ensure you’re drawing from every talent pool available through consistent, methodical efforts.

Only after you develop real placement and hiring metrics should you put more of your efforts toward one particular source – the results may surprise you.

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Marie is a writer for covering career advice, recruitment topics, and HR issues. She has an educational background in languages and literature as well as corporate experience in Human Resources.