The Passive Candidate… Golden Goose… or Slippery Sucker?

I read a stat this week that gave me real pause for thought. Apparently 12% of the workforce is actively looking for a new role at any one time… interesting yes… but a stat that gave me pause for thought… no.

passiveI also read that another 73% of the labour market is passively in the market for a new role… 73%… wow! That means that 85% of the workforce would – for the right opportunity – change roles. But even that didn’t give me real pause for thought…

What did give me pause for thought was the fact that the average person blinks 10,000,000 times a year… you just blinked didn’t you?… and again.

Back to the issue at hand… You are a recruiter… You have a point of difference… Your point of difference goes a little something like this…

‘So, Craig I have access to job boards and I can even put a job ad up on LinkedIn. Why should I engage you at a vastly increased expense to do what I can already do?’ said Mr Kravitz. Prospective client.

‘Well Mr Kratviz.’ you smugly reply. ‘By placing your advert on job boards and Linked In, you are only speaking to 12% of the available candidate pool… If you engage me I can map the market, reach out to my network and target head hunt… and this will widen your coverage and give you access to a further 73% of qualified candidates…’ You open your arms wide to indicate the sheer size of the ocean of candidates you will expose your client to.

passive2Aside for the fact that you only learnt those statistics 2 paragraphs ago, it paints a fairly accurate picture of how a good recruiter can support their clients… it’s all about sourcing channels… Right?… Wrong…

It’s one thing to identify talent… and even speak with them… but to engage them – and turn them from passive to active – is harder than getting Justin Bieber to start a concert on time… and sometimes just as painful when you succeed. The passive candidate can be – and often is – far more trouble than they are worth… Let me break it down for you.

A passive candidate can be:

  • Happy in their current role.
  • Happy to have their ego stroked.
  • Resistant to change.
  • More likely to accept counter-offer.
  • Afraid of resigning.

I hear you like stats, so cop this one… A passive candidate is 62% more likely to disengage during a recruitment process than an active candidate… that’s right 62%!

So… if you are going to make promises to clients about the magic pixie dust solution of sourcing passive candidates here are some tips:

  1. Opportunity – Is the opportunity you are presenting better than their current role? If the answer is no… you are kidding yourself… and your client.
  2. Motivation – Do you know what will motivate the candidate to change roles? If not, ask & listen… If motivation does not match opportunity… don’t go any further.
  3. Engagement – This is always a difficult one as you have approached the candidate. But if you can’t get them to do simple things like, present a cv, or commit to interview times, or gain detailed feedback… they will not accept a role… so move on.

The passive candidate can be that X-factor that allows you to demonstrate your value to clients and differentiate yourself from your competitors… but… it’s also double-edged sword.

If you don’t understand the passive candidate, learn how to… or leave them to someone who does. If you don’t you will be found out… And that stat my friends… is… 100% accurate.

Craig Watson


3 thoughts on “The Passive Candidate… Golden Goose… or Slippery Sucker?

  1. Avatar
    shaunwindram on Reply

    I love statistics and I love this blog. Very good read ahain Craig. [Cue Columbo] Just one question, are these stats global or do they pertain to one particular geographoc region?



    1. Avatar
      Craig Watson rec-to-rec on Reply

      Hi Shaun… Thanks for the comment! The survey I used the stats from measured 18000 full time employees across 26 countries… which countries they don’t say! Love the Columbo reference… I might use it one day!

  2. Avatar
    Justin Samlal on Reply

    Hi Craig,

    Interesting article, perhaps a follow up article can be directed towards clients who interview “passive” candidates, there is a completely different strategy needed than the stock standard interview with “active” candidates.

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