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Active vs. Passive Candidates

There is a curious new trend in talent acquisition in which candidates who are presently not actively searching for new employment (so called “passive” candidates) are viewed as better qualified than candidates who are pro-actively engaged in the job market. Some large employers have actually created talent acquisition sections which are specifically tasked with recruiting “passive” candidates

Actually there really is no such thing as a “passive” candidate. A better description would be “pro-active” and “reactive” to distinguish the two groups. Pro-active being candidates who actively peruse job sites and employer websites for new opportunities and who post their resume on resume websites. Reactive candidates are candidates who are not pro-active but will nevertheless pursue job opportunities that are brought to them.  By general consensus, backed by some statistics, about two-thirds of the work force is always in the job market whether employed or not. In our opinion the number is probably closer to 100%. Who would not react to an opportunity that offers advancement and higher income?

Still, for now passive candidates are considered better hires. But does this make rational sense? Let’s say well regarded passive (reactive) candidates decide to become proactive for personal or professional reasons. Have those candidates suddenly become less valuable because of it? Logically, these candidates are just as valuable now that they have become active prospects as they were before when they were considered passive candidates.

But be that as it may. Employers will do what they consider beneficial to the bottom line. Right now that means a preference for “passive” candidates. Perhaps this policy will eventually run its course when the long-term results can be assessed; when it becomes clear whether passive candidates are in fact better hires or whether there is no measurable difference.

In the meantime smart employers will be on the look-out for the best possible candidates for their needs, be they “active” or “passive”. This policy worked in the past; it will work in the present and will continue to work in the future.