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Recruiting Active vs Passive Candidates

Sourcing featured

Who should you focus on: active or passive candidates?

There's no clear cut answer here, applicants will always be a central part of the recruiting process, but it's becoming increasingly important to think about the people that aren't applying.

Passive candidates are not necessarily _better _than active candidates, but they make up a whopping 75% of the available market. If you don't have some kind of strategy to recruit passives, you're fishing from a very small pool.

What is the difference between passive and active candidates?

Ok, time for some quickfire definitions so we’re all on the same page. We'll try and make it as buzzword free as possible...

Active candidates: these people actively looking for new opportunities and are immediately available. They're the candidates that apply for jobs.

Passive candidates: these people are currently employed. They're not actively looking for work, but that doesn't mean they aren't interested in moving. They may not be available immediately. They don't usually apply organically.

A successful recruiting strategy needs to look at both groups. Here's why:

Fishing with a spear or a net

No matter how much you invest in your brand, no matter how targeted your job ads are, many of the candidates that apply for your open roles will be irrelevant.

"Active candidate recruiting" is a little like fishing with a net. You're casting it far and wide in the hope that you catch what you're looking for. You're usually successful, but you have to spend a lot of time filtering out all the other fish to get to the ones you need.

Sometimes fishing with a net doesn't cut it though, sometimes you need a spear.

When you recruit passive candidates, you carefully select people that are a great fit for your business. As a team, you make a conscious decision about the candidates you're going to go after. It's more strategic, and you can be a lot more targeted.

Then you go fishing!

Active candidates aren't active for long

There is a finite number of active candidates on the market which makes competition intense. Most people you speak to will be interviewing at multiple other companies at the same time.

If you blink, you might miss some candidates - the very best talent is often off the market within 10 days.

This can be even more extreme for "hard to fill" technical roles - Stack Overflow founder Joel Spolsky claims that many developers only apply for 4 jobs over their entire career. Unless you're lucky enough to be hiring at one of those 4 moments, you're probably going to miss out.

"When we’re competing from a tech candidate standpoint with the Bay Area and Seattle and Austin … we definitely have to seek passive candidates for those roles." Christa Foley, Senior HR Manager at Zappos

Often then, there simply aren't enough available active candidates. You have to start trying to speak to people who aren't applying.

Passive candidates represent a huge opportunity

Nowadays, if you have a compelling opportunity, most people will be open to a conversation. No matter how happy someone is at work, the grass _could _always be greener elsewhere - people move jobs every couple of years, they rarely spend their whole career in one place.

The bulk of the market is passive - if you're only evaluating people that are actively looking, you're missing out on a huge opportunity.

Everyone a potential candidate for your company.

Passive Recruiting Funnel

Recruiting passive candidates

Passive candidates aren't going to apply directly, so you need to approach them a little differently.

i) Sourcing

This is where your sourcing team becomes invaluable. You need to be proactive and identify passive candidates that you think could be a fit, instead of waiting for them to apply.

Bear in mind that passive candidates are unlikely to be interviewing elsewhere, so if you can get them interested you face far less competition for their attention.

Pro tip: Personalization

Because these candidates aren't job hunting the way you sell your role becomes even more important. See how top sourcers use "extreme personalization" to connect with passive candidates.

ii) Talent pooling

Many candidates that you speak to won't be ready to move immediately. That doesn't mean you should forget about them - these people should become part of your talent pool.

Talent pools are shortlists of candidates that are not currently being considered for an open role (i.e. not applicants). Usually, pools are full of people that your company is considering for the future.

Keeping these candidates "warm" with marketing campaigns means that when new roles open up, your company has a pool of leads to dip into. The search doesn't start from scratch.

This all means that when new roles open up you have a warm pool of leads that you can dip into - the search doesn't start from scratch.

Why does a Talent Organization Need a Talent Operating System?

Top candidates have more options than ever before, and in such a competitive setting, every aspect of the recruiting experience matters. It's on the talent operations function to design the new way of working that will bring in the best talent.

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