Active vs. Passive Candidates: What Mid-market CEOs Need to Know

Considering active and passive candidates when looking for talent will help you find more qualified ones.

Considering active and passive candidates when looking for talent will help you find more qualified ones.

As a mid-market CEO, you know what it takes to find new talent for your business: finding the right person for the role with the skills and capability that match your company’s needs. But what about when it comes to passive candidates – those who haven’t expressed interest in working for you but may very well be an ideal fit? What do you need to know about active vs. passive recruitment approaches when looking to build your organization’s talent pool?

In this article, we’ll explore the advantages and disadvantages of both methods of hiring – arming you with all of the facts necessary to make a more informed decision.

Active Candidates

This group is actively searching for a job. They may be employed or unemployed, but the distinguishing characteristic is they are actively seeking work. The reasons they are looking for work while employed are varied and may include wanting a more challenging position to advance their career, wanting to relocate, or being dissatisfied with their current employer. This group can also come across as more desperate or eager for work, which means you will be able to hire them sooner.

However, this talent pool may not have your ideal fit; in some cases, it may mean you have to settle for what is available. Also, there may be a demand for their skills and experience, so you will likely be competing against other companies, perhaps even larger ones with more resources.

Passive Candidates

This group is not actively looking for work now. Instead, they are content in their current jobs but would still consider another job if the fit is right. This group continues to provide some of the top candidates in the job market, but realize they will require more effort, and you will need more patience with them.

The advantage of this group is they will probably only accept a position if they are interested since there is no urgent need. Also, they typically will not have competing offers, so hiring them will be more affordable.

Passive Candidate Recruiting Strategies

According to the Novo group, passive candidates represent the majority of the talent in the market. So any recruitment strategy should focus on this group. However, for passive, talented candidates to know your company you have raise your brand profile so they will notice you. The following are some strategies to consider:

  • The best way to find passive candidates is through an employee referral program since your talent likely knows other top talent in the field. You will probably need to offer incentives or rewards to incentivize people.  
  • Another viable alternative is connecting to online communities and social networks. Companies that are active on social media raise awareness of their brand to potential job seekers. Each platform is different and calls for a slightly different approach. 

Mid-market CEOs should also be continuously building their network of industry leaders and potential future candidates by attending industry events, conferences, and other professional gatherings. Remember, it is playing the ‘long game’ and staying in touch with candidates even if they are not interested right now. By doing so, you will be in the conversation when they decide to look for another job.

Recruitment can be difficult, especially in a market with intense competition and fewer ideal candidates. However, companies that include active and passive job seekers in their recruitment strategy can increase their likelihood of success. Don’t forget that your top leaders are likely another company’s passive candidates.

Charles Good 
President, Institute for Management Studies
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