There are many good reasons why companies tend to prefer passive candidates to active ones. They are already established in the workplace, so they are guaranteed to have relevant experience as well as the ability to adapt to office culture. There is less apparent risk in hiring passive candidates; they are good enough for another company to hold onto, so they are likely to be good for your company as well. I even wrote a recent column extolling their virtues.
But some positions may in fact be best suited to active candidates who are looking for or open to a new job. The risks normally carried by active candidates can be almost entirely negated through the use of a responsible talent acquisition expert whose priority is for long-term success, and who takes the time to develop relationships with new applicants. By getting to know the goals and work mentality of these active candidates, an experienced recruiter can reliably separate the wheat from the chaff – allowing companies to benefit from the unique strengths that active candidates bring to the table.
So what are these strengths? One of them is salary. Passive candidates have the luxury of being choosy because they are mainly satisfied with their current companies and need to be persuaded to move to a new one. They know they are in demand, and can afford to put a premium on their services. The process of convincing them to move to a new company can also be time-consuming and their hiring may also be delayed as they finish their current contracts.
By contrast, most active candidates are hungry for change and ready to get started. They also tend to accept more modest contracts – a key benefit for startups or SMEs looking to hire. Active candidates typically come with more energy and are often happier to reorganise their daily lives in order to fit the demands of their new employer. Moreover, they frequently show a positive attitude toward new challenges, unconventional roles and a flexible working environment.
Each of these characteristics is ideal for small companies whose business direction and working conditions are more likely to change over the course of a typical contract. While older and larger companies will usually show a preference for passive candidates who are happy to fill well-established roles for themselves, newer companies are more often fuelled by the energy of their employees, particularly those who are motivated by challenges and new experiences.
Active candidates, almost by definition, are also easier to find and to get in contact with. Of course, they also need the same period of detailed interviewing, pre-boarding and monitoring to ensure that they will be a good fit for their new corporate environment.
At the end of the day, it’s the human relationship and the foundation of trust that will ultimately determine a candidate’s level of success at their new position. Constantly developing candidates, throwing challenges at them, and keeping them motivated by ensuring their voices are heard are all positive steps that can help you retain these highly talented active candidates.
And you never know – by handling the process well, you might be turning active candidates into passive ones.