Active Vs. Passive Candidates: The Value of Passive Candidates – How the Interview Process Should Be Different

how the interview process

In any job market, hiring managers’ ideal candidates are usually active job seekers. Surprisingly, passive candidates often prove to be game changers.

A great example of hiring a passive candidate happened when Steve Jobs persuaded the CEO of Pepsi, John Sculley, to join Apple in 1983. 

He famously convinced Sculley by saying, Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me to change the world?”

 Jobs knew that his perfect candidate, who was doing well as the CEO of Pepsi, was not actively looking for a change. So, he sold Sculley a dream and an opportunity to “change the world,” convincing him to leave his secure job and venture into unchartered territory.


Active Candidates

Active candidates may be working or unemployed. Nearly 25% of employed candidates fall into the Active category, and recruiters often fill their clients’ positions by posting jobs and hiring from this group.

While there are many reasons Active Candidates seek new opportunities—concern over the stability of their current employer; they’re ready to take on more responsibility; their employer is outsourcing their position; or their employer is going out of business—Active Candidates may not always be the best choice. Here are some reasons why:

  • Generally, they are not top performers
  • Often, they are afraid of being let go from their current employer
  • They may not have demonstrated loyalty in their career tenure
  • They tend to interview with multiple employers

Passive Candidates

Passive candidates are generally employed and are not presently seeking new opportunities. This group of people accounts for 75% of the workforce.

The advantage of finding Passive Candidates is that, since they are not active job seekers, they are probably not in the process of going through interviews with any other employer. Although passive, many are still willing to talk about a new opportunity. So, to find these people, proactive sourcing is the best strategy for recruiters. 

And just like Steve Jobs did, the recruiter needs to give Passive Candidates some compelling reasons as to why and how a new opportunity would benefit them. But keep in mind:

  • Their shelf life is about one to two weeks from once interest is generated, so time is of the essence regarding the interviewing and hiring process
  • During the interviewing process, we must sell the candidate on the opportunity

Why Recruiters Value Passive Candidates

  • They are typically happy. In most cases, passive candidates are satisfied in their current roles, which makes them successful and reflects on other employees.
  • They are valuable assets. Since passive candidates are gainfully employed and recruiters go out of their way to find them, it shows their value. 
  • They speak their mind. Passive candidates are often straightforward and honest.
  • They remain with an organization longer. According to HR Magazine, passive candidates are 25% more likely to remain with an organization.

How Should the Interview Process of Passive Candidates be Different?

Since passive candidates are being wooed to change jobs, typical interview models may drive them away. Here are some tips for interviewing them:

  • Identify how passive candidates are unique. Before initiating the hiring process, recruiters should identify why they are special. Because they must leave their current, settled position, the new job offer should be inherently more attractive for them to accept it.
  • Set different expectations during the interview. Interview methodology needs to be markedly different from a standard interview as the candidate is already qualified for the job.
  • Give a compelling value proposition to make them think. When targeting passive candidates, recruiters need to make the process as easy and attractive as possible as they are not as motivated to make a move. A compelling value proposition and flexibility with the time frame and expectations during the hiring process are motivating.

 A Recruitment Firm Can Help You Hire Passive Candidates

A safe bet for hiring passive candidates is partnering with a specialized recruitment firm like ALIGN. 

Our experience working with passive candidates through our vast networks enables us to support hiring managers with qualified candidates who are not actively looking for jobs but have asked us to let them know if an attractive opportunity comes along.

At ALIGN, we are always ready to match you with your perfect candidate. Give us a call!

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