Active vs. Passive Candidates: One Size Does NOT Fit All

Anyone with recruiting experience knows there are big differences between active and passive candidates. With unique dynamics in the labor market — low unemployment plus low labor participation — it is critical to employ proactive engagement strategies tailored to each group. Based on a survey of 940 active and 507 passive job seekers, the recent 2017 Trendicators Report supports this notion and provides valuable insight into the perceptions, preferences and behaviors of these two groups.

The most successful recruiters employ consumer marketing strategies to attract and engage candidates in a highly competitive market. Crucial to that effort is understanding the target audience. Here are some practical perspectives from the research.

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Active Candidates Value Recognition

Based on more than 30 years of employee engagement research by Dr. Jack Wiley, chief scientific officer of Engage2Excel, effective programs are well integrated across the full continuum of employment. The best programs address what employees want most: Recognition, exciting work, security, pay, education and career growth, conditions and truth, or RESPECT. Importantly, those programs also start before a candidate is hired.

A perfect example: 81% of millennials rated recognition during the pre-hire stage as Very Important or Important. Since millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce, that’s valuable information. It’s not hard to turn that information into practical action; mention to a candidate that you were impressed by the way they answered a particular interview question or articulated a special project. Acknowledge accomplishments listed on a candidate’s résumé.

Active Job Seekers Are Ready to Engage

This group shows all the signs of being open to your engagement strategies. Most (73%) have updated their LinkedIn profile recently, and even more (84%) anticipate mobile contact in the hiring process. In addition, 77% indicate that pre-hire social interaction with employees is important.

Keep in mind that you will need a candidate to opt into receiving text messages, but once they do, it is a much more personal communication than email. The social interaction data suggests that a little creativity can help you differentiate yourself from the competition. Take panel interviews out of the office and into a restaurant. Host mixers or open houses with people from relevant departments. You might even invite a candidate to a company softball game.

Passive Candidates are More Likely to Say “Yes”

It seems counter-intuitive, but 65% of passive candidates accepted an offer in their most recent recruitment experience, while only 26% of active job seekers did. Nor are passive candidates overly concerned about ratings, such as those on Glassdoor. Finding passive job seekers takes a little more work, but the likelihood of a positive outcome makes it worthwhile.

Passive Talent is More Traditional

An interesting finding is that, while 71% of active job seekers expect a video interview, only 31% of passive candidates consider it normal. This suggests that before you ask a passive candidate to log on to a video platform, you should develop commonality and a relationship to help motivate them to make the extra effort.

The good news with the passive group is that only 7% to 11% of them indicated high levels of frustration with background checks, assessments and other ancillary recruitment processes. That contrasts with 30% to 38% of active job seekers. Checks and assessments are important, so consider being more proactive about managing candidate expectations.

Talent acquisition continues to evolve, as do candidate priorities and even the structure of work itself. As recruiters, we must stay abreast of the data and make sure our strategies are timely and relevant.

MORE: It’s not what you know: How recruiters can embrace the new relationship economy

Darren Findley

Darren Findley
Darren Findley is president, recruitment solutions, at Engage2Excel.

Darren Findley

Tom Brennan

Tom Brennan
Tom Brennan is manager, creative services at nationwide recruiting firm Decision Toolbox.

Darren Findley

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