By Jessica Miller-Merrell

One of my least favorite buzzwords in the recruitment industry at the moment is the passive candidate.  Studies have been conducted and the secrets revealed on how to best source, search and snag the hidden job seeker and passive candidate.  I myself have written about the passive job seeker, and after all the research and contrary to the hype, I’ve come to a conclusion that the passive job seeker simply does not exist.  As brown is the new black in the fashion world, passive is the new active candidate in ours. 

All Employees Are Candidates in the War for Talent


The passive candidate was defined as that candidate who wasn’t actively looking, searching or interviewing for a job.  And, somewhere in this conceptual world, a candidate transitions from passive to active status.  But, when that happens is unclear. It’s very fluid and very, very grey.   
And as recruiters, hiring managers, and HR professionals, we foolishly we buy into this mumbo jumbo in the war for top talent at our organization.  The passive candidate is just like Valentine’s Day.  It’s a commercialized concept created to sell tools, techniques, and systems to locate and search out that passive job seeker.  The term “passive candidate” seems to have surfaced in the early 1990’s before recruiters had access to online talent communities and social media when cold calling and phone sourcing was king.  The line to cross from active to passive was much more clear.  Passive job seekers simply didn’t apply.  The simple act of applying wasn’t so simple as it involved either mailing in your paper application or resume not applying online.  Maybe technology and accessibility not loyalty is reason for the end of passive candidate.  

Social Media & Technology Drives Accessibility & a Fluid Job Seeker Marketplace


The reality is that every employee is active in some form or another with a combination of social media, lifestyle changes and the economy.  Professionals no longer stay loyal to one company and are always on the lookout for new, bigger and better things.  Changing employers is the human equivalent of upgrading your cell phone plan to the newest version of smartphone, which most people do every two years once their contract expires.  The job search is just like. 
A study by LinkedIn supports this new upgrade in a job seeker and candidate lifestyle.  An estimated 47% of job seekers are tiptoeing their way in the job search; four out of every 10 workers are applying for jobs, interviewing and engaged in a job search in a covert and secret manner in twelve months.  If this study holds true, 94% of your workforce is passive at least once every two years.  And two years happens to also be the average tenure of the Generation Y job seeker and your new majority workforce. 

The Passive Candidate is the New Active Candidate 


A candidate is just like someone who works out at a gym.  Right now I’m there most days two times a day (that’s right, twice a day thank you #operationskinnybum).  Suffice it to say, I’m an engaged customer who is focused on weight loss and healthy living.  There are others at my gym who work out as often as me, and others I see only once or twice a week.  The act of going to the gym and working out means you are actively engaged.  You don’t come to the gym to sit at the smoothie bar or take a nap.  No one at the gym is “passively” exercising – they have to physically walk through the door and scan their membership to get in.  Similar is the so-called passive job seeker who clicked to apply for an opening or responded to a recruiter’s message.  The very act of their engagement makes that candidate an active candidate.   You either workout or you do not; you are either looking for a new job or you do are not.  The passive job seeker simply doesn’t exist because if the majority of your workforce is tiptoeing their way through the job search – they are your new active, formerly passive, candidate.  

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a workplace and technology strategist specializing in social media.  She’s an author who writes at Blogging4Jobs. You can follow her on Twitter @blogging4jobs

7 comments

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