The Difference Between Active, Passive and Super-Passive Candidates

Put in its simplest form the difference between active, passive and super-passive candidates can be the differentiator between discovering amazing, highly focussed talent, perfect for your role – and with the ability to lift your company to dizzy heights – or discovering mediocre talent, still able to fulfil the role, but that’s where their story ends.

Active candidates come in many forms. Some are on the look out for work because they are unemployed; it is a tragic fact that the unemployed, the over 50s and rehabilitated are often dismissed just because of their situation, even if they have the perfect skill sets required. Active candidates may also be looking for a move because they are unhappy where they are, or to improve their career path – all have the potential to be a great success, but for some roles it is those elusive passive candidates that recruiters want to tempt into their organisations.

Passive candidates are those who are not on the look out for something new, content with their world of work, perhaps employed by a company they feel proud to be part of – so basically focussed and loyal, the type of employee all companies would like to recruit into their workforce. I’m generalising of course, but nevertheless, the ability to easily attract these types of candidates is appealing.

Super-passive candidates are the ones who say they are perfectly happy where they are and not interested in moving from their current roles; these are rare today as both people and organisations become more and more transparent and searchable. However, for those required to fill the more niche, or high-flying positions, there is usually something to tempt people away from a role they love – although it’s not always about financial gain. Often discovering this kind of super talent is down to the specialist skills of a headhunter, which means a huge financial investment for any organisation. Who knows how a prized name such as Marrisa Mayer – one of Google’s top executives with great potential to climb further – was tempted away to become CEO of Yahoo. Others are more transparent, Jeff Weiner, for example, was appointed President of LinkedIn in 2009, with the promise of becoming CEO later that year.

LinkedIn recently surveyed 18,000 fully-employed professionals in 26 countries to find out more about what they thought about jobs and career management. They discovered 75% considered themselves to be passive candidates (or not actively looking for their next job). However when probed further, the survey revealed that 12% of workers were actively looking, 13% casually looking a few times a week, 15% were reaching out to their personal network – so tentatively thinking about it – and a massive 45% totally open to considering a new opportunity when approached by a recruiter. This adds up to 85% of those who consider themselves passive, turning active if something were to be dangled in front of them. The remaining 15% – classed as the ‘super-passives’ – was down from the 20% reported in the 2012 findings; it appears it’s getting more difficult not to be distracted from being completely happy in our roles today.

And so back to the endless search for quality talent. Everyone knows that simply posting adverts on job boards, or on company websites, only attracts active candidates, many of whom apply at random, often resulting in wasting valuable working hours sifting through endless unsuitable applications. Direct sourcing active candidates through big data technology will inevitable lead to the death of the job board – it’s just a matter of time – and it is already becoming a cost effective, viable alternative to expensive recruitment agencies.

Now that we understand 75% of those who consider themselves passive just need to be tempted with an attractive offer, this makes big data recruitment an efficient, effective and economical way of sourcing. By directly marketing to active, passive and even the super passive candidates, who match the role criteria, recruiters can be sure that there is a sweep of all those perfect for the role.

JobsTheWord, who use big data technology to recruit on behalf of their clients, recently outperformed LinkedIn by 3:1 on a like-for-like campaign carried out on behalf of Samsung. True the LinkedIn route received a much higher volume of applications, but more of JobsTheWord candidates made it through to interview stage, which is what really matters. Quality over quantity is the key to every recruiter’s heart.

As our professional workforce, now more than ever, realise the importance of keeping their ‘personal brand’ up-to-date, via online CVs, social media and other internet activity, it will ensure that direct source recruitment using big data technology will continue to expand to become ever more successful.

Mike Sandiford
Head of Partnerships
0207 193 9931

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