The Passive Hiring Obsession.

The fact is, there are plenty of good candidates out there who are actively looking for jobs.

Passive candidates are all the rage with employers and recruiters. They want to hire their own candidates instead of using job ads or job boards to find potential candidates.

This may sound like a great solution for finding the best talent, and it saves the hassle of sifting through tons of applications after an ad has been placed. Sure, for some recruiters who prefer to put less energy into the process, this might be the best option, for others, well, not so much.

That's simply because there are several drawbacks when it comes to passive hiring. But what is passive hiring, why do companies do it, and what are the downsides? Let's take a look.

What is a Passive Candidate?

Generally speaking, a passive candidate is a candidate who currently has a job and has not specifically approached a company or formally applied for a job.

In some cases, candidates who have inquired with a company or applied for a job but are actually comfortably employed and have no specific interest in leaving their job unless they receive a great offer are also classified as passive.

Reasons why companies hire passive candidates

The fact is, there are plenty of good candidates out there who are actively looking for jobs. The question now is why an employer would choose someone who already has a job and who a recruiter finds online over someone who has invested the time and effort to apply to the company.

There are a variety of reasons for this, but most recruiters think that a passive candidate is superior to an active candidate simply because they already have a job. In other words, recruiters think that because a passive candidate has a job, they must be good, or at least better than a passive candidate.

In addition, recruiters also often argue that if a candidate is working now, they can be sure that he is currently creating value for his employer, and if he is not working, recruiters cannot be sure of that.

Another argument is that unemployed candidates may have lost their skills because they have been out of the job market for a while. Also, many recruiters prefer passive candidates to active job seekers because then they don't have to worry about the circumstances under which the candidate left their previous job.

Unfortunately, for recruiters who argue this way, all of these points are false and absurd reasons to hire a passive candidate.

At the core, the real reason companies use passive candidates to fill positions is because recruiters mistakenly tell themselves that passive candidates are better than active candidates. But passive candidates are no more qualified, enthusiastic, or capable than active job seekers.

Considering this, the real reasons why some employers prefer to hire passive candidates instead of active candidates are as follows:

  • Hiring managers don't trust their own instincts or intuition when it comes to finding the right candidate, so they ask recruiters to find passive candidates to work for their competitors.

  • It's easier for recruiters to decide, without evidence, that currently employed people are better candidates than unemployed people. In a way, this absolves recruiters of any risk should they take a chance on someone who is not currently working.

  • Some recruiters are biased against unemployed candidates for the simple reason that they assume that only bad employees will be fired or laid off. So if they are working now, they need to add value to the company and be loyal.

The problem with passive hiring

Of course, it's true that passive candidates can sometimes be better than active candidates. For recruiters who view passive candidates as more talented because they already have a job, compared to an unemployed candidate who has actively put energy into finding a job, the advantage is that it reduces the time it takes to find the right candidate.

For hiring managers who want to take a more sedentary role in the hiring process, hiring a passive candidate can also make sense.

However, passive candidates also have some disadvantages. Since passive candidates are happy with their job, they have no motivation to look for another. For the recruiter looking to hire a passive candidate, this often means making higher salary offers.

Of course, that doesn't mean the investment will pay off. Simply put, just because the passive candidate has a job doesn't necessarily mean the candidate is better at their job. So recruiters could end up spending more money on a candidate who ultimately isn't worth it.

In addition, passive candidates are more likely to resist the status quo and have difficulty adjusting to the culture and work processes at a new company. In contrast, active candidates who are grateful for a job may show a higher level of gratitude and greater adaptability, despite receiving a lower salary than passive candidates.

Another problem with passive candidates is that most candidates that recruiters think are passive candidates are not. So when a recruiter contacts a passive candidate, they are not properly appreciating the fact that this person may not necessarily want an interview over the phone. A true passive candidate wants time to evaluate what the new job is about and what the company can offer them before they even decide to make the switch.

Consequently, contacting a passive candidate this way is more likely to end in a rejection and a missed opportunity to hire a better active candidate.

In light of this, recruiters and hiring managers may neglect active candidates who are actually a great fit for a particular job, and then focus on passive candidates who will not consider moving in any case because they don't have all the information to be sure it's worth their while.

The bottom line

Passive hires have become increasingly popular recently for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, most of these reasons are unfounded and based on the misconception that employed candidates are better than unemployed candidates.

We hope this post has illustrated that there are several downsides to sticking with passive hiring, and that an active candidate may be just the ticket.


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