ERE reader feedback to my recent article, The Myth of the Passive Candidate, was astonishing; I was up answering personal emails and reviewing comments until well past midnight for several days after the article broke (I almost had to miss Desperate Housewives). I am, however, very grateful for the opportunity to have set the record straight. That’s why I write, to represent balanced and intelligent thinking on what I see in recruiting each and every day. Below is a small sampling of some of the reader comments I received. I have done all I can to keep the flavor and tone of the comments intact, but I had to do some editing for the sake of conserving space. One of the threads that seemed to run through the comments dealt with my bringing a much-needed dose of common sense to the debate. For example, a reader named JM (readers are identified by initials throughout) said:
I could not agree more with what you had to say, and I thank God there is someone out there with an ounce of common sense to set the record straight. I would appreciate the opportunity to get to know you and your organization. You are speaking my language.
LM wrote me with similar thoughts:
Thank you for stating the obvious for those of us in the corporate recruiting environment who are the “lone wolves,” doing the best we can under some difficult recruiting circumstances. I [think] that there is common sense built into this article, although many may not agree.
Lastly, JW added, “This is the best article that has appeared on this site for months! Finally someone with an ounce of common sense. Hooray.” I felt saddened that this reader believed common sense was in short supply. If anything, we owe at least that much to our readers. There is always the occasional interesting response. For example, RD wrote “I love your articles. Preach on Brother Adamsky because I’z got the religion for this recruiting thing. This stuff is great, just great! I forward them, but most of my recruiting friends read ERE anyway. Keep ’em coming.” To RD, all I can say is that I promise to keep ’em coming! Another thread of comments was on the topic of vindication, from those who recruit day after day and can’t be sold a bill of goods. These readers believed that someone finally blew up the silly myth and spoke what is an unpopular truth. DT wrote, “I congratulate Howard on bucking the trend and forwarding an idea that has great validity but will have lightning rod unpopularity in some corners.” Another reader said, “I get miffed every time I read an article about recruiting the ever-so-passive candidate in our upcoming talent ‘war’ (cringe). Finally, Howard gives us an article that makes complete sense!” In the same vein, ER said:
Thank goodness someone has finally verbalized what I’ve been stewing over for the past three months! Active candidates are not diseased rejects with no skills, and they are not always the frivolous job bunnies hopping from opportunity to opportunity that the prior articles on this subject make them out to be. Some of them are managing their career, as Howard put it.
“My initial response to this article is that Howard couldn’t be more dead-on, and after reading the other reviews, my opinion hasn’t changed. Heck, I would bet your next placement fee that active candidates, not passive ones, make up the majority of corporate hiring.”
DK summed it up so well by addressing what recruiters actually accomplish every day: “Great writing Howard! I seldom read an article start to finish, but I did yours. It captured very well what we ‘under the gun’ recruiters are paid to accomplish on a daily basis.” Other comments were of a darker, angrier, and more personal tone, particularly when it came to some of the attitudes recruiters have about active job seekers. TM said, “I’ve also been an active job seeker twice in the last 25 years. I have clients, references, and friends (sometimes all three in the same person) from both of the companies that hired me ‘off the street.’ So I couldn’t have been that big a disappointment.” MW wrote, “According to way too many of you, I was an incredibly desirable candidate last week, but now that I’ve posted to a job board, I’m a total loser, not even worth considering. Do you not realize how silly this is?” On the same point, R said, “Howard, thanks for the enlightenment. I have been wondering myself for sometime whether I was a loser because I was an active seeker. I was feeling like I must be nothing more than a ‘C’ player. What a sad thing for a person to think.” CC shared some thoughts about accountability:
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I can’t tell you how happy and validated I felt while reading your article on passive candidates. Thank you for going there…it has been my experience that recruiters (in many cases) take on way too much. Where is the accountability? Hiring managers and executive team members aren’t planning ahead, and then the recruiter is held accountable for finding the right person under such crazy time constraints. Then they hear about passive candidates and look to us to deliver them.
Finally, SB had this to say about the reality of recruiting: “I could not have begun to survive in my 20+ years of recruiting using a ‘passive candidate’ template! The fact is, I doubt if most hiring authorities know or care about ‘passive candidates.’ But not every response to the article was positive. AF said, “Are you just writing for the sake of writing, or just to stir thing up? I typically have enjoyed your writing, but this one seems like a temporary departure.” SK said, “Don’t believe a word of [this article] if you ever want a customer in a competitive, knowledge-based industry to take you seriously. Passive candidates aren’t a fad, they are a fact of life in the 21st century.” LA had this to say: “You can stick your head in the sand and pretend this market doesn’t exist or doesn’t need to, but you’ll be missing a great chance to hire some great people.” In the same vein, AH wrote:
To hire active candidates is to hire the best that come along. To hire passive candidates is to hire the best. What do you want for your company? This is the only comment I will address, and I respectfully disagree with you. The concept is cute, the sales pitch glib, and the reality oversimplified. You fill a position, and sooner or later I can find a better candidate. So can you. The concept of best is elusive. You hire the best candidate you can find to do the job, not the best candidate on earth.
Others who commented were simply glad to put an end to the belief that everyone else is doing it, and if you’re not, you’re missing the boat. CB wrote, “I just saw your article on ERE. What a fresh outlook on such an overexposed topic! I am so glad that someone finally went against this mindset. If passive candidates were the only ones worth hiring, no downsized person would ever get a job again.” Finally, we were offered a philosophical perspective from SK, who said, “Brilliant opinion piece; it says it all, and quite well too. It brings to mind, the Chinese proverb: ‘What matter the color of the cat, as long as it catches mice.'” Thanks SK. I wish I had said that. This will probably be my last article on passive candidates unless some of our thought leaders go off the deep end again. I’ve said what I needed to say and I certainly have bigger fish to fry. I am, however, grateful that most recruiters, based upon the responses received at least, have made their position clear to the tune of about seven to one in support of the article’s content. Recruiters need to use all different vehicles for sourcing, and more importantly, recruiters should realize that passive candidates are not necessarily better than active candidates. I dedicate this article to the real recruiting leaders; those of you in the trenches doing the day-to-day recruiting who are enlightened enough to know what it takes to get the job done. You have my respect and admiration.