Survey Reveals How to Attract Passive Candidates

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 11.37.38 AMThe Holy Grail in recruiting has always been the passive candidate: someone not actively searching for a job.

A LinkedIn survey of 18,000 full-time employees across all industries and 26 countries found what attracts these people. The results aren’t particularly shocking: passive candidates want more money. Either that, or they want a better work/life balance or a greater opportunity for advancement.

But the survey revealed more than just that. It also showed the surprising number of workers who consider themselves passive candidates, what active applicants want, and what motivates people to change jobs the least.

The Numbers

The survey showed that one in four full-time employees considered themselves active candidates who were searching for a new job at least a few times a week. These people were most motivated to switch jobs for a position that offered a greater opportunity to grow, better compensation and benefits, or more challenging work, respectively.

However, a much larger percentage of employees consider themselves passive candidates. Overall, 85 percent of employees surveyed said they would be willing to talk with a recruiter, with only 15 percent of respondents saying they were completely satisfied with their work and wouldn’t change jobs.

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This is somewhat surprising considering the number of people who said they liked their jobs. Overall, 72 percent of respondents said they were at least somewhat satisfied with their job, with only 14 percent saying that they were at least somewhat unsatisfied.

Additionally, the survey looked at what motivated people the least to change jobs. Both active and passive candidates agreed that an improved job title or a better office location are the two least important factors in seeking or considering a new job.

The Takeaway

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the survey is that most people would be willing to change jobs for the right opportunity, and for them that means more money or a better work/life balance. However, many active candidates — 25 percent of the workforce — would be willing to take the same salary if they feel like the new job would give them a better opportunity to grow.


0 Comments on “Survey Reveals How to Attract Passive Candidates

  1. “The Holy Grail in recruiting has always been the passive candidate: someone not actively searching for a job.”

    Indeed, but to date no one has exver explained why, much less offered an objective justification for getting all hot and bothered because someone is ‘passive.’ I’ve yet to hear or read a reason why actually wanting to work at a company automatically makes someone an inferior candidate.

    At least there’s finally a survey of this type that’s not designed to try and convince CEOs that salary doesn’t matter. It’s something.

    1. I don’t think there is a negative connotation around “applicants” but rather the limitations of that candidate pool. I imagine applicants still make up the majority of hires, but I think we’d all prefer to select from all available talent (or in this case 85%) rather than just those who applied.

    2. I don’t think that the question is about getting all hot and bothered about passive candidates or thinking less about active candidates. In employee-driven markets, we, as recruiters, need to be more aggressive than our competitors and seek out any and all applicants to find the best fit for our managers. I know that if I’m talking to an active applicant, then s/he is also speaking with other recruiters as well and will, in the end, chose what is best for him/her. As for the passive candidate, if I can source this individual, then chances are by far greater that this person is not speaking with anyone else and I can control this person better. At the end of the day, my desk has a blend of both active and passive candidates and, yes, I am much more excited about the passive candidates, simply because I have more control and less competition for them. I hope this helps.

      1. Ah, none of that is really what the article said. It started with, “The Holy Grail in recruiting has always been the passive candidate: someone not actively searching for a job.” Again, why? I’m all for hitting passive candidate pools as a marketing effort to make sure the slate of candidates I have is as complete as possible. However, what’s constantly flying around the recruitosphere is the idea that ‘passive’ is better for some mysterious reason which has never, ever been explained, much less justified with data.

        Really the only interesting thing I spotted in this survey is it’s one of the few that doesn’t try to gloss over comp and benefits being a key issue for people. I’m not sure where Larry below gets the 85% are passive number, the survey itself clearly states 25% consider themselves active, which only leaves 75% to fall in the passive – to varying degrees – category. Now, marketing to those people is certainly a desirable thing to do, but as far as the holy grail, for me that’s the candidate that will perform the best, whether they’re active or passive.

        1. IMO, a broad range like 60-80 is useless. 60 and 80 are completely different. Salary ranges should be replaced with “target salary,” i.e., the amount that the company hopes to pay, but will adjust either way based on the particulars of the candidate’s fit and qualifications. In your example, if the range is 60-80, the target salary might be 70. If I’m a candidate making 55k, I may find the target attractive, but realize I’ll have to really show my stuff to have a chance at getting it. At the other end, if I’m making 70, I realize that I can probably get them to come up with another $5k or so w/o a huge wrestling match.

    3. >but to date no one has ever explained why, much less offered an objective justification for getting all hot and bothered because someone is ‘passive.’

      There is no data showing passive candidates are superior to active ones. In fact, research shows the opposite: active job candidates who get hired tend to outperform and are less likely to quit. This is likely because they work harder to prove themselves and are more grateful for the job.

      The bias for passive candidates, is simply that, a bias. To employers, actively searching for a job seems to signify there’s something “wrong” with that person. It’s completely unfounded but unfortunately, this preference (e.g., “holy grail”) has become deeply ingrained.

    1. I read your post and agree with much of what you say. I’d say the whole “active/passive” discussion can be simplified to “proactive/reactive.” An “active” candidate is proactively initiating concrete steps to find a new job, either because they’ve identified what they really want next (optimal- “moving toward”) or they’ve recognized what’s wrong with their current job (less optimal — “moving from” — but still a reasonably reliable motivator). A passive candidate has no burning desire to change jobs, may even be complacent, so she has the luxury of being reactive, i.e., waiting for recruiters to call with options for her to evaluate. From an employer’s perspective, the operative aspect is “reading job boards and postings” or not doing that.

      One component missing from this discussion seems to be the comparative rate of success with proactive vs. reactive candidates. Does the reactive candidate’s complacency result in pure shopping and ego-gratification, i.e., they go through the interview process because it feels good to be wanted and courted, but leave the suitor at the altar, returning to their safe haven? I’d love to see some statistics on that if they exist.

      Oddly, employers and recruiters alike seem to use these terms as if they were static or permanent. If we view careers on a continuum, it would seem to look more like a sine wave. Sometimes we’re proactive and other times we’re reactive based on our circumstances at the time. We love our job and team, but then the team leader leaves and the replacement is a bozo. Or, the company gets acquired and lots of things change for the worse in our view. We shift from reactive to proactive. Or, the reverse happens, i.e., the bozo boss leaves and the replacement is a gem, so we shift from proactive to reactive.

      IMO, we need to consider all this through the lens of any product being marketed. Buyers go through stages of readiness to buy: early awareness of a problem, need or desire; awareness of, and beginning of interest in, your solution; continuing through additional nurturing stages to where they’re ready to buy. Those are your passive candidates, and a percentage of them arrive at the ready-to-buy stage every week. Recruiting, though, has more of a direct-response, buy-today flavor, which guarantees a lot of “no thanks” responses, not because the candidate is statically unreceptive to job opportunities, but because they’re not ready today when you call them. IMO, recruiters operate in pure sales mode, and invest little in marketing. Under those conditions, they’re engaging in the equivalent of market-timing, i.e., hoping that the call they make will somehow be perfectly timed to align with the candidate’s ready-stage. As astute investors attest, market-timing strategies have a poor track record.

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