Are You Talking to Passive Candidates or Active Job Seekers?

November 23, 2015

If you are a hiring manager or HR professional looking for the best talent to recruit for your company, you need to know whether you are recruiting from the pool of active or passive job seekers. According to LinkedIn Talent Trends in 2014, only 15% of employees claim they are not interested in having a new job. That means that the other 85% are available to fill your positions.

Of the fully employed, 25% are actively seeking new employment, 45% are open to talking with a recruiter, and 15% are already talking to people in their networks about their next position. To effectively recruit the best talent, you have to know which category an employee is in, active or passive, to best entice them to a new position.

Active seekers

In any employment search, active seekers are the easiest to locate and do not require as much effort to recruit. Active seekers are either not employed or may feel unhappy in their current position. Active seeker candidates will respond to job postings and submit resumes. They are likely working with an executive recruiter to identify suitable opportunities. In non-executive searches, active seekers may be young people looking for the first job or looking to upgrade from a current job.

Then there are semi-active seekers. These candidates are usually fully employed, but either wanting to upgrade their position or feel their position is not stable. They are keeping an eye on the market from time to time and will respond to postings and submit resumes.

Active and semi-active job seekers are looking for a new position because they are looking for:

  • A better fit for their skills and experience
  • Better compensation, benefits, or work environment
  • Work which is more challenging
  • A better opportunity for advancement
  • More learning opportunities

Passive Seekers

In an executive search, you are also interested in meeting the passive job seeker. Passive seekers could be as much as two-thirds of the active workforce. They hold satisfactory jobs and are not actively looking for a new job. They are usually mature with careers marked by stability and effectiveness. They often feel challenged in their current positions and are in the middle to latter parts of their careers. Many successful employees in senior management are passive job seekers. These employees are loyal and career driven but open to exciting new challenges when they come knocking. Executive Recruiters build relationships with knowledgeable and trusted people in target industries, so they can use those sources in recruiting and placing passive job seekers.

Passive seekers will consider a job change if they feel the new job will give them:

  • A better work life balance
  • Greater opportunity for advancement
  • Better use of their skills and greater challenge
  • Exposure to a breadth of new responsibilities
  • Better compensation and benefits package

Both active and passive job seekers are most concerned with the role itself and set of responsibilities. They are looking for a good work culture where they can add value and be challenged.  If you want to recruit the very best person for the job, be sure to consider both active and passive job seekers. That way you have access to a solid talent pool and a strong shortlist of viable candidates. In understanding their status, you can also align and meet expectations of highly sought after professionals.


Charlene Bergman is the Managing Director of the Interim Management & Executive Search practice at Farber. Her expertise lies in building long term relationships by supporting clients and candidates to meet their corporate and career aspirations. Charlene can be reached at 416.496.3752 and cbergman@farbergroup.com.