“Passive candidates” are usually defined as those who are not actively seeking new positions, who are content with their current employers, or who may be submitting resumes but are unlikely to accept any position that falls outside of a narrow range in terms of geography, salary, etc.
By nature, passive applicants are not as willing to yield ground at the negotiating table, which means they often come with higher price tags. But at the same time, these candidates offer plenty of advantages to potential employers who are willing to extend themselves. Why should you go after an employee whose signature trait involves a low level of job search motivation? Here are a few considerations.
Why Pursue Passive Candidates?
A passive search usually suggests a confident candidate who will always be able to find work, no matter how crowded her field of competition may become. If her own employers are fighting to keep her on board, that means she’s probably adding value to the company on multiple levels.
They need something—something you may have the ability to provide.
If these candidates were truly happy, they wouldn’t be considering a new position at all. The fact that their antennae are up means something isn’t perfect in paradise. Maybe there’s a working condition, a benefit, a perk, or a specific aspect of workplace culture you can offer that might lure them away.
Sometimes limited motivation also means limited desperation. And a candidate who has nothing to hide and nothing to prove will be more open and upfront about what she’s looking for. If she wants a 40 percent travel schedule, for example, she’s unlikely to overstate this number and then leave after a year in a state of burnout. Desperate candidates may be more motivated to hide their true personalities and preferred working styles. Passive candidates are usually clear about their real credentials, desires, and long term plans.
They often have wide networks.
The same traits that make them attractive to their current employers may also make them attractive to a long history of old coworkers, clients, former employers, vendors, and other industry contacts. If this pursuit doesn’t work out for one reason or another, your willingness to approach the deal with respect and good faith might allow you access to other quality candidates as well. And in the meantime, good word of mouth can strengthen your company’s reputation.