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Recruiting & Sourcing

3 Mindsets That Will Cost You Passive Candidates

November 25, 2015
5 min read
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Performance Management, Supercharged


When it comes to critical roles that need to be filled, 95% of the people who you’d hire aren’t even looking. Why? They’re already cashing a paycheck from another company. It’s why passive candidates are the most sought-after candidates in recruiting. It’s like dating, all the good ones are either taken or not interested. When vying for the eye of the passive candidate, you must not fall into the trap of these three mindsets:

“They really need this job.”

They’re a passive candidate — they already have a job. Passive candidates don’t really need your job, they have to want it. So it may make sense to overlook the fact that they didn’t send a follow-up, because they aren’t obsessing over every detail of this process. They may even be on the fence about jumping to a new job, so don’t assume they aren’t going to be a great hire just because they aren’t covering all of the bases desperate candidates do. In the passive candidate scenario, you need to switch from application taker to true salesperson. The outreach is on you.


CC-Click-ToTweetBird-01-444828-edited.pngWhat passive candidates actually want you to know, but won't tell you:


“They’re just looking for a change.”

Nope, they’re looking for career growth and more money, not just a new position. If you’re expecting passive candidates to be satisfied with a lateral transfer, think again. Why would any passive candidate go through the hassle of switching companies if they weren’t looking for growth in one area or another? They won’t. Before you talk to a passive candidate, know what they value. For some it may be more money, for others, it could be flexibility. In interviews with active candidates, it’s typical to not discuss salary ranges until the in-person interview.

Lou Adler (@LouA), CEO of The Adler Group, recommends filtering compensation discussions out of the conversation in the beginning by saying, 

“Let’s hold off on discussing compensation until we see if the job represents a career move. If it does, we can then see if the compensation fits.”


passive-candidates Lou Adler (@LouA) advises we read the conversation before jumping into compensation during interviews.


However, we disagree. It might cost you a great candidate who sees time as money. Plus, 28% of employed active candidates expect a salary increase of at least 15% to accept a new job. Thus, they’re not going to take time off to meet you in person or speak with you unless they know the position aligns with the growth they’re looking for.

“They’re only in this for the money.” 

While this was mentioned above, it’s not safe to say passive candidates are only looking for more money. They’re probably looking to be increasingly intrinsically motivated in their career as well.

Passive candidates are more likely to be motivated by a potential new role for the ‘right’ reasons – the job itself, the challenges it presents, the skills it requires – than they are about the financial compensation the role brings. However, compared with active candidates, they may be ‘more expensive’ in that they are usually not interested in jobs that pay the same as they currently earn. Despite this, with their skill sets and motivations, they may still prove to be excellent value for money, and a very smart investment.”

Find out what drives them and don’t be afraid to ask why they are considering a career change to shed light on their decision-making process. Make them feel comfortable sharing their true side of the story so you can identify what they’re really looking for. 

Remove the cold calling contact from the conversation and foster a networking relationship with the passive candidate to better understand their point of view. Once you realize passive candidates are always looking for more than just money, you’ll be able to take them down the path to becoming a new acquisition.

Passive candidates are rated 9% higher in performance than active candidates and it’s obviously linked to why employers are holding on to them so tight. If you’ve caught the eye of a passive candidate, don’t mess it up in the interviewing and screening process. Make it as simple for them as possible and don’t expect all of the extra fluff you’ll get from an active candidate. The more you understand the passive candidates’ mindset, the better your recruiting results will be.



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