Passive vs. Active in Applications and Hiring

Posted October 9, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Career Moves

In the HR community, you’ll hear a lot about passive vs. active candidates. What does this mean, exactly?

  • Active Candidates are those who are currently actively pursuing a new position – these candidates are both employed and unemployed.
  • Passive Candidates are those who are currently employed and not seeking employment. They are usually sourced through headhunters and direct contact from hiring managers in their network.

Which candidates generally get hired? Active or passive? Recruiting website reports that recruiters and hiring managers tend to favor passive candidates, but surprisingly hire most active ones. Sure, we all want to be recruited to a great big job while we’re sitting at our desk, never having to update our resume or risk our boss finding out. But odds are, you’re going to have to search before you’re seriously considered for a position.

But if hiring managers tend to prefer passive candidates, how can you retain the best of being passive while you’re active?

  • Keep your LinkedIn updated, and do your best to position yourself as a thought leader in your field. Comment in groups, share relevant articles, and stay in touch with those on your LinkedIn connections list.
  • Never eat alone. The reason passive candidates are so desired is that they’re generally found through connections and word of mouth, and rarely through traditional channels of application. If you’re starting to look, but want to appear passive, meet with as many of your friends and colleagues as you can. Tell them you’re thinking about looking, ask them to keep their eyes out for opportunities that might suit you.
  • Focus on your likes at your current job rather than your dislikes. What would you need in order to leave what might be a great job for you? Make them sell you.

Whether you’re staying passive intentionally or making yourself active in a search, it’s your skills and your abilities that ultimately make you a desirable candidate. But in the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to game the system a little and stay passively active as long as you can.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."