Who are Passive Candidates and Why Do You Want Them?

By: Courtney Keene

In broad terms, there are two types of sales candidates out there: passive and active. You’re probably familiar with active candidates—those readily seeking a position and submitting their resumes. On the other hand, passive candidates aren’t actively pursuing new opportunities or roles, but this doesn’t mean they’re off the market. For the past five years, I’ve recruited mostly passive candidates, and it’s the reason why I’ve excelled in this industry. Who are passive candidates? What’s the value in pursuing them over candidates actively seeking work? Let’s break it down.

Who are passive candidates?

In general, passive candidates tend be higher quality, long-term placements. In my experience, they find little value in beating around the bush, and are typically top performers who keep their heads down and do their work. By definition, passive candidates aren’t surfing job boards, so they won’t waste your time by telling you what you want to hear.

To entice a passive candidate, it’s important to be direct in your offering. Passive candidates are already installed in their current roles. There’s no upside to giving you the time of day if what you have to offer is below their level or uninteresting. Likewise, passive candidates don’t want to feel like they’re just another number on a long list. That’s where representation by a savvy company comes into play. Because passive candidates cut to the chase, having a solid industry reputation—along with an attractive compensation plan and a great company culture—is the surest way to make them bite.

Why hire passive candidates?

Though courting a passive candidate does require more of a sales pitch than entertaining active clients, there’s a definitive upside. When passive candidates decide to make the move to your company, it will be for all the right reasons. What’s more, passive candidates who take you up on your offer tend to stay put for the long term.

How do you land a passive candidate?

Passive candidates require a different interview process than your average active candidate, and they tend to play their cards close to the chest. It may take a bit of negotiating at the offer stage and the conversation will be much more of a two-way street (considering passive candidates possess the bargaining chip of already being employed). As a hiring professional, you’ll be selling you, your company, and the role—effectively earning their employment.

Speaking from experience, it’s important to genuinely believe in the companies, positions, and opportunities that you’re pitching to passive candidates. Honesty goes a long way here. If the proposed role isn’t the right fit for a candidate’s next career move or future goals, I don’t waste his or her time. I also take a consultative approach when speaking with passive candidates. This positions me as an industry expert, as well as a professional who’s looking out for the candidate’s best interest.

All in all, when I speak with passives candidates I check all the boxes. Is it a fit for them? Is it a fit for my client? Is it a fit for me? To secure the brilliant value of a passive candidate, the situation must align into a win-win-win.

Courtney Keene is a is a professional sales and management talent recruiter at Grapevine – Targeted Sales Recruiting. Visit www.grapevinerecruiting.com, call 952-856-2190 or email courtney@grapevinerecruiting.com.