Recruiting the Passive Candidate

You may recall that following the Kennedy Recruiting Conference in Orlando last October, I reported that the overriding theme among the internal recruiters attending the conference was the desire to recruit “passive candidates” … almost to the exclusion of those who were unemployed.  The perception of the unemployed candidate is that they are somehow less … less desirable, less qualified, less attractive.

Now, I know that is not necessarily the case; and if you are one of those unemployed executives, chances are good that you are offended (or worse) by that perception. Sadly, the perception is true and “perception is everything.”

Lou Adler is a thought leader in the recruiting industry and recently penned an article entitled “Recruiting Passive Candidates in Tough Economic Times,” which was published in Daily. Here’s the opening to his article:

Consider this as a basic truth: in tough economic times every job looks better, especially the one you already have.

This would imply that during recessions there are fewer good people actively looking and it’s tougher to get the best passive consider to even discuss your career opportunity. If this is the case, one could conclude that the bulk of the people who are looking during economic downturns tend to be those who are unemployed or marginally employed.

Since this group does not represent the best-of-the-best, you’ll need to rethink your entire sourcing strategy to make sure it’s targeting the people you want to hire.

If I can impress one thing on you, Senior-Level Finance Executive, it is to repackage and begin positioning yourself LONG BEFORE you think you need to look for a job. Assuming you are an accomplished passive candidate, proactively managing your career means you will minimize the chances of being viewed as “not representing the best-of-the-best.”

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5 thoughts on “Recruiting the Passive Candidate”

  1. As an executive recruiter who also hosts monthly ExecuNet meetings for senior executives in my area, I continue to be frustrated by recruiters and clients who feel that only “passive” candidates will do. There are a lot of fantastic people who are in career transition due to layoffs, reorganizations, desire to change careers, etc. That said, your advice is spot on. It’s surprising to see many of those who are now actively in career transition that had done nothing to build/maintain a network or make sure that they were keeping tabs on what is going on outside their industry or workplace. The most attractive candidates – active, passive or “not interested” -are always those who have strong networks, confidence and business acumen that stretches beyond their current job/industry.

  2. I found your blog item interesting – I would encourage CFO’s that want to look, yet appear passive to consider posting profiles on sites like LinkedIn, Plaxo, Ziggs, Jigsaw and quite possibly delving into ZoomInfo and seeing if they are indexed there as well, and updating that information.
    Some well placed information, with minimal contact details allows CFO’s to make themselves available to recruiters that are actively reviewing these sites for new leads.

  3. It continues to amaze me that now, and for the recent past, recruiters continue to view active candidates as not being grouped with the “best of the best”.
    Given the numerous and recent strategic acquisitions, industry consolidations, business combinations and increases in PE ownership, one would expect to find a significant growing base of talent and value represented by individuals in transition.
    If this mindset is not altered, hiring managers and recruiters will continue to overlook the opportunity to acquire excellent quality and high value contributors to their organization’s/clients’ teams.

  4. Agreed Ralph and Jennifer!
    AND, it drives home the importance of having a visible, online presence and strong network BEFORE you need it.
    Just saw a comment in the FENG newsletter that indicated several years ago the Wall Street Journal referred to the unemployed as “damaged goods.” Harsh! And so untrue!
    Thanks for your comments.


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