Unemployed vs. Passive in the Job Search

Is there a difference in the mindset of a candidate who is unemployed and conducting a job search – and – a passive candidate exploring new opportunities? I’d say many times the difference is actually a wide chasm.

CFO Innovation has a good comparison of the different mentality between the unemployed CFO and the passive CFO in interviewing. But I believe that mindset, attitude, and behavior transcends just interviewing. For example …

Search vs. Inquiry

Think about how a CFO without a job, and particularly if he’s been out of a job for awhile, approaches the search. Even with a nice severance package that will tide him over for some time, the approach is completely different. The unemployed candidate must be proactive, working at his search as if it were a full-time position. The tension of “needing” a job can often lead to using ineffective tactics as opposed to leveraging the luxury of time to execute a well-planned strategy.


A sense of desperation and urgency on the part of an unemployed candidate easily shows up in networking. Rather than having a clear plan and time to work the plan by building trusted relationships, networking becomes an exercise of asking everyone you know for a job. It’s also the quickest and easiest way to burn great contacts.


The hiring process always seems to be “hurry up and then wait.” And the waiting is the worst. Unlike the passive candidate who, after the interview, can re-focus on his current job; the unemployed job seeker usually has two options … more job searching or hoping/wishing that he gets “this” job and so he takes a respite from the stresses and anxieties of a job search. Both options are big mistakes for the job seeker involved in an active search.

If you’re unemployed, take a step back to assess whether there is any negative  body language or behaviors that might be hampering your search or the interview.

If you are currently employed, what one thing can you do today to begin executing a longer term search strategy while you still have the powerful positioning as a passive candidate?

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