Active vs. Passive Candidates: Who Would You Prefer to Hire?

New research from the Indeed Hiring Lab found that recruiters overwhelmingly prefer to hire active candidates, those who are actively looking or open to new job opportunities.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear…”

This simple line from Eleanor Roosevelt could easily sum up how some of the best candidates think about their job search. Today, 71% of adults in or looking to enter the labor force say they are actively looking for or open to a new job and 73% agree it’s important to be aware of jobs that are currently out there, regardless of whether they’re employed or not. While the recruitment industry has traditionally pursued passive candidates, these are active candidates—people who are open to the right opportunities and precisely the type of candidates 9 out of 10 talent professionals say they would prefer to hire.

The majority of today’s workforce actively seeks opportunity

Recruiting passive candidates was advantageous in the past because people believed the most skilled workers were happy with their roles and not looking for new ones. According to the Wall Street Journal, passive candidates were once considered the “prize ponies of the recruiting world.”

We wanted to know if that was still the case today, so we asked job seekers and employers. In an Indeed survey conducted by The Polling Company, 85% of employers agreed that highly skilled, in-demand workers are now the ones keeping an eye out on new employment opportunities.

Top candidates believe it’s important to keep a pulse on the job market and they look at new opportunities to advance their careers on a consistent basis. With an increasingly active workforce, recruiters are looking to the active candidates who are applying and showing interest to fill their jobs in the first place, rather than their passive counterparts.

It’s more expensive to recruit someone who is considered passive

When you have to convince someone to even consider your job opportunity, it can get expensive. Our research revealed that 87% of talent professionals say it’s the same or more expensive to recruit passive candidates.

In addition to recruiter labor costs and expenses, candidates that aren’t looking for a new job often expect to be paid more when they’re contacted by a recruiter about an opportunity. 28% of employed active candidates expect a salary increase of at least 15% to accept a new job, and that jumps to 32% for employed passive candidates. If relocation is required, more than half of employed passive candidates expected a salary increase.

Active candidates are open to and in pursuit of change

Active candidates are motivated to make a change in their lives, and that drive is appreciated by talent professionals—they told us that lack of passion is the #1 reason people fail in a new job. In any decision making process, the first step—considering change—is by far the hardest decision. An active candidate who initially considered a job change as well as a position with your company is likely to be more committed to the job than passive candidates.

Lack of passion is the #1 reason passive hires don't succeed on the job

Active candidates have a stronger desire to succeed when hired

The Polling Company survey also found that 51% of recruiters and 70% of talent acquisition leaders (directors and VPs) say active candidates have better motivational drive than passive candidates. When a candidate shows interest and applies in a job, they’re more likely to be invested in the role and have a higher chance at succeeding.

Learn more about these findings and how qualified employees approach the job search in our latest report, Talent Attraction Study: What Matters to the Modern Candidate

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