Expert Roundtable: Would You Prefer to Hire Active or Passive Candidates?

How do you allocate resources to hire both active and passive candidates? Your approach should be based on the performance data of your hiring campaigns.

Is it more effective to source employed, passive candidates or vet the active ones who have already sought out and applied for your jobs? Both tactics are effective for talent acquisition teams, but the leading organizations focus on inbound recruiting tactics to target active candidates and resort to outbound tactics to source passive candidates for chronically unfilled positions.

At Indeed Interactive this year, talent professionals from all over the country gathered to share insights about the best talent attraction practices. We asked some of these thought leaders to weigh in on whether they prefer to hire active or passive candidates.

Meet the experts

Henry Casanova, VP of Talent Acquisition, Macy’s

Across Macy’s 800 stores nationwide, Casanova is responsible for hiring for executive positions within the stores and organization. The biggest challenge Macy’s faces is finding candidates to fill the variety of roles and needs throughout their company.

Penny Burnett, Global Talent Acquisition Leader, Equifax

Equifax is a global data analytics and technology firm that helps companies look at critical data to make better financial and employment decisions. With a prediction to double in size in the next two years, Equifax’s biggest challenge is hiring high-demand tech talent to fill their critical roles.

Tracy Ferry, Talent Acquisition Strategy and Innovation Lead, Deloitte

At Deloitte, Ferry is responsible for piloting new and innovative systems for recruiting and attracting the best talent. Ferry experiments with a mix of inbound and outbound recruiting with various sources, then analyzes the sourcing data and ROI to guide the organization in their recruitment strategies.

Michael Kilpatrick, Talent Acquisition Systems, Banfield Pet Hospital

With over 900 hospitals and new stores opening regularly, attracting top veterinarian talent across the nation is essential to Banfield Pet Hospital’s growth. Kilpatrick manages the technical aspects of the recruiting process to ensure hiring 500 doctors and 5,000+ associates each year is as simple as possible.

The discussion

Q: When we think about the different strategies we use to find talent, they’re usually rooted in some type of challenge. What would you say is the biggest challenge that you have, and how does that relate to this discussion on passive versus active candidates?

Casanova: The biggest challenge we face is that what works during the year regularly for Macy’s does not work for the holiday season. Our typical recruiting consists of a mix of inbound and outbound recruiting, but last year we hired 96,000 people over a three-month period. For the holiday season, we try to focus on optimizing our inbound tactics to get higher-quality candidates and figure out how to target and specialize our efforts for our most essential roles.

Q: Do you find that your hiring managers throughout your organization have a certain perception about passive candidates that you source versus those that have applied to the job? And how does that manifest in those decisions you’re making when choosing the candidates?

Burnett: We all have a perception of job hoppers, and often those are the qualified, active candidates applying to jobs. There have been days when I don’t want to look at a certain candidate because they’ve switched jobs every two years. But I don’t hear that anymore because that’s the way the workforce is today. People are moving for opportunities to learn new skill sets that they might not have or they may move because they want to make more money. Also, probably about 90% of our applicants are working, so the managers aren’t used to seeing people that don’t have jobs. But I do see that managers have been a little bit more open minded, at least in our organization, around the types of candidates that they will talk to. In the past when somebody was considered an active candidate, they wouldn’t want to talk to them.

Casanova: I think that the whole concept of the passive candidate has gone by the wayside. I think being a passive candidate is like being engaged—you do your engagement survey every year and they tell you how engaged your people are, except if they had asked them the day after you just yelled at them in the conference room, which would cause your engagement scores to go way down. I think being a passive candidate is kind of the same way, it just depends on who’s calling. I think there would be a lot of candidates who would be passive if Macy’s called them but if Google called them, they may not be so passive. I think the whole idea of the passive candidate is something that we as recruiters like to continue to profess out there and preach about it because it makes us seem like we’re making something happen, like we’re magical.

Q: Do you feel like today’s recruiters are turning to outbound recruiting because they take pride in sourcing a great hire and/or because they can’t sift through the candidates that applied in your own systems?

Kilpatrick: One of the options that we’ve talked about quite a bit is to take the recruiters out of the picture for a big portion of our jobs entirely and to give those back to the hiring managers. What we’re finding is with more clever prescreening, we can hand over the rest of the process to the hiring managers, give them a bit of training and they are able to manage the bulk of our hiring for the supporting roles in our hospitals by using those candidates who’ve applied. This lets us take our recruiter resources and allocate those directly to the doctor positions, which really do require so much more of that outreach and outbound recruiting.

Ferry: We have two separate teams. We have recruiters who manage active candidates and the sourcing team that reaches out to the passive marketplace. Last year we received over 450,000 applicants to our positions at Deloitte.  This is a fantastic response from the external market.  Our challenge is identifying the right candidate for the right job at the right time and not missing the great talent that has applied through our database.

Q: Our latest Talent Attraction Study revealed of those earning between $100K-$110K, 50% of them will look for new jobs within 28 days of being hired. How does that sit with you and can you see any manifestation of that within your organizations?

Ferry: We are fortunate in that we don’t see a lot of immediate turnover that quickly at Deloitte. I think the new hires that come on board are very aware of what they are signing up for when they join our organization. Personally, I think that the quick turnover goes back to the concept that an individual never truly stops being a candidate. You’re a candidate until you’re hired by your new company and then you’re a candidate for somebody else trying to recruit you away. We’ve talked about how accepting a job, like any decision, is journey into the unknown. I think that’s a very viable reason as to why it’s happening. People want to make sure they made the right decision with their journey and staying in the loop with opportunities that are a fit for your background is a way to feel more secure.

You can find more insights on how qualified and active candidates approach the job search in our latest report, Talent Attraction Study: What Matters to the Modern Candidate. Get your free copy to understand the vast opportunity to reach skilled candidates and the methods you can use to attract them.

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