Here are seven reasons not to ignore ‘Active’ job seekers …

Filed in HIRING ARTICLES by on May 29, 2017

Have you heard it said that ‘Active’ job seekers – those who are actively looking for new job opportunities – are not worth your time or effort?

Sadly, some recruiters and HR managers take the position that candidates who are actively looking for a job can’t be much good. Or so their logic goes. Typically, recruiters have encouraged municipalities to focus on men and women who already have jobs, saying, “Target the passive talent! The best candidates already have jobs!”

Having been a recruiter for more than 30 years, with more than 11 years spent specializing in municipal recruiting, I’d say it’s high time to admit that THINGS HAVE CHANGED!

The myth that ‘Passive’ candidates should make the best employees was created, shared and perpetuated, I believe, by unskilled and inexperienced recruiters (e.g., personnel agencies) to help convince clients of the need for their services, and to justify their exorbitant fees. These are typically the agencies who then run ads to find candidates.

Of course, ‘Passive’ candidates can be a good source of untapped talent for your municipality, and I’m certainly not saying that there isn’t value in legitimately head-hunting ‘Passive’ candidates; after all, that’s exactly what we do at Ravenhill Group. Everyone knows, however, that even the best recruiters – true headhunters – will post opportunities on websites like when searching for TOP TALENT. Job boards like this one, run by the Local Government Jobs List, Inc., can quite often be just what the doctor ordered … and often more effective and much less expensive than other means of identifying candidates.

  1. Almost everyone has their eyes open for a new job opportunity!

image003A study done by Indeed (bear in mind, this is in the U.S.) revealed that 71% of employed people actively search for new positions as a regular part of their routine! And 27% of these individuals search for new opportunities as regularly as every week!

Job search email alerts from sent directly to a person’s inbox makes keeping an eye on currently available opportunities easier. This may mean that your ‘right’ candidate will come to you before you (or your recruiter) manage to reach them passively. So, it would be a mistake if you ignored them simply because they had fallen into the category of “looking” … wouldn’t it?

  1. Who knows why a person is an ‘Active’ job seeker?

image004You can’t go throwing a negative label on everyone who is an ‘Active’ job seeker just because they haven’t yet got the job they want. There may be mitigating reasons! Family moves, recent graduations (perhaps after returning to school to upgrade credentials), and finding oneself to be in the wrong job are all possibilities. It happens!

The truth is, there are very few of us, if any, who, at one time or another, throughout our careers, haven’t been ‘Active’ job seekers. As I said, there are lots of reasons a person becomes an ‘Active’ job seeker.  And remember too, that being ‘Active’ doesn’t necessarily mean one is out of work. A person may be technically classified as ‘Active’ simply because they have made the conscious decision to find something new – and they are ‘actively doing something about it!

Remember: it is important to question why an individual is an ‘Active’ job seeker. At Ravenhill Group, we always assess whether a candidate is running from something or running to something. You may want to ask that question too. It helps us to assess the motive behind a candidate becoming an ‘Active’ job seeker.

  1. ‘Active’ job seekers will, quite often, cross the finish line first.

image005When someone is the “RIGHT” candidate and they are an ‘Active’ job seeker, bringing them to “the finish line” may involve effort than will be expended working with a ‘Passive’ candidate.

  1. ‘Passive’ candidates are in control because YOU called THEM!

Because you contacted them, ‘Passive’ candidates automatically have the upper hand when it comes to negotiations. You have to “put your cards on the table” first, meaning that negotiating a package with a ‘Passive’ candidate puts you one step behind before you begin! It’s not always the case, but it’s possible that hiring a ‘Passive’ candidate could cost you more in the long run, than one who was found through an active process.

  1. ‘Active’ job seekers can start immediately!

When you’ve got to hire someone right away, and time is of the essence, ‘Passive’ candidates are not always your best friend. Recruiting people who are happy in their current job will very likely take plenty of time to think things through, and the recruitment process may involve lengthy notice periods. If you need a number of new city staff, you should be prepared to consider ‘Active’ job seekers, or you may fall badly behind.

  1. The words ‘passive’ and ‘talented’ don’t necessarily go together.

In theory, ‘Passive’ candidates have talent, and that’s why they are employed. So, logically speaking, people often accept that the reciprocal is true – an ‘Active’ job seeker has no talent, and that’s why they’re looking. That all sounds nice, BUT, here’s something you need to know … if you don’t know it already. There is no shortage of lazy, uninspired and VERY average employees, across Canada, who are happily collecting a bi-weekly paycheck from their current municipality.

  1. Who cares how they got here?

image007The “Right” person for the job is the “Right” person for the job … PERIOD! Never mind how they got to you, the critical question is, “Can they do the job?”!

What does their past tell you about their future … you know the old “past performance being the best indicator of the future” thing… and how did they handle your interview questions? These are the things that are the GREATEST predictors of the future – NOT how you found the new employee in the first place.

Really good recruiters – professionals like Ravenhill Group – find exceptional candidates from many different sources, and this goes double for those of you working in municipalities who are charged with the responsibility of finding TOP TALENT for your city or town.  You should be able to determine whether you’ve got a “keeper”, no matter where they came from. It’s their skills and abilities you’re after.

Don’t just rely on the ‘Passive’ candidate myth … check out for the best ‘Active’ job seekers. It’ll save you a lot of time, money and headaches!


Bruce Malcolm

About the Author ()

Bruce's background includes 30+ years of human resource management experience covering all aspects of HR administration with a clear specialty in team building and recruiting. He created and developed the concept of “Ethical Head-Hunting™”. Bruce began his recruiting career in 1971 with Prudential Assurance.

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