The Pros and Cons of Hiring Passive Candidates

Hiring “passive” candidates refers to a practice that some employers and recruiters also call “poaching,” or approaching potential employees who haven’t specifically reached out to the company or formally applied for a position. Candidates can also be considered passive if they make inquiries or submit an application, but are comfortably employed and show no specific interest in leaving their circumstances unless they’re presented with something better. Chasing passive candidates and selecting from an active applicant pool are two very different actions with different rules for success. And your choice between the two will depend on your hiring needs, your budget and several other factors. Here are some of the pros and cons of the passive search.

The Benefits of Passive Candidates

Passive candidates are often considered high value, in accordance with the logic of Victorian marriage proposals: If somebody else currently wants the candidate, she must be more talented and noteworthy than a poor unwanted soul who has to actively put some energy into the search for a job. If you buy into this arithmetic, then passive candidates are the ones you want. And if you aren’t willing to take a take a sedentary role in the courtship process, and would rather do some research and aggressively pursue the employees you want– regardless of their job search status– then use this method.

The Drawbacks of Passive Candidates

The problem with passive candidates is simply the other side of the same coin: with high contentment comes low motivation. You may need to pull and pry these candidates out of their current positions by making salary offers at the highest end of the spectrum…and you’ll have no guarantee that these high investments will bring high returns. In addition, once passive candidates are lured on board, they’re more likely to resist the status quo and may not easily adapt to your company’s culture and workplace practices. Active candidates often show higher levels of gratitude, greater adaptability, and lower salary requirements than their counterparts.

The end result usually comes down to a balance of power between the candidate and you, the employer. The passive search will help you find exactly the person you need to fill a very specific role, but you may pay a high price for this level of precision. For more on the steps required to find, approach, and negotiate with passive candidates, reach out the employment experts at Palmer Group.