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Candidate Sourcing > Survey Results

The Myth of the Passive Candidate

“We need to get rid of the words ‘active’ versus ‘passive’. They just aren’t relevant words in the job search landscape anymore,’’ says Kassandra Barnes, Research and Content Manager at CareerBuilder. Barnes is referring to the findings of CareerBuilder’s recently released 2012 Candidate Behavior Study, a collaboration with Inavero highlighting the behaviors and perceptions of today’s job candidates.

One of the survey’s major findings was the discovery that, employed or unemployed, the vast majority of workers are almost always seeking new opportunities. Of the 1,078 workers nationwide who participated in the survey, for example, 74 percent claimed they were either actively searching for a new job or open to new opportunities, and 35 percent said they begin preparing for their next job within weeks of starting a new one. When it comes to frequency, 69 percent of workers said that searching for new opportunities is part of their “regular routine,” whether they are employed or not, with 24 percent searching as frequently as once a week.

(It’s also worth noting that these findings weren’t unique to any particular demographic segment. Workers of both genders and across various income levels, generations and backgrounds reported similar attitudes and behaviors.)

Given these findings, employers would be wise to stop thinking of candidates in terms like “passive” and “active” since a large majority of workers are constantly on alert for new job opportunities. Instead, employers who want to recruit more effectively should focus less on sourcing passive candidates and operate with the understanding that most workers are casually browsing opportunities and employers at any given time.

The other danger in using these labels to identify candidates is that it can inadvertently derail the candidate search, causing employers to miss out on perfectly qualified candidates. “Employers tend to think of active and passive candidates in terms of ‘bad’ and ‘good’,” Barnes says. “Yet, passive candidates are not necessarily better than active candidates. If anything, they might even be less ambitious or willing to leave their current company.” Thus, employers actually do themselves a disservice by ignoring the so-called “active” candidates who actually have shown interest in their companies.

“Think of recruitment in terms of running for political office,” Barnes suggests. “Why would you try to sway a Republican to be a Democrat – or vice versa – when you should really focus on re-energizing your base population?” For recruiters and hiring managers, their “base” is active candidates, so it only works against them to ignore or discredit these candidates.

Do these findings make you rethink the way you talk about active and passive candidates?

All of these findings stem from the 2012 Candidate Behavior study, which you can learn more about at

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.


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