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While on a client visit at a few weeks ago, the term “passive candidate” came up in our conversation. The hiring manager explained that they recently had a candidate who turned down their offer. When we asked why, they explained that they turned it down because they were a “passive candidate”.

Later on, a colleague and I spoke about what it really means to be a “passive candidate”. The definition in itself is simple: it’s anyone who is actively working. In order to on board a passive candidate, an offer from a different company needs to be “better” than their current position. But this is where the simple definition weaves itself into a spider web of complex emotions, needs & desires. “Better” does not mean the same thing for everyone. If you have a family, perhaps it’s monetary or stability. If you are beginning your career “better” could mean team size or the latest and greatest office perks.

My intention is not to lump passive candidates into one pool. Rarely does one factor (let alone the same one) influence the decision to leave one role and accept another. If your spouse is making $1m annually as a brain surgeon, your primary motivation may not be remuneration centric. But, you never know.

A few week ago, Mark Zandi, of Moody’s predicted full employment by mid-2016. What does this mean on a macro level? Companies are competing for top talent and their roles may not look as appealing as they were during the recession.

As the owner and CEO of Talener, I would hate to think that someone could offer a better opportunity than myself. I know that individuals are drawn to certain roles and my goal is to constantly find people who are drawn to mine.

Getting to the root of what someone “wants” and what is “better” isn’t quite as easy as asking them…”so, what do you want?” While we start by asking each candidate what they want in their next role, this only scratches the surfaces to the true needs and desires that each individual has. Honing in on specifics gives us a detailed portrait where we can see the individual brushstrokes that make up the overall picture.

So…what do you want? We ask our candidates, and you should ask yourself what you really want and need from your next role. Industry? Title? Technology? Location? Work from Home? Salary? Benefits? Organization Size? Start Up? Public Company? Often we compromise of the size of a company in order to get the ideal title or location. But if the healthcare industry is part of your future ideal job- let us know! We don’t want to miss anything that is important to you.

As we start the New Year and we’ve all had our fill our holiday festivities, one of my favorite ways to describe this process comes from watching “A Christmas Story”. Ralphie has brain freeze while on Santa’s lap and agrees that he wants a football for Christmas. But, as he slides down, away from Santa, he remembers what he really wants: an official Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot range model air rifle.

The lesson here is to ask twice and to be careful not to lead someone towards a role that they would like, but it isn’t really want they want or need. It is as much our responsibility to ask and ensure that we understand as it is yours, the passive candidate.

Simply saying that a role was turned down because someone was “passive” doesn’t get to the real reason that the offer is unaccepted. Without placing blame, we have been taught to hold our cards close. Because revealing everything means showing our true desires, insecurities or hot button issues. A role that is passed up doesn’t mean that it is not attractive or desirable- it just means that it wasn’t “better” for that candidate.

This needs to be a two way street. We, as recruiting professionals, need to support candidates in their current role. Something new is not necessarily always better. Sometimes the best advice we can give to a candidate is to stay put. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have something for them or a role that could fit their job searching criteria. It means that we’re looking out for your best interest in your current role. Technology has been very forgiving to those who move from role to role. New Software and startups move quickly and wait for no one. But sometimes our best advice is to stay put.

At the end of the day, very few candidates that are truly passive. And very few candidates can tell you that absolutely nothing, no other role, no other location or salary could be better. So does that mean that everyone is an active candidate? Not necessarily. With full employment coming into mid-2016, for the first time in a few years, companies will be dealing with “active recruits” in addition to “active candidates”.

So in this ocean of candidate labels, what does it all mean? Active recruits are going to cost more than an active or passive candidate. You want them. You pursue them. A fresh faced college student with a Computer Science degree could command close to $100k without having worked a day in the field. Some of the largest companies compete for top talent, paying premiums to recruit active candidates.

Our goal, as a company, is to ensure that our clients are getting the best candidates who know what they want and how they will fit into their structure. But our goal is also to provide candidates with job opportunities that give them what they want.

Instead of lumping everyone into a category, we need to consider where the candidate in their search (if there is one) and where a client stands on a position. Step back and ask yourself these questions before you blame a passive candidate or, if you’re the candidate, what would be “better”:

ClientsCandidates

While these are only a few of the questions the clients and candidates should be asking themselves as they sort through their needs and wants, it is insight into how involved the hiring process is- no matter which side you are on. Human emotions and needs can derail a slam-dunk offer, no matter how great. If it isn’t the “better” that candidates are seeking out, then it won’t work. So passive, active, or recruit- your better, by better, and their better will never match 100%.

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