Posted December 30, 2008 by

Active Candidates Can Be Great, Too

With so many companies downsizing and going out of business, it’s no surprise that there are a lot of people actively looking for new jobs. Ironically, according to Ronald Katz in his article for ERE, “What’s So Great About Passive Candidates,” recruiters tend to shun active job seekers. The way Katz describes recruiters’ disdain for active candidates sounds as if it’s the challenge of wooing someone away from a current employer that gives them a thrill. To them, people who are looking for new jobs, even if they already have them, must be troublesome.
The way things are right now, disregarding active job seekers could cause recruiters to miss opportunities to hire really great candidates who had the misfortune to work for companies that collapsed as a result of the recession. “[I]n this time when literally tens of thousands of people are losing their jobs, it’s crazy to assume that everyone who is out there looking for a job is ‘damaged goods,'” says Katz.


Katz goes on to point out that passive candidates are much harder to attract in today’s economy because they’re reluctant to let go of the jobs they already have. Experience has taught us that there are no guarantees. A company that’s strong today, could suffer significant losses in the near future and be forced to lay off some of its employees. Who wants to take that kind of chance unnecessarily?
There are all kinds of reasons that people are actively looking for work, and most of them do not cast a pall on the applicant,” Katz says,

  • “What if I need to find a job because my wife is being transferred to Chicago?
  • What if I need a job because my company is going out of business or laying people off?
  • What if my company just merged and I’m being proactive in positioning myself on the market before the company starts making up their RIF lists or transferring departments and people to other states?

“These are all attributes that make the person a more, not less, desirable candidate.

  • The man who is looking because his wife transferred has shown that he is a good team player who can support others.
  • The person who’s lost a job due to a business folding has learned valuable skills about how to survive in a difficult environment.
  • The woman staying ahead of the curve by looking before the merger RIF’s hit has demonstrated a keen business sense and the ability to be proactive and in control.

“We may find ourselves ignoring proactive, experienced team players with solid business experience just because they are actively looking for a job. Since when did looking for a better job become the mark of Cain?”
A final, interesting point that Katz makes is that not all passive candidates are the “creme de la creme” that recruiters assume they are. Just because someone is currently employed and not looking for another job doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s a good candidate for a job offer, Katz remarks. Without a background check, essentially, there’s no way for a recruiter to know if he’s wooing someone who will really shine or someone who should be written in as a character on “The Office.”
I guess the moral of the story is: Just because a candidate is actively looking for a job, that doesn’t mean he isn’t worthwhile, and just because a candidate isn’t actively looking, that doesn’t mean that he is.

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