10/23/2012 04:19 pm ET Updated Dec 23, 2012

Are Passive Candidates a Myth?


While unemployed job seekers probably hate this fact, it's true that many companies and recruiters prefer passive candidates. Passive candidates are those workers already doing the 9-to-5 shuffle elsewhere and not actively searching for a new job. Hiring managers like passive candidates because their current position displays their professional abilities. But are passive candidates even real?

According to a new survey from, the passive candidate might be a thing of the past. Now, as much as 74 percent of the workforce is actively searching for a new position or at least open to new opportunities. In fact, nearly 70 percent say searching for new opportunities has become part of their regular routine. More shocking, 35 percent start preparing for their next job only weeks after starting their current position.

With these numbers, it's clear the days of candidates waiting around for the right company to come calling are over. Why wouldn't they be, when the Internet makes it infinitely easier for even the happiest employee to see if the grass looks greener from another cubicle?

High unemployment means there are more job seekers roaming around than ever before, but with these new numbers, it seems even workers who've already found jobs are still looking. This is why companies should refocus their attention to active job seekers -- those people sending out resumes, building personal brands, and using social media to connect with employers.

Why focus on active job seekers? The candidate pool is bigger.

This is just simple math. The current civilian workforce is comprised of 155.1 million people. With 74 percent of these people looking for jobs, approximately 85.2 million people are now active job seekers. This number rises when you consider the 12.1 million people currently unemployed, bringing the grand total to 97.3 million active job seekers. This is a fairly substantial candidate pool to ignore.

As a company, you want to keep yourself open to hiring the top talent available. With the economy and downsizing, there's a good chance some of the best talent will be actively looking for jobs instead of waiting around for the right opportunity to strike. These people might have a position beneath their credentials or have gotten laid off from an impressive job. Recent figures have shown even six months after being let go, unemployed individuals face hiring discrimination. You can't afford to cut out such a large swath of the population when looking for the right talent for your open positions.

Active job seekers are more focused on developing their skills

Active job seekers know they need to develop and hone their skills in order to land their dream jobs. While passive candidates might be displaying their value in their current position, active job seekers are thinking about the future of the industry. They can't afford to rest on their laurels, because bettering themselves is the best way to gain a professional edge in a crowded job market.

These active job seekers have been forced to consider the skills they need to become more marketable to employers. Top quality candidates are going out and acquiring education, certifications, and technological knowledge to set themselves apart from the herd looking to get hired. Hiring these active job seekers can give your company a forward-thinking and highly skilled employee.

The job search has forced them to be more creative

Passive candidates might be great at their jobs -- heavy emphasis on 'might' since being employed does not necessarily correlate with skills and competence -- but you'll never get to see their creative side. They're not looking to show employers what they can do, so all you know about them is the current job they hold and what you find out about them via social media and other sources.

Active job seekers, on the other hand, are being forced to get more creative to avoid getting lost in the shuffle. These job seekers are increasingly finding outside-the-box ways to apply for jobs and show off their industry-relevant skills. They're the job seekers sending your company an attractive infographic for an open graphic design position. They're the free-thinkers coming up with online marketing campaigns to nab your marketing director opening. They're even the ones recording video resumes to show off their essential soft skills, like their ability to effectively communicate.

These creative application methods will help you find candidates who are creative problem solvers. In our idea-driven economy, you can't really afford to pass up on someone who might hold your company's next great innovation.

While passive candidates are great, there are more active candidates than ever before. It's smart to consider these motivated job seekers when looking to fill your open positions. You never know: The candidate you've been searching for might also be searching for you.

What are some reasons your company is looking at active candidates? Share in the comments!

Josh Tolan is the CEO of Spark Hire, a video powered hiring network that connects job seekers and employers through video resumes and online interviews. Connect with him and Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter.