4 min read

Best Practices for Sourcing Active & Passive Candidates

active candidates passive candidates

In this blog post I’m going to highlight best practices for sourcing active & passive Best practices for sourcing active & passive candidates.candidates. Candidate sourcing, an early stage activity in the overall IT recruitment process, is the recruiting activity of finding candidate resumes that “on the surface,” appear to fit either an open job opportunity or, the recruiter's ideal target candidate profile for candidate pipelining.  

Active Candidates
Active candidates are actively seeking a change in their employment status or are unemployed looking for their next opportunity. These candidates are most often found because they apply to job postings, they have posted their resume on the job boards, or they reach out to you to update their status. These candidates are often using Google, LinkedIn, Monster, and job aggregators to find a new job, and often have their resumes posted on multiple job boards.

Passive Candidates
Passive candidate are those who are not actively seeking a new job, but would be open to taking one if the right opportunity came along. Passive candidates are employed and are often found through searches in your database, referrals from existing sourcing passive candidatescandidates and clients, networking, and through classic/direct recruiting, including calling on candidates currently employed.

Direct Recruiter, AKA  "Head Hunting"
Direct recruiting or "head hunting" is the act of the recruiter calling on and recruiting candidates who are actively employed.  This typically entails the recruiter calling candidates directly at their place of employment to recruit them away from their current position and current employer. Because these candidates are currently employed, they are considered passive or not looking. However, one never knows their true “status” until spoken to.   

In order to develop the right candidate sourcing strategies, recruiters must understand the candidate market.

 A recent LinkedIn white paper found that:

  • Only 18% of employed professionals are active candidates, but 60% of those are open to discussions. A further 44% are open to new positions, but need to be contacted by a recruiter.
  • The 18% of employed professionals seeking a new opportunity tend to be those with 2-3 years of experience. This suggests that the active candidate pool is comprised of a higher proportion of less seasoned or experienced people. The more skilled and experienced candidates—those candidates your clients seek—are passive candidates.

What this data suggests is that as a general rule, your strategy for recruiting passive candidates should primarily be applied to senior level and highly skilled positions. But finding these candidates is more difficult as they’re often “hidden.” However, top recruiters know where to look and how to identify them:

  • They analyze the frequency of candidates switching jobs. They know that a candidate who changes jobs with a certain frequency such as once every 24-36 months will look for new opportunities and be open to taking their phone call
  • Candidates who have been working in one position for more than three years who have yet to receive a promotion are also prime targets and often receptive to taking calls from a recruiter
  • Top recruiters are also aware of research from iCIMS that shows 42% of employees would leave their position due to limited future growth or opportunity for promotion within their company. These same top performers also know that 34% of passive (employed) candidates would also consider making a move due to their benefits and compensation packages

Sourcing for active candidates on the other hand is the most common and simplest form of recruiting, and typically has a shorter life cycle than recruiting a passive candidate. Active candidate sourcing strategies include:

  1. Scouring the job boards for active candidates (searching for resumes, Boolean search)
  2. Sourcing ATS (resume database, Boolean search)
  3. Asking for referrals (from friends, co-workers, clients, consultants)
  4. Attending/ exhibiting at career fairs

Conducting the Initial Resume Screensourcing active candidates
One of the reasons why many recruiters struggle with meeting their weekly candidate submittal goal is because they either apply the wrong sourcing strategy and/or they spend too much time pursuing the wrong candidates or not enough time pursuing the right candidates. Candidate profiles or resumes that recruiters should be reviewing in the initial candidate sourcing and search process should answer “yes” to the following questions:

  • Is the candidate's relevant work experience recent in their work history?
  • Is the candidate located within a reasonable commute to the employers office , say forty-five minute to 60 minute drive (with traffic)?
  • Is the candidate’s current and past pay rate within a reasonable range of what the job pays?
  • Has the candidate used the skills and technologies or operated in the same job function the client is requesting within the past 12 months?

For example, if your candidate has 3.5 years of project management experience but has not created or managed a project in eighteen months, he is not a suitable candidate, there are better candidates out there. The one caveat here is the skill or technology the client is requesting. If the client is requesting an outdated skill or technology that very few candidates have or have used recently, then you will need to adjust the recent relevant experience accordingly. Look for relevant work experience in relation to your client’s organization, industry and job requirements by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Has the candidate worked in the same industry?
  • Has the candidate worked on the same types of projects? Worked for similar sized companies? Build similar types of products?

Depending on where you find the candidate and their current situation, you may or may not have access to your candidate’s current pay rate and salary history. The question is, is the candidate’s current and past pay rate within a reasonable range of what your job pays? The answer to this question, of course, is all relative. I suggest you call on candidates that have a pay rate or salary history within 40% of the target pay rate. Keep in mind that candidates tend to over-inflate their salary history and expectations on their resume and/or in their profile.  Additionally, pay rate is not always the most important aspect of a job, and it is also your job as the recruiter to sell the candidate on the opportunity and why it is worth talking beyond just what the job pays. Even if the candidate is too expensive, you may still add him or her to your pipeline and generate referrals.

If you are able to answer “yes” to all of these questions, then your candidate has passed the initial candidate sourcing and screening process or "candidate eyeball test,” and it is time to call the candidate and conduct the candidate interview.

If you are on the fence about some of these questions and/or whether or not the candidate is a fit for your job or candidate pipeline, then you should absolutely call them. Often times, candidates don’t list everything on their resume. And remember, it’s the responsibility of the recruiter to pull the candidate’s “story” out of them. You have to find out where their core experience, expertise and skills lie through the use of your interviewing skills. The point is, don’t be too quick to judge and walk away from a candidate.  

You can learn more about our methodology and training approach here but what is your strategy for sourcing and screening active and passive candidates? Let's start a conversation in the comments section below.

Looking for additional insight into interviewing candidates? Download the eBook titled "Executing the Candidate Interview, Five Pillars to Effective Qualification."

Executing Candidate Interviews for Effective Qualification

six benefits to adopting mutual action plan

Six Benefits to Adopting Mutual Action Plans

Mutal action plans, also known as customer success plan, joint execution plans or go-live plan, ensure the sales and delivery team is in alignment...

Read More
 The Recruiter's Guide to Qualifying and Placing Full Stack Software Engineers

Product Launch, How to Source, Screen and Place DevOps Engineers

For the past few years, we've seen and heard the term "DevOps." You've likely seen them in the job descriptions you receive from your customers;...

Read More

How I Improve Sales Conversion Ratios

Sales conversion ratios measure the effectiveness of your sales team at converting leads into new customers. It's an important metric to track for a...

Read More