Authentic Engagement of the Passive Candidate Part 2 – Defining a Passive Candidate and Degrees of Passivityby @GregBradleyCPC

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Nov 9, 2015

Authentic Engagement of the Passive Candidate – Coaching the Hiring Manager Part 2 – Defining a Passive Candidate and Degrees of Passivity

I recently addressed a challenge most of us in talent acquisition frequently experience– hiring managers failing to engage passive candidates in a manner conducive to authenticity of the candidate’s needs, schedule and interest level. I referenced information around change management and coaching the hiring manager. If you missed it, please read Part 1 – Overview first.

In Part 2, we begin breaking down the bulleted discussion points introduced earlier. As a reminder, these are points I use in a deck presented to hiring managers, addressing the authentic engagement of a passive candidate. Our focus now is “The Definition of a Passive Candidate” and “Degrees of Passivity”.

After introducing the purpose of the presentation, if you choose to go this route, I include a brief explanation of the outline of the deck. The deck is designed to educate the hiring manager through bullet points and an exchange of dialogue. Documenting and sharing this detailed process in writing cause your audience to read ahead of you and apply their own interpretation. I will provide a sample deck template when I have concluded the remaining parts of this series.

Assuming nothing about your audience, define a passive candidate:

  • The Definition of a Passive Candidate
  • An individual not looking to make a move from their current employer.
  • An individual not looking to make a move to your organization (though potentially speaking with other companies, your organization is not on their radar).
  • Currently employed with your competitors or a complimentary company.
  • Meets the requirements of a current or future position within your organization.
  • In many (most) cases is more stable and a higher performer than active candidates.
  • Will need a compelling reason to leave their current employer.

Sounds familiar and pretty basic in definition points, right? You may have a few other points you choose to add. When addressing these points, ask the hiring managers to put themselves in the place of a passive candidate (recall when/if they have been one). Start here, planting the seed in them having been a passive candidate at some point in their career

Now, make it a bit more personal. In the next point, define passivity levels of candidates.

Degrees of Passivity

  • Inquisitive Passive – Not actively looking but displays occasional interest when contacted about an opportunity.
  • Attainable Passive – Does not engage in job seeking behavior but always open to speaking with a Recruiter about a new opportunity.
  • The Loyal Passive – Loyal to their current employer. Open to speaking with a known contact in your organization. Does their due diligence before speaking in detail. Will only move if the new opportunity is “significantly” advantageous over their current situation.
  • The Unattainable Passive – Top Performer. Known entity in their industry. Well connected. May have significant stock and/or retention incentive plan in place. Unlikely to even entertain a conversation.

As Sourcers, we have encountered each of these candidates. Ask your hiring manager(s) to think about where they fall into this group. During their career, situational issues may have caused them to fall into more than one category. Frame these points by making it applicable and personal to each hiring manager. You may also want to include specific candidate examples you have presented to them, placing the candidate into a specific category to demonstrate.

By starting with these definitions you lay the referenceable groundwork for the remainder of your presentation and coaching.

In Part 3 I will cover points to share about your sourcing process and driving buy-in. This will include:


  • Intake, Identifying, Pipelining, and Reporting.
  • Candidate Engagement and Development.
  • Submittal Process and Details (Individual vs. Short List).

Remember, as you begin coaching your Hiring managers on the authentic engagement of a passive candidate; put the Hiring Manager in the frame of mind of each candidate. As my colleague Eric Knauf said, “The most disruptive thing we can do (in our industry) is to be human.” Set the stage by making the hiring manager think like a candidate, making it not only applicable but personal. This will begin the desired change in paradigm with your hiring managers.