There are so many misconceptions to any industry. Normally you don't know about them unless you are in said industry directly. Recruiting, Staffing, Human Resources whatever you want to title the business function of acquiring talent and managing their expectations in accordance with the company's expectations of them, is no different in this respect. There are so many "tribal knowledge" concepts backed up with little to no data that are held steadfast as staples to our way of operation. When we should hold close a set of ideal qualities, while maintaining a flexible set of perceptions. For isn’t each individual hiring situation an instance of human individuality unto itself? Which would then require such considerations of flexibility?
I am referring to an instance I find written about consistently by many Staffers and Recruiters, who may have forgotten the issues and the myriad of potential situations and considerations in each individual hiring instance. This perception makes for an interesting duality for the recruiter as well.
Simply put, most recruiters, staffers and managers have a perception that "The Passive Candidate is the BEST Hire".
For those that don't know, it means, if you're looking for a job, you are NOT the best possible hire. Instead, the person that is not looking, does not need and ultimately may not even be interested in the available position is the one that will contribute the most.
It is an interesting perception, but one I have never found to be true. As a matter of fact it is quite contrarian and sophist to the basic logic of human relationships. I know to use human and logic as adjectives of any concept is potentially in itself a contradiction, like Starburst, but we still operate under a set of rules governing each of our various relationships.
These are forged at the start of the relationship courting. Who is doing the courting? Who is being courted? You think recruiting is any different than dating? If so, you're wrong. They both operate under the same relationship development rules. If you are the one being chased, you have a position of power over the one chasing. It is really that simple. Any recruiter who has actually recruited a Passive Candidate can tell you, it takes a lot more effort. It can also take greater concessions from the client or specific team that feels it's better to hire this Passive Candidate. There have also been measurements I have been privy to that indicate these Passive Candidate whom were Actively Sourced don't tend to stay as long candidates who came in via Active Candidate channels.
Further, the data has also indicated that Social Networks DO NOT provide a greater reach and quality of candidate. All of the metrics I have seen over my 13+ years of recruiting have pointed to two invaluable sources, ones that not only provide the most accurate candidates, but also candidates who tend to stay longer and make greater contributions. The first of which is deemed an Active Candidate channel, job boards. In all reality this source provides most companies with close to 50% of all hires. Though I don’t remember the specific statistics over the years and Fortune 500 companies, but I do remember it was a large percentage of candidates from the Active Candidate source who stayed 5+ years.
So this would contradict the basic idea that these Active Candidates have any less value than a Passive Candidate. Even further, if you're a manager, ask your recruiter or staffing partner, "Who is easier to close on an offer, an Active Candidate that applied or a Passive Candidate the recruiter courted?" Ninety nine percent of the time your recruiter will answer, "The Candidate that applied." So why such a focus on the ones that will give you the most difficulty and in essence cost you more money to obtain as a resource? Even from a Business 101 perspective this makes no sense.
The other source of the BEST hires has almost always been employee referrals. I am not going to sit here and rehash the "why" on that one. Feel free to run a basic Google search and you'll find many, many an article from many an expert on the subject. These also prove to be the candidates who stay longer.
Again, with these statistics and the basic understanding of chaser and chased, why do we always focus on Passive Candidates as being of such value? The only thing I can find is that it is a conquering mentality.
For example, let's say I'm a Sourcer, no not Sorcerer which would be so much cooler, but the segmentation of the full life cycle recruiter which has become a sub-industry all to itself. This sub-industry is focused on Finding. Yes, Finding or Research if it makes you feel more Ivy League. Every action a Sourcer takes is focused on Finding someone to fill a role, or Finding some piece of information to use to the advantage of the business. Don't confuse a Sourcer with a Recruiter. Though there are Recruiters who are also Sourcers, generally most Sourcers are not Recruiters. Sourcers are normally cutoff in the process once interviews are initiated or when interaction with managers are required. It does leave most processes feeling fragmented from a Candidate experience perspective.
I think the Passive Candidate push came from agencies and outside Sourcing companies that were looking for an angle of value. It was then adopted by managers as they continually heard about these Passive Unicorns, I mean Candidates that these agencies were able to find. As the perception became adopted further, it has been a way for Sourcers in corporate situations to show their industry "strength". I use quotes on strength, as any Recruiter will tell you, those are the hardest ones to close. Which your HR department will follow up with, they are the hardest to keep long term.
Passive versus Active, looking or not? Does one have more value than the other? If what you want is a hire that is interested in your company, excited to work there and willing to be negotiable on the salary, then yes, an Active candidate is ideal.
If you would like to spend a lot of time and money to get a resource from another company. One that may or may not be excited about your project and really just took the job because of the great pay increase they could easily negotiate out of you, then absolutely, go get those Passive Candidates.