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  • 10 Apr 2018  | | Recruitment 101: The Basics | Part 3
    What are Active & Passive Candidates?

    When perceiving recruitment, and specifically the way recruitment agencies work, there is an important distinction that must be made in regards to the candidates that recruitment agencies look for.

    Generally, candidates can be classified to be of active or passive nature, with active candidates actively searching for a new role – for instance by applying for job openings, scanning job boards, and approaching employers and recruitment agencies directly. Passive candidates, on the other hand, have to be approached, and sometimes convinced, to consider a new role or specific opening.

    The dilemma that many organizations face lies in the fact that internal resources, as well as the network of the organization, are often insufficient to properly identify passive candidates, although it is the passive candidates that are often specifically qualified and able to perform in roles the organization is looking for. Passive candidates are often those individuals who are currently employed and have a set of skills and competencies built over several years of experience and expertise.

    At this point, many organizations resort to recruitment agencies, who specialize in headhunting and approaching candidates that the organization could not identify or mobilize through job postings. Although it is not uncommon for recruitment agencies to publish job postings themselves (which can be a successful method if the agency has a sufficiently large network), the best agencies often do not rely on filling assignments with active candidates. Similarly, many employers voice concerns about the feasibility of recruitment agencies purely relying on active candidates, as contracting an agency is considerably more expensive than just attracting active candidates themselves.

    This insight is specifically valuable for active candidates who wish to obtain a new role and consider approaching recruitment agencies on an unsolicited basis – while a recruitment agency specialized in a certain industry is likely to have a large network of clients and employers, it often operates only on specific assignments that it has been contracted for, rendering the majority of unsolicited applications to be unsuitable for the current requirements of handled tasks. Candidates should furthermore mind the financial impact recruitment has on employers – while advertising positions on job boards, depending on the used medium, is a relatively cost-efficient method to attract candidates, contracting an agency often results in the employer rendered liable to compensate the contracted agency with a percentage of the candidate’s annual salary – a fee that could have been avoided if the candidate directly applied for the company instead of being introduced to the agency.

    For those who actively look for a new job, focus when applying should be put on quality rather than quantity. Recruitment agencies certainly can help and assist in finding a new role, however, requirements such as industry specialization, seniority, and current market conditions should be carefully evaluated before choosing which agency to apply to, especially when applications will be sent on an unsolicited basis.

    As a general rule of thumb, it is advisable to focus on sending solicited applications for roles and requirements that have been actively posted, as this will considerably increase the chances of succeeding in landing a new job.



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