4 Key Points to Consider When Interviewing Active vs. Passive Candidates

executive recruiter interviewing an active candidate

When it comes to job candidates, there are two distinct types: Active candidates, who are actively looking for a  job, and Passive candidates, who aren’t currently looking.  As a top performing executive search team, we typically have 70% of our placements coming from what started out to be passive candidates.

If HR departments/hiring companies/internal recruiters are relying only  on active candidates to fill their roles, they are cutting the talent pool by 70% and simply not seeing the best prospects.

Using executive recruiters that actively target top performers from direct competitors is the single most impactful decision you can make as a company.

But of course we are biased. 😊

Just as there are two different kinds of candidates, there are two very distinct ways to interview them.

For passive candidates, who were not actively looking, it’s helpful to figure out their motivation as early in the process as possible.

If you are working with a good recruiter, she will definitely be sharing any pain points the candidate may have, as well as their primary motivators to make a change, so you will know what to focus on.

1) Flexibility

When a passive candidate is screened, the interview process needs to be more flexible than it will be for active candidates.

Active candidates are often interviewed in-person upon directly applying and passing the initial screening for the formal interview process. The recommended procedure for passive candidates goes a bit differently. If they work for direct competitors, they risk being seen going into ’enemy territory’. That’s why it’s important to have the “get to know” stage on neutral territory, such as lunch or coffee or perhaps even a video chat platform, to allow both the candidate and hiring firm to establish a level of interest prior to proceeding to an in-office meeting.

2) Identifying Pain Points

Successful recruiters are able to find strong candidates by identifying the current needs and motivators that would spur more passive contenders to leave their current firm and accept a new opportunity.

Common pain points include company culture, career growth potential, compensation, travel requirements, work-life balance, etc.

Recognizing and highlighting these motivators can help make the open position substantially more attractive to talented passive candidates.

Active candidates place finding a job as their top priority. Passive candidates are often busy excelling at what they do, not currently looking and typically rated in the top echelon of their skill set and industry.

3) Focusing on the Passive Candidate’s Motivators!

Once a recruiter is able to identify a passive candidate’s motivators, they can begin to fully assess the background and skill set the person can leverage to land their dream role. The recruiter will also inform hiring managers prior to the interview  of any specific areas of concern as well as the primary motivators that the candidate has, in order to know which buttons to push to elicit the strongest response.

In the best-case scenario, the hiring manager can utilize this invaluable information to demonstrate why moving to their firm is the best move, by offering the candidate the specifics they’re looking for while creating a greater sense of urgency to make a change. Active candidates have a more distinct and clear-cut employment need, with a more acute timeline.

The Duration of the Interview Process

The formal interview process for active candidates will generally look something like this: they apply, their resume and application are reviewed, if the hiring firm chooses to move forward, the active candidate goes through the interview process, and then they are either hired or rejected.

For passive candidates, the interview process might be longer since the person was not planning on making a move to begin with. They need to get their head around the possibility of switching teams, and often times that takes a bit longer, especially when a partner is involved in the decision making process.

Pro Tip: Strategically choosing specific team members as interviewers, based on their highly communicative nature or keen ability to market the firm, may add more time or meetings to the process but in the end can ensure the passive candidate has the opportunity to fully vet the role and understand how the opportunity can best meet their specific needs.

Speaking of the timing of the interview process, it is extremely important to remember that each candidate is unique. It’s important to know if they have another offer on the table and have a deadline to respond, if they are waiting on a large bonus and cannot possibly make a move within the next 5 months, etc. etc.

We always encourage Clients to keep their interview process within a 1 month period whenever possible, for the old adage that Time Kills Deals is never truer than in the interview process.

With that said, it is important to have some flexibility on your interview process. There may be times that strongly benefit from either speeding up or slowing down the process for a few weeks for a multitude of valid reasons.

Finding and interviewing the right passive candidates is not easy, not to mention time-consuming.

Consider utilizing International Search Consultants team of award winning recruiters to ensure that your current openings will be filled with top talent.

Have questions? Contact ISC any time for more information!

Ann Zaslow-Rethaber is President of International Search Consultants. You can reach Ann directly at 888-866-7276 or email her at .

Jaami Clement is an Executive Recruiter with ISC. You can reach Jaami directly at 888-866-6625 or email her at .