Monday, December 17, 2007

Oxymoron #36 Passive Candidate



I am a sucker for "bumper stickers" like the one that I recently saw for the holidays that said "It's a Jingle Out There." Okay, if you didn't like that one, how about "Ho. Greetings from the Society for the Prevention of Redundancy." Okay, I'll move on, just don't throw anything.

The site where I find these is called Internet Bumper Stickers and there are several categories on the site one of which is Oxymorans and there you will find stickers like Oxymoron #3: "Microsoft Works" or #7: "Government Accountability." Okay, I'll move on from these too, but before I do, I want to try and add what I have arbitrarily labeled Oxymoron #36: Passive Candidate.

What energized me to lobby for this addition? My friend Pete Weddle, as he has on a number of other occasions, prompted me to start pounding away on my keyboard. Pete recently published an article in one of his newsletters which he called Why Recruit Passives? In it, Pete makes, as he always does, a number of very cogent arguments about why "passives" are better than "actives." One of the points he made was this:
... Are active job seekers also qualified? Of course. But passive prospects are passive largely because they are already employed and, therefore, presumably making an acceptable or better contribution to their employers. Data collected by the Yahoo! survey tend to support this view. It found that the average experience level of passive prospects was 18.4 years, with over half reporting more than 20 years in the workplace. The average for active job seekers, in contrast, was 14.9 years of experience, with slightly more than a third reporting more than 20 years on-the-job. In addition, if pay is a measure of a person's perceived value to an enterprise, then passive job seekers are viewed as significantly greater contributors. The average annual salary for passive prospects is $66,100, while the average for active job seekers is over 10% lower at $54,583.
Okay, I admit I have not gone back and looked at the Yahoo survey that Pete has referenced, so maybe it defines some of this stuff in more detail, but at least based on what I read in all this, I just don't buy it.

I don't buy the exerience level as much of a criteria for a number of reasons, not the least of which is just because someone has "hung in there" for 20 years or so doesn't mean they aren't "active." I know an awful lot of folks with 20 years in same gig who may not be "actively" looking but that doesn't mean that they are happy campers (we have lots of data from our own surveys that says they aren't) or that they aren't staying where they are because they are afraid on a lot of levels.

There is an old saying that there are two things that cause people to act; one is inspiration and the other is desperation. Point being just because they aren't out there pounding the pavement doesn't mean they wouldn't like to be "active" and certainly doesn't mean that they would be a better or more productive employee than someone who is "active" be they driven by either inspiration of desperation.

I also don't quite get the compensation as a criteria etiher. Compensation is, as we all know, dictated by any number of veriables, such as industry, geography, seniority (and I am not talking about bargaining unit seniority), etc.

That there has been and continues to be a strong bias in this country against people who are "at liberty" as they used to say back in the day versus someone who is "...presumably making an acceptable or better contribution to their employers" is hardly a military secret.

I would submit that at this stage of the downsizing game in our country that there are at least as many folks out there working like hell to find meaningful employment who are every bit as capable if not more so at making "acceptable or better contributions to their employees" as those who are still "presumably" still doing so.

I just don't think there is such a thing as a "passive candidate" in the sense that someone who is currently employed is the definition of 'passive' and someone who isn't employed is the definition of "active."

As far as those who are working being passive or active is concerned, I think that depends on how things went at the office on any given day.

1 comment:

The Gorrilla Head Hunter said...

Ok, Dave so now you make me have to work. I'll have to go read Pete's post - he's a sensible guy. I could make a long rant on active vs passive but I won't. The discussion should be about qualified vs unqualified BUT that's another discussion. Here’s what your readers need to know.

For many reasons, passive candidates are often perceived as being more valuable than an active job-hunter. But it really started to be “important” when employers’ representatives began to adamantly refuse to pay recruiters a “fee” if they found a candidate’s resume on a job board. [Now this is a huge discussion I’m not going to avoid – the point is that’s where it started]. Right or wrong, when HR managers started to say that they wouldn't pay fees for active candidates the shift in mentality began.

This was of course a marketing shift not a quality one. It’s ludicrous to say that because rocket scientist A’s company was sold and he now needs to look for a new opportunity, he’s now of lesser quality than he was 3 days ago, before the company was sold. But according to the active vs passive debate that would indeed be the case. In fact the candidate is less valuable [to whom? The recruiter yes the employer not necessarily] until he gets his next job.

Here's a quote from Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters - the key phrase is in the second sentence.
"Despite the softening of the economy from 2000 – 2004, many employers said they were finding it harder and harder to find the right candidates. It was reasoned by many, and heavily promoted by the billion dollar staffing industry, that the best candidates where already employed. Right or wrong, “passive” job candidates became the most prized by employers. A passive candidate is defined as one who is not currently looking for a new job and does not have a resume posted on a job board but who might be receptive to listen to a great offer."

Now, the great irony is that no jobs are permanent so you r really always need to be looking and thanks to corporate HR mangers deeming people of less value when they’re active – ALL employees must be “passively looking” to maintain their value should their employment situation change with short notice.

So in a way, HR started the debate to save money on fees, BUT the byproduct is a behavior change with candidates which has encouraged many of them to always be looking. This of course helps recruiters make even more money because the candidate is deemed to be passive. Given we’re in a skills – talent crunch – at the moment and will be in one until mid 2020… life for recruiters… and the candidates they represent… looks pretty rosy.

David Perry, www.perrymartel.com and www.gm4jh.com