Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Passive vs. Active Candidates...discuss

I am going to get myself into some trouble for this discussion, but contrary to the popular opinion of many people in the agency recruiting industry, I firmly believe that there is no substantive difference of quality between your average passive candidate and your average active candidate. I'll clarify the implications of this, but I have heard many many people tell me that they don't use job boards to search for candidates at all for a variety of reasons which I will address herein. Now this opinion isn't shared by everybody, but I would say that most agency recruiters are taught that job board candidates are not worth your time.

Our job as recruiters, whether we are on the agency or corporate side, is to find the most qualified candidate for whatever job we are working on. Now statistically, something like 10-15% of the workforce is actively looking at any particular point in time (depending on the unemployment rate, of course). A larger percentage will consider opportunities if they make sense, and then a larger percentage won't consider new opportunities at all. I think that the goal should always be to cast as wide a net as is feasible to make sure that as a recruiter, you are able to speak to the highest number of qualified candidates as possible.

So why wouldn't recruiters use job boards? The three most frequently cited reasons are as follows.

1. Why should a company pay a fee for a candidate they can find on their own?

I think this is presumptuous on a number of levels. Firstly, not all of our clients have access to job boards and a small percentage of them know how to use them as effectively as a talented recruiting professional should. It is irresponsible to assume that just because a candidate posted a resume on Monster that the client has reviewed their resume. If you find a candidate that has not talked to your client, that person is by nature somebody that the client couldn't find on their own.

2. The job boards are full of unemployed and otherwise less-qualified candidates.

I know from experience that this is not true. I suspect that the distribution of candidates on the job boards is similar to that of the population as a whole (a few bad, a lot of average, and a few good). It is important to remember that very talented candidates change jobs on their own as well.

3. The job boards are full of candidates who will be interviewing all over town.

The implication here is that either there is more competition for their services (which kind of flies in the face of #2), or that they will have already submitted their resume to every employer in town. Neither of these is necessarily true. As with #1, it is presumptuous to assume that your average candidate knows how to conduct a job search. Even if they have submitted a resume to your client, taking 5 minutes to call them and find out can yield enormous amounts of other information (Where else are you interviewing? Where else have you sent resumes?). If there actually is demand for their services and the recruiter is concerned about it being harder to close them, then that is tough luck! We owe our clients the best possible candidates regardless of their employment situation.

Summary
This isn't the most insightful post, except to reinforce the notion that our goal as recruiters is to find the best candidate. If the candidate who is most qualified for job X happens to be unemployed, then so be it. If they happen to be happily employed and you have to pry them away from their current employer, that's what you do.

Personally, I follow a strategy of moving from easy sources of candidates to most difficult. With job board candidates, the competition for the submittal can be fierce and time is of the essence. If a fee is going to be paid for John Doe to get a job, I want to collect that fee; I don't want my competitor to get it just because I was going after "passive" candidates.

This is also a lesson for corporate recruiters. I have worked in-house for corporations that I know paid fees for candidates that were on Monster when they had access to Monster. Having a competent talent acquisition team is vitally important to prevent this from happening, but until every one of my potential clients has in-house recruiters that call all of the job board candidates before putting the job out to recruiters, I will continue to use Job Boards as an integral part of my sourcing strategy.

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