December 6, 2007   view past issues

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Feature: Why Recruit Passives?

Put 100 recruiters in a room and ask them to identify the best talent in the workforce, and 99 will point to passive job seekers. The problem, of course, is that passive job seekers aren’t job seekers at all. At best, they are prospects. They don’t act like active job seekers, nor are they motivated in the same way. More often than not, they have to be dragged kicking and screaming into our recruiting processes. And then, they have to be persuaded and cajoled into even considering our openings. In short, they are a colossal pain in the neck to recruit. So, it’s appropriate to ask why even bother with them? Why not focus on people who really do want to come to work for our employers?

While acknowledging just how difficult passive prospects can be, I think we must not only recruit them, we must make them our priority. Why? There are at least four reasons.

First, passive prospects represent the majority of talent in the workforce.

A recent survey sponsored by Yahoo! reached over 3,700 people aged 18-64. It found that just 17% of the population-fewer that one-out-of-five people-were actively seeking a job. This finding correlates well with an earlier study attributed to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It found that just 16% of the population were active job seekers. In other words, somewhere between 83% and 84% of American workers are passive prospects. There are four times as many of them as there are candidates proactively applying for our openings.

Second, passive prospects generally represent a higher caliber of talent.

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.

Third, passive prospects make more stable employees.

The attrition rate of passive prospects is lower than that of active job seekers. Said another way, active job seekers tend to be active more often than passive prospects. According to the Yahoo! survey, those who described themselves as “passive” changed jobs every 5-10 years, while those who self-identified as active job seekers were switching employers every 2-5 years. As a result, employers have longer to reap a meaningful return on their investment in the higher quality talent delivered by passive prospects.

Regardless of your measure of merit-availability, quality or loyalty-passive prospects are the better candidates, even if they are difficult to recruit. Which begs the question, what is the best way to turn them into active passive prospects? Since most passive prospects will elect to make a career enhancing move from time-to-time, the key is to mirror their behaviors when they do. Here again, the Yahoo! survey provides some interesting insights that run counter to some of today’s conventional wisdom.

According to the passive prospects in the survey, when they do decide to look for a job, they will use the following resources or methods:

  • Local newspaper (cited by 56%)
  • National job board (cited by 41%)
  • Local newspaper Web-site (cited by 37%)
  • Phone or in-person networking (cited by 36%)
  • Professional/industry Web-site/publication (cited by 26%)
  • Corporate Web-site (cited by 25%)
  • Search engine (cited by 25%)
  • This list of resources and methods is clearly imperfect. While there were other answers that respondents could pick, the total set was incomplete and unbalanced. It ignored, for example, niche job boards altogether, while it listed the local newspaper and the local newspaper’s Web-site separately, but combined professional/industry Web-sites and publications into a single answer. Be that as it may, however, the findings do offer at least two interesting insights.

    1. The mix of resources and methods selected by passive prospects is not the same as that identified by the active job seekers in the survey. In other words, passive prospects “shop” for employers in a very different way than do active job seekers. For example, almost three quarters of active job seekers (74%) would use a job board compared to 41% of the passive prospects who would. Does that mean, it’s not worth using job boards for passive prospects? Of course not. If passives make up 83% of the workforce, then 41% of that population is still three times the size of the active job seekers group. The secret is in knowing which job boards passive are most likely to use and how to write a job posting that will overcome their inherent reluctance to move.

    2. Contrary to what we may assume, the media choices among passive prospects cut across generational lines. For example, a startling 56% of Millennials said they intend to use their local newspaper when they decide to look for a new or better job. In fact, the local newspaper was their second most cited resource, trailing only job boards. No less important, at least some of the Millennials and many of the other passive prospects are also likely to use the media they selected for job search when they aren’t looking for a job. That habit makes career portals (job boards that support career advancement as well as job search), newspapers, professional sites and publications and search engines effective platforms for brand as well as recruitment advertising. They are the perfect place to promote the value proposition of your organization as an employer so that when passive prospects decide to become active, it is already top of mind and pre-sold.

    Passive prospects may be a pain in the neck, but they are also a powerful source of talent for your organization. If your tailor your sourcing strategy to their behavior when they do decide to look for a job, you’ll likely reduce the pain and enhance the yield you recruit.

    Thanks for reading,


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    This Issue’s Sponsor: Landmark Destiny Group

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of Landmark Destiny Group, an online military job board.

    Reach over 200,000 plus transitioning and former military Job Seekers.

    Connect to our diverse pool of highly-skilled and trained candidates with Job Postings, Resume Search, and Email Blast services.

    Purchase recruiting services before the end of the year and SAVE UP TO 30% off already discounted prices!

    Call now for a free walk through at 888.845.5551 or CLICK HERE for more information!

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    The MIT Sloan Management Review published an article which argued that your intuition can actually be improved. The conventional view, of course, is that intuition is a faculty with which you’re born. It’s a form of insight that everyone has, whether they choose to use it or not. The article’s authors, on the other hand, believe that intuition is “not a magical sixth sense” but an acquired capability. They describe it as “a highly developed form of reasoning that is based on years of experience and learning and on facts, patterns, concepts, procedures and abstractions stored in one’s head.” And if that’s what intuition is, then you can improve it. How? The authors suggest three strategies:

  • Gain lots of experience so you’ll recognize more patterns, concepts, procedures and so on;
  • Learn to control your emotions so you respond rationally rather than emotionally to new situations; and
  • Be curious as that will expose you to new ideas and hence additional patterns, concepts procedures and the like.
  • The authors admit that intuition isn’t always the best guide so you “should reflect on your intuitive decisions before you execute them.” I like the advice, but it’s hardly ground breaking research. Whether you call it intuition or something else, the combination of real world experience, rational decision-making and an open mind have long been viewed as the building blocks of effective workplace behavior. Honing those attributes will not only enhance your success on-the-job, they will invigorate and advance your career.

    Pink, a magazine for professional women, published its own bromide for upgrading workplace performance. An article by Karen Benjack Glatzer takes aim at the low level of engagement among today’s employees. According to surveys by Gallup and others, the number of workers who are interested in and challenged by their work may now be as low as 25 percent. What can be done about the situation? Glatzer thinks it’s up to the manager. “A manager who wants to engage and develop talent must look to her own motivation first ….” In other words, managers should model engagement. How? By speaking with each of their direct reports and asking “What can I do to keep you?” Frankly, I’m astonished that supervisors need to be reminded of such a basic tenet of leadership, but given the level of disengagement in the workforce, it’s clear that they do. However, I believe such conversations should be ongoing and an integral part of the manager’s job. In fact, I have a title for it. I call it serving at your company’s CRO-Chief Retention Officer. WEDDLE’s will be offering a training program on the role and responsibilities of a CRO next spring. For now, I think we should listen to Ms. Glatzer. She concludes, “Ironically, most managers do eventually ask this question (What can I do to keep you?)-during the exit interview, when it’s too late.”

    The Three Signs of a Miserable Job is a new “fable for managers” by Patrick Lencioni, the president of a consulting firm that specializes in team development for executives. It tells the story of a successful executive who finds himself unemployed when his company is sold. After a ski injury sidelines his recreational retirement, he decides to fill his time by helping to turn around Gene and Joe’s, a local Italian restaurant where the employees are unmotivated, unhappy and unpleasant to customers and each other. How does he get the team to reengage? As did Ms. Glatzer (above), Lencioni believes it is the responsibility of managers who should, as he puts it, “view their work as a ministry.” He explains, “By helping people find fulfillment in their work, and helping them succeed in whatever they’re doing, a manager can have a profound impact on the emotional, financial, physical and spiritual health of workers and their families.” I agree with that, but I think it sells the lesson short. Seeing one’s work as a ministry is also appropriate for those of us in recruiting as we interact with candidates. The quality of our information and the caliber of our behavior have a huge impact on the level of engagement we are able to achieve with employment prospects. It’s more than simply following the Golden Rule; it’s also the recognition of the unique opportunity our position affords us to help people find fulfillment in their work and succeed in whatever they’re doing.

    If you want to earn a little extra money for gift buying this Holiday season and plan to take a second job, you’re in luck. Simply Hired has checked its list twice and apparently retailers and other employers are being quite nice. This year, the number of openings the site classifies as “holiday jobs” is up fifty percent over that of last year. What are some of the more interesting opportunities? Consider these:

  • Bell ringer,
  • Cookie baker,
  • Caroler,
  • Snowman, and
  • Turkey.
  • If you want to be a snowman, you’d better hurry; the site has only 10 openings posted for such a role. However, if you’re qualified to be a turkey, you’ve probably got nothing to worry about. There are 1,141 jobs for which you can apply.

    WEDDLE’s offers a wide range of private training programs that can be delivered on-site in your own facility or in a toll-free audio format similar to WEDDLE’s public programs. You can select a single 75-minute program, pick two programs for a combined 2.5-hour seminar or three programs for a half-day workshop. All programs are delivered by WEDDLE’s Publisher, Peter Weddle. WEDDLE’s training programs include:

  • Online Networking: More Than an Address or a Pretty Face
  • “Precruitment”-Planning & Preparation for Recruiting Excellence
  • Transforming Supervisors into CROs: Chief Retention Officers
  • A-to-Z in Best Practices for Online Recruitment Advertising
  • Best Practices in Sourcing Passive Prospects Online
  • Blink Recruiting: Getting to “Yes” Fast With Passive Prospects
  • Building a Corporate Career Site for Top Talent
  • HR Leadership: the Antidote to Management-by-the-Numbers
  • Optimizing the Candidate Experience: The Secret to Recruiting Top Talent
  • Staffing Metrics That Count in the Corner Office
  • The Sum & Substance of a Great Employment Brand
  • Transforming Your Resume Database into a Candidate Gold Mine
  • For more information and to schedule your private, in-house WEDDLE’s training program, please call us at 203.964.1888.

    Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Guides and Directories

    There are 40,000 job boards now in operation in North America and an equal number operating elsewhere around the world. The key to recruiting top talent online, therefore, is knowing where to find and how to select the best sites for each of your requirements. WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Guide identifies 350 of the top sites worldwide and provides the information you need to determine which job boards will deliver the optimum yield for you. For example:

    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes-Consulting, Internships

    Distribution of jobs: International

    Fee to post a job: $375/posting

    Posting period: 60 days

    Can posting be linked to your site: Yes

    Resume database: Yes

    Number of resumes: 5,000+

    Source of resumes: Direct from individual

    Top occupations among visitors: Finance & Accounting, Sales & Marketing, Research, Production

    Other services for employers: Discussion forum for networking, Assessment instruments, Automated resume agent, Banner advertising, Status report on advertising.

    Member, International Association of Employment Web Sites: Yes

    Support Our Sponsor: Landmark Destiny Group

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of Landmark Destiny Group, an online military job board.

    Reach over 200,000 plus transitioning and former military Job Seekers.

    Connect to our diverse pool of highly-skilled and trained candidates with Job Postings, Resume Search, and Email Blast services.

    Purchase recruiting services before the end of the year and SAVE UP TO 30% off already discounted prices!

    Call now for a free walk through at 888.845.5551 or CLICK HERE for more information!