While most hiring managers would love their perfect candidate to be an active job seeker, it’s usually not the case.

I am looking for a new job and I want to work for you”.

This is essentially the position of the active candidate. In a perfect world, your perfect candidate would always be an active job seeker. However, this is not always the case.

Over the course of my 30 years as an executive recruiter holding various management positions, I’ve interviewed applicants from both active and passive perspectives. Here I’ll share our process for interviewing an active candidate (someone who is actively seeking employment) and a passive candidate, (someone who is not actively seeking employment) both of whom may be the perfect fit for your position.

1. Set different expectations for a passive candidate interview process

Oftentimes it’s impossible to find the best match for your organization in the current pool of active job seekers. This is where recruitment firms are most often employed to bypass the ‘low hanging fruit’ in favor of the best possible fit for your organization. We expand your search beyond the currently available pool of job seekers and look for passive candidates that have the potential to more appropriately meet your needs.

Our experience has demonstrated that standard hiring techniques are ineffective and produce minimal results at best.

2. Identify how the passive candidates are different

If you are ever in the position of embarking upon this kind of rigorous hiring without the assistance of a qualified and experienced search firm, we strongly encourage you to use our methods while interviewing passive candidates. We have specifically developed this approach with these candidates in mind. Here is what to remember when interviewing passive candidates:

  • Since they are not looking to change employers, typical interview models are sufficient when processing active candidates, but will drive passive candidates away.
  • If your organization is targeting passive candidates beyond the scope of current job-seekers, it is because those candidates are potentially a much better fit for your organization, and therefore of higher value.
  • The intricacies of passive candidate choosing to take a position at your organization are more complex because they involve the candidate leaving a position at which he is already settled and content in favor of an offer that is inherently more attractive.

Approaching the interview process with this distinction in mind is critical if you hope to have a chance at hiring a passive candidate.

3. Be prepared to ‘woo’ them

When targeting passive candidates, make the process as streamlined and enticing as possible. We call this the ‘Woo Factor’. Because passive candidates are not nearly as initially motivated as active candidates to consider your opening, you must present a compelling value proposition and be willing to be flexible in your timeline and expectations during the application process.

I cannot tell you how many top-notch candidates I have worked with who have taken themselves out of the running simply because they were given the same treatment during the application process as active candidates. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, we recommend:

  • Thinking like your passive candidate
  • Acknowledging that fact that you called them
  • Being willing to balance company policy with the ability to provide the ‘Woo Factor’
  • Building extra time into the hiring process if you plan on pursuing passive candidates

4. Recognize the value of your candidate throughout the process

Our success rate in converting passive candidates into job applicants for high-value, hard-to-fill positions using these guidelines is high. If you believe employees are your most valuable asset and anticipate a future need in any hard-to-fill position, I encourage you to adopt this flexible interview process when pursuing the passive job seeker.