The Difference Between Passive and Active Candidates

5 minutes read
If you have been a part of a recruitment process before, you already know that no two candidates are the same. 

The Difference Between and Importance of Both 

While you can get into the nitty-gritty of what makes each candidate unique, there is one defining attribute that segments candidates and ultimately shapes the way in which you conduct your search - passivity.




In an ideal world, all candidates are actively searching for their next career opportunity. They are searching across job boards, sending in applications, and waiting on recruiters to get in touch with them. They are also typically available to step into a new role as soon as possible, making the time-to-hire process shorter and their start date more flexible. So, posting on job boards, following up quickly, and providing a positive candidate experience may be enough to land your next hire. Sounds great, right? But with 81% of developers employed full time, 5% employed part-time, and another 11% employed as freelancers, the odds of finding an unemployed and actively searching tech candidate is slim. This means that unemployed tech candidates who are actively seeking a job only make up around 2% of all tech candidates. This is incredibly low compared to the 25% average across all industries. So, while having candidates actively apply for your positions may decrease sourcing time, don’t solely rely on active candidates to fill your next role.

These stats make the tech candidate market seem bleaker than ever. And as a tech recruiter, they’re probably not all that surprising. After all, you are all too familiar with the supply and demand gap between available tech jobs and available tech candidates. However, there is good news - around 60% of candidates are open to switching jobs despite their employment status. Additionally, 15% of candidates are actively looking for a new job despite their employment status. The question then becomes, how exactly do you reach and communicate with these candidates? Naturally, active and passive candidates have different timelines, levels of interest, and most importantly, search tactics (or lack thereof). With research showing that passive candidates are 120% more likely to make an impact in their next role, knowing how and where to reach them is critical for a successful sourcing strategy.




Before you can start communicating with a passive candidate, you first have to find them. Naturally, a great place to start is your own network. For example, via your employee referral program or networking events. To take your search online, try to leverage less obvious social media platforms such as Stackoverflow, Codility, Devskiller, and more. Try to pick platforms that have policies in place regarding up-to-date candidate profiles so that you are not looking through a database full of ghost profiles.

Your window of opportunity to communicate with passive candidates may be short. Besides, these candidates likely get messages from recruiters weekly, or even daily, about new job opportunities around the globe. This means that breaking through the noise is only the first step. The next step is to communicate things that actually matter and resonate with the candidate.




A recent study shows that the most important characteristic when looking for a new job is the language, framework, and technologies that they would be working with. So, before reaching out with a job opportunity, it may be beneficial to do some research and find out what technologies they are currently using. You can then highlight these in your outreach to make your message stand out as relevant or even personalized. The next most important factor for tech candidates is company culture, followed by flex time. If this is a part of your company’s employer branding strategy and/or policies, now is the time to showcase it.

When it comes to engaging passive and active candidates, also keep in mind that many of them may have unique timelines and needs when it comes to switching jobs. Try to incorporate this into your sourcing strategy by listening carefully to their needs and motivations so that you can do your best to accommodate accordingly.

Want to learn more about how you can source and engage candidates? Check out our Ultimate Guide to recruitment.