Recruitment Insights: Passive VS Active Candidates


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Understanding the motivations and behaviors of both active and passive candidates is crucial for recruiters to tailor their approach and engage with each type of potential applicant effectively.

Today we are looking to explain the difference so that you can consider strategies when recruiting for a new role within your company. 

Active Candidates  

An active candidate is a person who is actively looking for a job and is immediately available to start (or can start in the standard one-month notice period timeframe). These candidates regularly check their job suggestions on LinkedIn, sign up for job alert notices and apply for jobs.  

An active candidate doesn’t necessarily have to be unemployed. There are many reasons that people could be actively looking for a new role.  

Some reasons might be:  

  • Unhappy in their current workplace 
  • Looking for the next step in their career  
  • After a change of pace or change of industry  
  • Needing to relocate  
  • Reduce travel time  
  • Manage their work and life more efficiently  
  • Reducing the number of hours worked   
  • They are concerned about their current job security  
  • The project/contract they are working on is coming to an end  

Benefits of Employing an Active Candidate

  1. They are readily available – they have likely been in the market for a while, you can assume that they are eager and ready to start more or less straight away. Keep in mind, though, if they are still employed, the standard notice period is four weeks.  
  2. Readiness to jump into a new role – it is safe to say that they will be excited to find their new position. You can expect them to dive into the job with enthusiasm and no apprehension.   

According to LinkedIn’s Talent Blog about 25% of the fully employed workforce falls under the active candidate category. As such, you can’t rely on just 25% of the employment market to fill your positions. You should be proactive as well and incorporate talent searches into your recruitment strategy.  


Tiptoers is the term coined when referring to those candidates who aren’t applying for jobs but are preparing for a change, gently asking their networks about opportunities and perusing job sites. Tiptoers make up about 15% of the workforce at any given time. 

This is where having an employee referral program is advantageous. You want to have an employee referral program that rewards and encourages your employees to refer their friends to you as a potential employer.  

Employee-referred new hires tend to be better performers than nonemployee-referred new hires and typically stay with the organisations longer. Employee referral programs are also more cost-effective than other recruiting strategies and often are the fastest way to find external talent. 

Passive Candidates  

Unfortunately, most candidates aren’t actively looking for a new job. This is where passive candidates come in, including the 15% of professionals who are tiptoers. This group accounts for 75% of the workforce.  

Passive candidates are usually employed, happy in their current role and not actively looking for new opportunities. They don’t regularly apply for positions independently, but that doesn’t mean they are not open to new opportunities if approached. This is where head-hunting and talent searches are essential.  

Head-hunting is where the recruitment agency or your recruitment team searches for the right person to fit your company and the role you are looking to fill. It usually starts with identifying people with the appropriate experience and/or qualifications needed to be an ideal candidate. From here, a conversation is started rather than waiting for the right candidate to apply to the role.  

While it might take some effort to sell your opportunity and company, passive candidates are unlikely to be interviewing elsewhere. If you can get them interested, you face far less competition for their attention. 

However, do remember that you found them and that they were not initially looking for a new opportunity. Even if they are open to speaking with you, keep in mind that they are employed and are probably quite content in their current role. Meaning you can expect them to be extremely particular when considering a move. It will not be a decision that they make lightly.  

Benefits of Employing a Passive Candidate 

While locating and engaging with a passive candidate can be more costly and time-consuming, there are several perks when looking to hire them: 

  1. You know they have the right skills – quite often, you have sourced this person yourself. This usually means they already fit your list of criteria and prerequisites to be suitable for the job. Indicating they are likely to be a better fit for your company. 
  2. There is no need to oversell themselves – a passive candidate does not need to lie or exaggerate qualifications as they are not anxious to get a job because they are already employed.  
  3. They are reliable – typically, passive candidates tend to be good team members with a strong work ethic as they are gainfully employed and enjoy their job. They aren’t jumping from job to job and actively looking for new roles.  

What motivates active and passive candidates?

According to LinkedIn, passive candidates are mainly motivated by financial benefits followed by work/life balance. While money is also important for active candidates, they are also very interested in opportunities for advancement and more challenging work.

As you can see from the diagrams below, different groups of candidates have different motives for considering a new job opportunity.

Source: Linkedin

While it is easy to reach active candidates as they are applying for jobs, attracting passive candidates is much harder and needs a carefully planned recruitment strategy that involves but is not limited to: employer branding (through a robust and well-performing website and social media presence across various social media platforms), employee referral programs, networking events and of course a dedicated person to reach out, interview, and provide feedback to the potential hiree.

If this sounds like too much hassle, you can always let Recruiters do the work for you. They will have established recruitment funnels in place (a never-ending pipeline of candidates), robust networks, and a multitude of sourcing channels. 


An active candidate is committed to finding a new job and is actively applying for advertised positions. A passive candidate is not looking but might be willing to consider your opportunity if approached.  

Either way, it is in your best interest to use your resources and plan your methods to recruit both types of candidates. As we continue to face such a candidate short market within the civil engineering, construction, and survey industry, you can no longer rely on the right candidates applying to your open roles. It would help if you also had a strategy that will lead to effective results.   

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