When an employer posts a job online, applications are primarily from the ‘active’ applicant – the one that wants/needs a job and is focused on finding one. This then starts the gruelling task to pre-screen and interview multiple people to narrow down the list to find a candidate worth interviewing. There is no shortage of active applicants and employers manage that process internally.

However, the availability of the active applicant is not the reason an employer contacts a recruiter. A recruiter’s skills are in finding the passive individual – a prospect who is gainfully and successfully employed – and creating the intrigue for them to become a candidate. However, regardless of the work done to present a top-candidate, it can all fall apart in the interview.

Let us start with some background steps first….

Sourcing the Passive Candidate

To source passive prospects, recruiters use different methods to generate interest. That’s where the work starts! Once someone has been identified/targeted, finding their personal contact information (preferred) is just the start. Then, there is the challenge of getting someone on the phone who is willing to speak with you.

There is a misconception that recruiters just find a resume online and forward it to the client. In addition to the many legislative and privacy concerns about that, without a conversation with a prospect, the resume doesn’t prove anything!

A dialogue is started and the recruiter pre-qualifies the passive prospect. The recruiter determines if they can do what they say AND if they truly have the interests, intentions and desires to do it again, for an extended period of time in that geographic area. A specific position may not have even been discussed at this point – determining true motivations and interest for change is the focus. Finding the discontent and desire for change – that’s when the prospect move to be a candidate.

Determining Fit

Once interest is piqued, the candidate is then quantified to determine if they have, at least, 75% of the community, corporate/cultural, and skillset fit for the specific position.

Marketing the Position

During the qualification process, the recruiter will introduce the candidate to the company culture and will promote the opportunity to generate enough interest to explore it further.

Introducing the Candidate

After the pre-qualifying and marketing of the position, if there is still interest, permission is obtained to introduce them. The candidate’s information (not just the resume) is compiled into a presentation document for the client’s review. Not only will this information introduce the candidate, but it will also streamline the interview process knowing many of the type ‘fit’ questions were clarified prior to the meeting.

As much of the marketing of the business has been done, the initial discussion with the client is intended to reassure the candidate that this is a company with whom they want to continue dialogue; learning more about its value proposition.

The first discussion (whether face-to-face, video, or telephone) is for supplementary exploration by both parties to see if there is a good ‘fit culturally’; an opportunity for the client to revalidate what the recruiter has shared with the candidate – creating a two-way dialogue which allows both parties to pre-screen, quantify, qualify each other before reiterating their ‘plus points‘.

Even after an interview is scheduled, the passive candidate may still be in the inquiry mode, intrigued about the position but not fully convinced to start drafting a resignation letter. If this first discussion becomes an interrogation (see below), the company culture is seen as aggressive; the whole process returns to a ‘weed-out’ versus ‘weed-in’ scenario and the candidate will back off pitching themselves. Or if the first discussion appears too laid back or one-sided (tell me about yourself) the candidate may sense a lack of leadership or strategic direction. Career-seekers want to be considered as a partner; not a pawn.

Active Applicant Interrogation

With a large candidate pool, the interviewers are forced to focus primarily on KSA (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities) hiring and focus their questions to the applicant as the typical ‘why’s’:

  • Why are you here?
  • Why did you apply?
  • Why did you leave your last role?
  • Why are you the best person for the job?

While this ‘interrogation-type’ method may work with the active, in-the-market, applicant, it won’t with a passive candidate who is gainfully employed. In this case, the ‘passive’ or ‘selectively-active’ candidate is only ‘considering’ a career-enhancing opportunity. They have progressed beyond the “I’m happy” stage but haven’t decided to make a change.

Thus, how you interview the active and the passive differs. Using the same weeding-out ‘interrogation‘ interview method is extremely counter-productive with the passive candidates. Unless there is a change in the method, your perfect employee may walk out and be lost to the company indefinitely.

Passive Candidate Interview

We recommend an extremely different approach with the passive ‘gainfully-employed’ candidates. They need to be able to ‘buy’ your value proposition and be ‘weeded in’ to lure them your way. The biggest difference between an interview and an interrogation appears to be the attitude. Interrogation has been accepted as aggressive, formal, and primarily Q&A. An interview that is shaped as a non-formal exchange of business ideas, beliefs and operational styles allows the passive career-seeker to get a sense of the culture, the management, and starts to build trust.

A passive candidate is not expecting a job offer at the end of the first interview. They are prepared to go away and consider everything they heard; before calling their recruiter to provide feedback. It is at this point, after speaking with the candidate and the client, the recruiter will facilitate further discussion(s) to allow the client to delve more specifically into the ‘skillset fit’ interview. During this time the recruiter will also commence reference and backgrounding check and possibly psychometric or skills
assessments. Assessing feedback and additional data gathering allows the recruiter to further qualify or quantify the overall fit; closing the gap to close to zero and create efficient win-win negotiations for all involved.

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