talent December 20, 2019

Why Your Recruiting Strategy Should Focus on Active and Passive Candidates Alike

There are two universal truths about developer hiring: there are not enough developers on the open market to fill every single job listing, and most developers are already employed.
Avatar for Medi Madelen Gwosdz
Content Strategist

There are two universal truths about developer hiring: there are not enough developers on the open market to fill every single job listing, and most developers are already employed. 

Here’s a sobering fact: over 90% percent of the developers we surveyed in 2019 told us they held at least part-time employment. Consider that only 15% are actively looking for a job, but more importantly, remember that active candidates aren’t active for very long. 

Most developers are passively looking. It would be easy to think that when a developer responds to you and says they’re not interested, it’s time to leave that person alone forever. 60% of the developers we surveyed last year told us that they would consider moving jobs if the right opportunity presented itself. If you know your company is an awesome place to work, don’t be shy about approaching developers who are currently employed, as they may be interested in your company at a future date. 

Active jobseekers and passive candidates are in different situations and therefore have different motivations, time-related pressures, and levels of interest. A thoughtful recruiting strategy will take these factors into account. Futhermore, the right tools can make all the difference in crafting a unique approach toward searching for, engaging with, and attracting passive candidates specifically. First thing’s first: it’s important to understand some of the key differences between the average active jobseeker and passive candidates. Here’s a brief, general profile of the average active candidate versus the average passive candidate. 

Active Candidates: 

  • Active candidates have a reason to be actively searching.
  • They are currently unemployed or will soon be unemployed. They may have lost their job or be concerned about the stability of their job, or even be dissatisfied with their job to the point where they’re ready to move on. It’s important to imagine personal circumstances that initiated their job search. For instance, a long-distance move may mean that continuing on at their old job is no longer feasible, and they’re looking for something closer to their new home.
  • Active candidates are the ones who proactively reach out to recruiters and answer posted job listings. 
  • Often doesn’t stay on the job market for long. Because good developers are in demand, active candidates generally do not have a hard time finding work.

Passive Candidates: 

  • Passive candidates have jobs and are generally happy and satisfied with their position. 
  • They are likely valued, contributing employees and have in-demand skill sets and stable work histories but may be open to new opportunities. Though passive candidates might not consider themselves in the market for a job, they are at least open to the idea of taking another position if it’s the right opportunity for them. 
  • Are engaged and/or connected in their field. Passive candidates that you are most likely to reach are connected to the larger tech/development field in some way, either through individual professional connections or through community engagement. They are likely to attend meetups, hackathons, and similar development-based events.

What this means for companies looking to attract both

The post and pray approach with job listings is not effective. Companies attracting the top talent and moving from reactionary to strategic pipelining of in-demand candidates need to source them directly. However, before you are able to do that, you need to have worked out why a candidate should choose you in the first place. Building a strong employer brand is key.  

If you’re new to building an employer brand, think of it as how you communicate your organization’s mission and values to passive candidates who have no idea who you are or what you do. Take a look at some companies who have prioritized their employer branding materials. These companies set themselves apart for the following reasons: 

  • They show off their company culture. 
  • They make their hiring process transparent. 
  • They give developers the opportunity to see what it’s like to be a part of their team. 

Ideally, you should condense this into a short statement that can be the core of a recruiting message, which will be what your sourcers and recruiters will talk about when meeting a candidate in person. This pitch needs to honestly but confidently represent your company’s brand and, in doing so, must strike the delicate balance between underselling what makes your company great and gloating, over-embellishing, or pushing your company on the candidate. Make sure you have your brand messaging including a clear and compelling presentation of your company’s mission, office culture, benefits, funding, team structure, and ongoing projects and technology stack. Put in the effort to personalize the pitch by touching on thoughts the passive candidate has shared with you, which can open the door to the possibility of potential mutual benefit.

Even though recruiting passive candidates is difficult, it is well worth the effort. Not only can it be the only means to fill positions in certain locations or for specific skill profiles, but passive candidates tend to be top-tier in terms of talent and skill. In fact, research has shown that passive candidates are 120 percent more likely to make a strong positive impact at a new company when recruited.

Passive Candidates 101
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