Written By Iain Hamilton – Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at ClickIQ

The debate of passive vs active job seekers hit mainstream when LinkedIn began to look at the behaviours of their social network audience. Using an unknown (to me anyway) definition, it was estimated that 70-80% of people were ‘passive job seekers’ meaning they were not taking any action themselves to find a new career.

This was the first instance I encountered where the argument of passive was being used to change the behaviours of the general recruiter. From agency to inhouse we were told that in order to reach 70% of the market, we needed to actively source.

LinkedIn’s argument fitted in well with their shiny new Talent Solutions product line and as recruitment leaders we invested heavily to provide our recruitment teams the tools to source and contact the passive population.

The argument of passive vs active raged on as Indeed a few years back hit the market claiming that 70-90% of candidates were in some way active, leaving only 20% to be truly passive. (Indeed’s Talent Attraction Study PDF).

Now to be fair, I believe both companies are telling ‘the truth’. The question is…what is their definition of active and passive?

My take on it:

Active Passive
LinkedIn People who are at that time taking actions to search and apply for jobs. People who have not, at that time or very recently, taken actions to apply for jobs.
Indeed People who ‘are actively looking or open to being approached for a new job’ People who ‘are [not] actively looking and open for a new job’

So where does this leave us? Well, by combining the two definitions, we probably have:

• 20-30% of the population actively looking for a job right now. The actions taken here are likely to be: visiting job boards and actively reaching out to agencies or employers.
• 40-60% of the population who would be open to a new role but who are not actively searching, applying and initiating conversations with recruiters right now.
• (10-40) 30-10% of people who are truly happy in their role and could be seen as ‘not prepared or looking to move career’.

Please don’t take the above as a statement of fact but more my interpretation on the messaging the two of the key talent attraction channels are using.
Include talk about the costs involved for Passive vs Active i.e – much more expensive to target Passive, and if those are not all passive then are they getting value for money

What does this mean for us?

If my interpretation is in some way true then diversifying our talent attraction strategies away from focusing on one or a small number of channels is the way forward.

Job boards – Used to attract people who are actively looking for jobs. As with your overall strategy, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Find a way of distributing your jobs to multiple channels and paying only for the performance you benefit from… programmatic.

Social – People visit social media to keep up with life, communicate with friends and watch videos of cute cats. Using social advertising you have the opportunity to target only the people who are likely to be suitable for a job and to pay when they interact with you advert.

Search – Using search advertising you can target people who using ‘search terms’ that are relevant to your business or jobs. You can use this in two ways, to put your advert at the top of the page where most job searches start… Google… or to put your advert in front of what you think are more passive people.

Display – Use display advertising when you want to put your adverts in relevant places throughout the internet. This could be popular news sites, blogs, industry only magazines and many other places. A great way of attracting people who are engaging with content that makes it likely for them to be in your target market.

Sourcing – Yes, it’s likely you will still need to actively source for candidates. LinkedIn recruiter is still one of the most popular methods and technology is starting to arrive on the market to facilitate this.

So, nothing overly new there but hopefully the point I have made is that regardless of the marketing message used by any channel, there is usually a definition made to benefit their cause… it’s called marketing after all.

It doesn’t stop there!!

One of the key challenges with advertising as a method of talent attraction is that the advert often only delivers a person to a job description. And often conversion rates from viewer to application are HORRIBLE (often as low as 5%.) But just because a person does not apply, does not mean they are passive.

In fact thinking that a passive person will not apply is just another marketing message used by certain vendors to further their own purpose. In my opinion, only the people who are in the 10% most passive will refuse to apply…the rest just need a good enough reason to take action and an easy method to convert! You may accuse me of the same here but I have been preaching this from way before my current role and whilst as in inhouse recruiter myself. Just look back at some of my previous blogs. – where can we look at those?

Things that make people not apply:

– Multi-page application processes, each new page provides another opportunity to drop off!
– CV’s…requiring a CV just acts as a blocker. I believe the action of applying should be seen as lead capture and of course followed by data enrichment which can include CV.
– Arduous conversion point – Somehow the talent tech market thought that candidate logins, self service areas and long forms were a good idea. They might sound great to a recruiter but the candidate came to apply for a job… the more you ask them to do, the more will drop off.

Things that help a candidate apply:

– Conversion on the platform they see the job – An example of this would be Facebook. Rather than sending people to your website why not convert their application on Facebook using Lead Ads and Messenger Ads connected to a chatbot.
– Nice user interface – Let’s face it, forms are boring and boring causes people to lose interest. One of our clients currently sees 6x more applications by simple implementing a chatbot as their application process.
– Information – Allowing candidates to ask questions and to research the role helps them decide if the role is right. One of our more popular features is the ability to calculate how long your commute will be on a Monday morning.
– Marketing – Influencing a candidate’s opinion of your brand with videos, images, blogs and engaging content will mean when they get to the application stage, and throughout the recruitment process, they should be more likely to finish.

So there we go, interpreting the marketing messaging coming from two of our most popular talent attraction channels gives us the opportunity to make our own mind up about how we should focus our efforts. Of course, don’t take my word for it… I have my own agenda, but hopefully this helps you with your own interpretation.