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Active and Passive Candidates for Job interveiws

Employers may not have realized the distinction, but there are 3 types of candidates in the market.

Each of which is coming into the meeting with a different mindset.

Unconsciously, employers treat each of these candidates differently.


The active candidate:

They have quit their job because they couldn’t take it anymore, have been laid off due to restructuring or have been fired from their last role.

Any way you cut it, psychologically they are starting off a hiring process from a place of doubt, insecurity and a lack of confidence. They have created a narrative around the circumstances of their previous gig, and this negativity clouds their ability to shine in front of an employer despite their best efforts to hide their anguish behind the smiles and nods. The dynamic of the interview is the balance of power lays in the hands of the employer.


The passive candidate

Are usually motivated by making a change due to conditions not being met in their current role. They want more money, better conditions, or opportunity for advancement. They have the luxury of playing the field and are choosy about who they interview with and what type of role they would accept. This type of candidate is likely performing well in their organization and not being recognized for it (hence the desire to look elsewhere) and so as a result is quite confident to sell their accomplishments in an interview. The dynamic of this interview is considerably different often with the power being perceived by the candidate in their court.


The headhunted candidate

This candidate has no narrative holding them back or propelling them forward. Being contacted by a recruiter or a company is an ego boost. The desire to feed that ego often drives otherwise happy candidates to explore what options are out there, and in many cases, they discover that the grass can be greener on the other side. There is no power balance present in this interview as it usually an equal dialogue between candidate and employer to assess whether their skills are a good match for the company and the candidate deciding if this employer can give them something that they are currently missing.


What can active candidates do to get themselves ahead of the game and on an equal playing ground with passive candidates?


LinkedIn is your friend

Start building your network to include people in the industries and companies you are looking to target. Reach out to headhunters to let them know you are active. As a tip beforehand see what job postings they have up to get an idea if they specialize in your area of expertise. Indicate on your profile that you are open to discussions with recruiters for new opportunities. Don’t wait for a job posting to appear, take your career into your own hands and send your CV with a short and powerful message as to why they should consider you.


Post your CV on job boards such as Monster

You may not apply for certain jobs, but a recruiter could see something interesting in your background that you didn’t connect the dots. Posting your CV on a job board alerts recruiters that you are active. This gives you an edge over passive candidates that don’t want to alert their employer that they are playing the field.


Be connected to your personal brand and do your homework on jobs best suited for your skills before you apply.

If you are applying for jobs that you are obviously not qualified for, you are losing out on a chance to get an interview and show what you can do. Be clear on what your talents, transferrable skills and accomplishments are before you click apply. Applying mindlessly makes you amateur and desperate.


Be prepared to sell yourself with the confidence of a passive candidate

Managers feel great about hiring people who are confident in their own abilities. They want to hire people who know what they bring. If you’re not sure you can do the job, why would any hiring manager believe you can? Have your elevator pitch polished and ready to go.


Know your worth on the market– Often active candidates appear desperate or are not fully aware of their financial value. This leads to getting low balled. If you can’t find the info online, reach out to people in similar roles and ask for guidance and advice how to position yourself financially. Additionally, if you do get lowballed, don’t be afraid to back and try to negotiate more.


With unemployment at record lows in Canada, whether active or passive; candidates have a clear advantage in the market.

That doesn’t mean that companies will hire the first applicant that comes along.

Job seekers worry about answering an interviewer’s questions “perfectly.” The truth is that there is no perfect answer to an interview question. There isn’t a “right” answer, either. The best solution is your own truth!


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