What is ACTIVE recruiting VS PASSIVE recruiting?? It’s important to know the difference, and the importance of using PASSIVE recruiting during a talent shortage! Annelle Barnett Explains!

Episode 54 | Active Vs Passive Recruiting

[00:01] Welcome to the Epic Company Culture Podcast where your host, Josh Sweeney, will give you, the business leaders, HR professionals and company culture aficionados, the knowledge you need to take your company culture to the next level.

Josh: [00:16] Hello, my name is Josh Sweeney and welcome to the Epic Company Culture podcast. Before I get started, I would like to thank Prototype Prime for this amazing podcasting space. We’re back in season two, which is all about hiring and I am joined by my co-host, Annelle Barnett.

Annelle: [00:32] Hi, how are you?

Josh: [00:33] Doing well, thank you.

Annelle: [00:34] Awesome.

Josh: [00:34] Thank you for coming in. So, today’s topic is going to be what we’re calling ‘active’ versus ‘passive’ candidate sourcing, ‘active’ versus ‘passive’ recruiting. It’s active versus passive, that’s all we really know at this point, right?

Annelle: [00:47] Right, exactly, yes.

Brand Marketing For Talent

Josh: [00:49] Awesome. So, we train a lot of clients around filtering based on culture, personality, skill-set, and putting process in place to get the best candidates, and when we’re doing a lot of that training. It’s around what we would consider ‘active’. We’re going out and we’re posting the jobs, they’re doing some sort of marketing around their brand and why it’s an amazing place to work and their company culture and they’re attracting talent in certain ways, but either way that talent is coming inbound. There’s different strategies around that and reasons why to do it, but you specialize in what’s called ‘passive recruitment’.

Annelle: [01:25] Correct.

Josh: [01:26] And it’s more like, in baseball terms or sports terms, it’s like scouting. You’re going out and you’re finding the specific person you need. You need a new pitcher that’s a certain age to be on a certain team that wants to move and be part of the Braves or whatever it might be. So, tell us about the difference between what you do and what other people do with the active versus passive.

The Difference

Annelle: [01:47] Yeah, so I guess I would consider active to be when you’re putting out ads and job posts on major job boards, like Indeed or Monster or ZipRecruiter, etc., you’re actually putting the job posts out there and you’re waiting for people to apply for that position. Whereas what we try to do is go out and find the people who fit the position. So, we’re looking for the individuals who are currently employed and are probably happy in their current role but would be willing to consider something else if it were the right fit.

[02:29] I believe there’s a statistic that 10% to 15% would be willing to make a move pretty much at any time. So, we’re looking for those individuals and we’re looking for the individuals that very specifically fit the positions that we’re hiring for. So, we go out and search on the title that’s just below the title that we’re actually looking for, and then we do keyword searches on the job descriptions of the individuals that we’re looking for.

Different Recruiter

Josh: [03:06] Gotcha. I almost feel like there needs to be a totally different recruiter title that’s like the tactical recruiter or some little nuance to it, because I’ve worked with a lot of recruiters over my days and oftentimes I felt like they were just trying to match on skills. They just went into Bullhorn or their applicant tracking system, and they go out to events and get all these resumes and they’re just kind of feeding you those resumes.

I feel that way generally because when I’ve seen those resumes, I’m like, “Did anybody go through this and figure out whether this is even a match?” It’s not a match for what we do or whatever it is; or we needed a developer, a PHP developer, and it said PHP on their resume, so they sent it to us. That’s a totally different method of recruiting and sending in volume versus what you do.

Annelle: [03:51] Right. Yeah, we certainly are not sending resumes just to send resumes. There are definitely recruiters out there that do that, but we go out and find the individuals. Then we very thoroughly vet those individuals to make sure that they fit the role. We make sure that they can actually do the things that they’re saying that they do.

Candidate Personas

[04:15] One of the other podcasts that we’ve done was candidate personas and in developing that candidate persona. We are also identifying different questions that we can ask these individuals to make sure that they actually know what they’re doing. For instance, with a digital marketer, one of the questions that I often ask is, “Do you have experience with any marketing automation platforms?” And often the answer is, “Yes.” So, the follow-up question to that is, “Which platforms do you know?” and often the answer is wrong. So, if they don’t even know what the marketing automation platforms are, then I very quickly know that they do not know what they say that they do.

Listen: Candidate Personas, Episode 56

[05:05] So, with each role we try to find those questions that weed out the people who are stretching the truth or have different definitions of what you’re asking. Because really the definition of marketing automation could be many things, but the reality is it’s only one thing. And so, we very quickly know whether somebody actually knows about marketing automation or not.


Josh: [05:31] Right, have them really run you through that skillset. That’s one of the things we’ve talked about on the podcast before in various episodes around this skill matching and how easily manipulatable it is. So, I think having somebody who knows specifically what we’re looking for and can dig in and vet that before they’re sent over as a candidate is just a huge time saver.

Annelle: [05:52] Right. My personal goal is to send the candidate. I’ve often had the first candidate hired that I’ve sent over, and when they don’t hire the first candidate, it’s often because they can’t accept that one candidate is going to be the actual person that they hire. They want to have someone to compare them to. But as a recruiter, I feel that that’s what I’m being paid for. I’m being paid to find them the candidate that they’re looking to hire.

Finding the Match

So, I really go to great lengths to try to find the individual that matches both the skill sets, but also that matches the company. The stage of growth that the company’s in and the size of the organization. An individual in a Fortune 500 company is probably not going to work out very well in a start-up situation. Those resources don’t exist and processes don’t exist in smaller organizations and the candidate will end up annoyed by being at a start-up organization when they’re used to Fortune 500 kinds of processes and things.

Josh: [07:05] Yeah, I know I’ve shared that before. As a small company that wants to move fast, we actually made it a rule that we don’t hire people that have been in the corporate world for too long. They’re used to so many more resources and the speed’s different. I’ve worked in a Fortune 500, so I’m not just projecting that on somebody else. The speed is different.

Annelle: [07:27] It is for sure different, without question.

Training Clients

Josh: [07:29] Yeah, it’s just a bigger boat. They have to make maybe even more diligent decisions. More money is on the line, so there’s reasons for it, perfectly good ones, but I like the fact that you’re trying to find them the candidate. It’s actually a little bit counter to what we train our clients on. What we generally train our clients on is. If you don’t have three people to pick from and really compare, then you didn’t do quite enough due diligence because in the comparison is where you find who you really have available. So, if you’re sending them the three candidates, then it’s going to be a rock star that’s going to stay for a long period of time, hopefully.

Annelle: [08:06] Yes, absolutely, and it’s really not counter to how you go about it. I just do that for them rather than them doing it. So, it’s kind of the same process actually.

Pros and Cons of Each Method

Josh: [08:20] Nice, awesome. So, when it comes to active versus passive, what are you seeing are kind of the pros and cons of each? So, in the active side, there’s lots of people coming in, so that can be a pro and a con. You got a large pool of people. The con is that they’re all looking for roles. Maybe they’re not the top candidate, as they would be in the passive sense. What are some of the pros and cons of the passive side?

Annelle: [08:51] Well, the passive side is a lot more time-consuming, of course, because it requires you going out and looking for the individuals rather than them coming to you. So, you’re actually sourcing them. You’re spending a lot of time on LinkedIn and other recruiting types of platforms to find these individuals and to make sure that they match.


[09:15] And then there’s actually a lot of outreach that goes into that as well. We do most of our outreach through email and actually we integrate some marketing automation into that email process, so that we don’t have to physically send the emails every time. The number one con to recruiting passive candidates is it’s definitely time-consuming. We spend hours looking at profiles and finding individuals that match.

Josh: [09:48] Right, but the pro is that you’re taking all of that work off of your clients and taking care of it for them.

Annelle: [09:54] Yes, absolutely.

Josh: [09:56] Well, thank you for joining us on our episode about active versus passive recruiting and hiring. We look forward to talking to you on the next episode.

[10:08] Thank you for tuning into today’s episode of the Epic Company Culture Podcast with Josh Sweeney. If you enjoy this content, please subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher. For additional content and transcripts, visit epicculture.co. If you have questions or topics you would like us to address or expand on, tweet us @epicculture1 or email at podcast@epicculture.co.