Active vs. Passive Candidates: What’s The Difference?

active vs passive candidates

You’ve probably heard recruiters reference “active” and “passive” candidates. But what is actually the difference? And how do you know which one you want to hire? If you’re considering a new job, which type of candidate are you? Don’t worry, we’re breaking down each term and what it means to you if you’re a hiring manager or candidate.

Active Candidates

Active candidates are just what their moniker implies – people who are actively searching for a new job. While many active candidates are unemployed, about 25% of employed professionals in the United States are actively searching for their next role. This can be due to a variety of reasons from uncertain futures to misaligned culture fit to unsatisfactory work-life balance.

Active candidates often get a bad rep. Because they’re actively looking for a new position, employers often assume they are job hoppers or unskilled/inexperienced. However, there are a few benefits to hiring active candidates. These candidates are easy to find. They probably applied for your job and are eager to interview ASAP.

Active candidates are looking for the next step in their career and will be much more likely to accept offers and hit the ground running throughout the hiring process. In order to hire a great active candidate, be sure to ask them the tough questions about why they’re looking for a new position, what they know about your company, and what their career goals are.

Passive Candidates

A passive job candidate is someone who is being considered for a position but is not actively searching for a job. This does not mean they aren’t interested in a new position. They may be browsing relevant jobs, but only applying to a few or even none at all. They may be unhappy in their current position but can’t justify making a move just yet. In all reality, they’re holding out for that one “perfect” position. According to LinkedIn, 75% of the people you want to hire are passive candidates.

Yes, passive candidates are extremely desirable; however, it’s a lot of work to hire a successful passive candidate. You have to dig for them on job sites, social media, or even by calling them at their current job. They need to be convinced to make a move and sold on your company and position. And when it comes to the offer stage, they’re much more volatile.

Passive candidates are much more likely to stay in their current position/accept a counteroffer/use new opportunities as leverage. All that being said, passive candidates are often loyal employees and aren’t interviewing anywhere else. They are most likely highly skilled and have extensive experience. If you can land a passive candidate, you will probably be very happy with your hire.