Active & Passive Candidates

Why your organization should care about recruiting both Active & Passive Candidates (Video Update)

This article and video is intended for C-Suite and HR leaders, hiring managers, HR professionals, and recruiters who are passionate about helping their companies build a great talent pool, and believe in the principles of building a strong employment brand.

Video Version of Article (Same material)

In this article and video, we will focus on the sourcing and screening part of the recruitment process, and how it can help uncover the best talent available for the job.

  • Sourcing includes finding and identifying candidates that are a potential fit for a job whether applicants or otherwise.
  • Screening involves finding the applicants that seem to be a good fit in the pre-interviewing stage.


All applicants should be considered active candidates to your organization and are essentially one in the same. However, not all active candidates are applicants, because they may have not been aware of your opening in order to apply. If you would like to know how many are active in the niche of the vacancy, figure on about 10-15% of the existing niche workforce on average. Of course there are exceptions and variances. A 2014 article on Linkedin identified 12% as being active candidates, and this has been within a consistent range for many years.

If your organization receives an abundance of applications, you may be tempted to immediately filter down by keywords to a select few. However if your organization is willing to devote more time and resources to search through each resume, you will find hidden gems.

If you are receiving more applications than you are able review, either get outside help, or close down the posting! It is worse for your employment brand to have people apply and not respond in a reasonable time.

This is where having outside assistance could prove beneficial. A recruitment process enhancement service can help you source the best talent available for the job they applied for, as well as for other opportunities within your firm. They may be a much better fit for another job, however they may not have seen the right job apply to, or perhaps it wasn't posted at all! If a person is not highly active in the market, only checks certain job boards, or doesn't check them often, you will miss another 13% of possible candidates, according to the same aforementioned article.


It is no secret that many times that the most ideal candidates for your position will either never see your posting, or decide not to apply. So unless you a cold-calling cowboy, you will miss another 60% of the workforce, because they won't see your job postings at all. If you already have a strong supply of applicants (active candidates), the temptation to rely solely on active candidates may be too great to pass up. However passive candidates should be sought out on vacancies whether applicants exist or not.

A reason why passive candidates are more challenging to recruit than applicants, is that it normally takes more contacts to reach them, they are slower to respond, and it usually calls for more exchange of information about the company and position between the recruiter and the candidate.

Since most HR departments are already understaffed (based on the increasing amount of requisitions they are assigned to fill), it seems logical to rely on filtering existing active candidates (applicants) and ignore passive candidates. However, no company should completely rely on active candidates, even when there seems to be an abundance of them. This is because a company is potentially ignoring about 85-90% of the talent pool when they ignore passive candidates!

The most important role of the recruitment function is to find the best person for the job. This can only be done if sourcing is completed on both active and passive candidates.


Since we have established WHY you should recruit both active and passive candidates, now I will summarize and share with you some best practices on screening the candidates. Your HR staff is no doubt very skillful at screening applicants quickly and efficiently based on experience, education and skill set as they exist on the resume. However, there are many positions that rely heavily on soft skills, as well as overall cultural fit, so these are difficult to determine without doing the following.

Here are 3 essential parts of the screening process for HR/Recruitment staff or RPE resource:

  1. Physically look at each resume/CV, and resist the temptation to rely on a computer to do this. The reason why it is important to look at each resume, and not rely on a software system, is because there are too many types of resumes that exist and too many possibilities for error in formatting when it comes to keywords, etc. There are few organizations that would consciously pass on a great candidate because of a resume formatting issue. The software system or ATS, should be used to organize and track, but it should not have the capability to automatically eliminate candidates from the review process. The only exception to this would be in jobs where attention to detail is paramount. In those cases, perhaps the company takes a more strict approach on resume format and keywords, and is comfortable with allowing a computer to eliminate some candidates from consideration (still not recommended). There is no predetermined number of finalists for every position, so the amount of candidates that move the next step varies depending on the situation.
  2. Determine whether all or certain candidates will be selected for further screening. If any candidate does not qualify to move to the second round, they should be informed within 3 business days.
  3. Contact all selected candidates, via telephone or video conferencing, using a predetermined checklist of questions. The goal of step 2 is to bring the number of candidates in the review process down to only 3 of the top candidates. A ranking system should be used based on a combination of step 1 and 3. All others should be notified of their status.

Tip: candidates generally hate it when companies wait until the job is closed to let them know they didn't get past the initial screening, so let them know as soon as possible.

Most HR departments do not have the time and resources to do the necessary screening involved for every applicant, much less for the gauging of interest and screening of passive candidates.

This is why I recommended to investigate adding an experienced sourcer to the team, whether as an internal resource or RPE (recruitment process enhancement service), like the HR Maximizer, to take care of sourcing and initial screening in a way that helps your employment brand instead of hurting it.

This will help your HR staff focus on what they do best: interfacing with hiring managers, managing the workflow of requisitions, organizing interviews, following up with on boarding/credentialing and more. Imagine how this enhancement would allow you to identify the best candidates more quickly, which can also reduce your time-to-fill!

Video introduction to an RPE service

Rollis Fontenot IIIRollis Fontenot IIIPresident and Business Development Executive for Ascend HR Corp. Rollis recruited healthcare clinicians, professionals, managers and executives since 2004. Some examples titles include: CEO, Director, Nurse Manager, RN, nurse practitioner, physician, physician assistant and more. Rollis has also recruited many other functions within healthcare as well as escrow officers and assistants within the title insurance industry.

Ascend HR Corp offers recruitment services on a monthly subscription. We specialize in recruitment process enhancement from finding qualified and interested candidates all the way to full life-cycle recruitment for our clients. We specialize in fixing the most difficult recruitment issues/challenges. No problem is too large. We can help turn around the results of any recruitment department that wants to improve. Please download a sample of Rollis' book "Winning the Talent Acquisition Game with Recruitment Process Enhancement"