7 reasons why employers should hire ACTIVE job seekers

A disturbing conversation with statewide colleagues led to the unfortunate conclusion that some hiring authorities are still overlooking “active” job candidates and only considering “passive” candidates. I thought employers were getting past this malarkey and letting go of the idea that only passive candidates are best. Apparently not.

unemployed

Do you remember that back in 2011 when some companies shamefully admitted to not hiring active job seekers? A search on this topic might reveal an infamous article from the  Business Insider,  72 companies that might not hire you unless you already have a job, supporting this fact.

Five years later, this practice of only considering passive job seekers exists and is even encouraged by LinkedIn with its Recruiter Lite package. I was called by a LinkedIn employee who wanted to know if I was interested in this product. He emphasized it is the best way to find passive job seekers. I quickly ended the conversation.

There is something inherently wrong with companies refusing to hire people who are out of work for one year, six months, and even three months. Here’s why, in my opinion.

1. It is often beyond a person’s control when they’re terminated. CNBC announced in 2015 that Kraft Food was going to lay off 2,600 people. All very capable and diligent employees, they were not terminated due to poor performance. They were terminated because the company failed.

Other large companies in my part of the state, such as Philips Lighting and EMC, have laid off many skilled people. Again, losing their jobs had nothing to do with their performance. Yet somehow employers overlook the fact that victims of major layoffs are unworthy of consideration.

2. The unemployed cannot be accused of not wanting to work. In fact, getting back to work is their motivating factor in life. Employers should see this as an opportunity to hire hungry qualified active job seekers.

According to a poll taken for an Indeed.com article, “VPs say active candidates have better motivational drive than passive candidates. When a candidate shows interest and applies in a job, they’re more likely to be invested in the role and have a higher chance at succeeding.”

3. A good number of active job seekers don’t know the first thing about landing a job, have no idea how to conduct a job search. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listen to job seekers say they’ve sent out hundreds of resumes, using Indeed.com, Monster.com, Dice.com—and other job boards—without getting any love.

The sad fact is that they know the best ways to conduct their job search, but they can’t bring themselves to network, use LinkedIn properly, contact their alumni association, enlist the help of recruiters, and basically get out of their house. They do what’s easy, not what’s right.

Furthermore, when they land an interview with employers, they freeze and all the intelligence they possess seems to vanish like fog. They go to interview after interview where they become increasingly nervous. Employers need to recognize this as nerves, not that candidates are incapable of doing the job.

4. To improve the economic landscape, people have to work in order to contribute. Doesn’t it make sense to hire a capable active job seeker as opposed to someone who is already employed? My feelings are particularly strong about this now that it’s the holiday seasons, when the unemployed need to buy presents.

You may reason that the person who leaves a company for the next one will be replaced by a new employee. Not necessarily. Companies and organizations aren’t quick to fill vacant positions. Reviving the weak economy must be a priority of employers.

5. Companies’ complaints they can’t find enough talented workers is an excuse they use for not being able to pull the trigger. What they’re saying is that they can’t find someone who can assume the duties immediately, and aren’t willing to take a chance on active job seekers who (related to # 2) want to work.

In a conversation I had years ago with a recruiter , he told me his list of positions that needed to be filled was a mile long. He said it wasn’t for lack of trying, his hiring managers wanted the perfect candidates.

Perhaps an active job seeker doesn’t have the latest experience in Java or Salesforce or HR procedures, but they have the motivation and ability to update their skills. These candidates will probably make the best employees in the long term, if given the opportunity to learn.

6. Let’s not forget about emotional intelligence (EQ) which is perhaps more important than expertise in the latest technology. Reports claim that people with high EQ are 70% more likely to be successful than those who lack EQ.

Employers must look beyond an active job seeker’s resume and give them a chance to demonstrate themselves in an interview. Yet, too many active job seekers don’t get past the resume scan if they have an employment gap of more than three months.

7. It’s just plain wrong to default to passive candidates. As a workshop facilitator at an urban career center, I see the hopes of my customers crushed by being  interviewed a number of times only to find out that the companies hired people who were already working at other companies.

Hiring companies must show compassion and try their best to hire qualified candidates who need the work. They have a moral obligation to hire qualified job seekers, regardless of their age, disability, race, gender, or employment status.


To recruiters, “passive” job seekers seem like a sure bet. But there’s one thing they need to consider when using programs like Recruiter Lite, that not all passive seekers are quality workers. Their best employees might be the ones who fell on poor luck but are hungry to get back in the saddle.

Photo: Flickr, Troy Granger 

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5 thoughts on “7 reasons why employers should hire ACTIVE job seekers

  1. Jim Peacock

    I agree Bob, what is wrong with people to think that passive job seekers are better? That is simply crazy thinking. As you state, people are out of work for all kinds of reasons beyond their control, and if they are a true lousy employee, you will typically find that out easily.

    Companies should hire for talent and skills that fit their needs, not some arbitrary reason like “I only hire people who are working right now”.

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    1. Things Career Related Post author

      I think we remember that time in 2011 when the announcement that certain companies only hired passive seekers. To me, it felt like a slap in the face, even though I was gainfully employed. How arrogant. Now I’m all riled up. This is a seriously revised post I wrote back then. I wrote it because we were talking about this as the CTL Career Jam Day. Talk to you soon.

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  2. Kimberly Watson

    I think a trip to the local “re-employment” office or other facility where people are actively looking for a job is very eye opening. There are SO many people that are either reentering, reinventing or recovering from a layoff that are looking. Take the time to put your best foot forward and do all you can to make yourself as marketable as possible. Networking always!

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      1. Things Career Related Post author

        I don’t think it’s shameless promotion, David. But I think there needs to be a show of goodwill from both sides. I envision a job fair but for older workers. Can anyone there coordinate this? It’s a huge undertaking but not entirely impossible.

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