Why LinkedIn and Indeed Can’t Agree on the Definition of a Passive Candidate

One of my core duties here at Kinetix is to evaluate new sourcing and recruiting platforms and maintain relationships with current vendors in that space. Not a week goes by that I don’t receive an email or phone call from an intrepid account manager asking me to demo his or her solution that will change the way we find candidates! Recently, I’ve noticed a trend in these technologies that puts the emphasis on helping recruiters find those elusive passive candidates we hear about so much. But, do we really need the latest and greatest software to help us aggregate candidate profiles from across the web? I think a lot of these candidates can be found using existing tools and a little creativity + hard work. Before we dive into some best practices for sourcing passive candidates, let’s take a look at the facts, figures, and myths regarding this particular group.

There‚Äôs been a healthy debate regarding passive candidates over the last few years as the economy has come roaring back and more job opportunities have opened up. In order to compete for talent now, it‚Äôs been drilled into us that we have to go out and find these magical candidates who may or may not be looking for a new opportunity. But, what is a truly passive candidate and do they make up a large percentage of the workforce? LinkedIn defines a passive candidate as one who is ‚Äúcurrently employed, but not looking for a new opportunity.‚Äù According to their most recent Talent Trends study, 64% of candidates can be considered passive. Contrast that with Indeed‚Äôs most recent Science of Talent Attraction study that posits only 29% of candidates are truly passive.

Why the disparity in numbers? Perhaps it‚Äôs because both organizations define passive candidates differently. Indeed classifies a truly passive candidate as one who is ‚Äúnot actively looking or open to a new job.‚Äù In their methodology, 71% of candidates do not fall into this category. On top of that, 81% say they look at job opportunities online, whether they‚Äôre truly searching for a change or not. There‚Äôs also a distinction between each platform‚Äôs central focus. LinkedIn can certainly be considered the world‚Äôs largest resume database while Indeed is the market leader in job search for candidates. This difference is key for each company when defining what a passive candidate looks like to them.

I highlighted these numbers to show the wide gap between two of the largest companies in the talent acquisition space. If they can’t agree on definitions and facts and figures, how do the rest of us reach out to passive candidates on behalf of our organizations? I believe regardless of what these studies show, there’s an opportunity to reach out to candidates in different ways whether they consider themselves active and passive. Below are some best practices you can use to make this an effective and productive search.

  1. Be a search master. A good recruiter knows how to utilize LinkedIn‚Äôs basic search functionality to find candidates who are a decent fit for the role. A great recruiter can build a killer boolean search string that dives deeper into the keywords of the job and pulls in the high-quality candidates best suited for the position. Don‚Äôt be afraid to take that search string outside of LinkedIn or Indeed and try using it on search platforms like Google, Google Faces, or social media.
  2. Engage talent communities. Go ahead and reach out to your network and let them know you’re on the hunt for ___. Often times, these types of referrals yield the greatest number of quality applicants. Or if you have access to a talent community, engage them with relevant content about the employer,
  3. Persistence is key. Ever heard of the rule of 7 in sales? It‚Äôs the belief that most consumers won‚Äôt pay attention to a marketing message or sales pitch until the 7th contact. In recruiting, you should be just as persistent. Now, you may not want to bother a candidate 7 times but being persistent when dealing with passive candidates is key. Remember, you sought them out so the burden is on you to move them forward.

Even though the true percentage of passive candidates in the workforce is still up for debate, you can position yourself to be successful in reaching out to as many qualified candidates as possible. Don’t just stop at the obvious candidates who send in an application or who you find on a resume database. Show a little initiative and creativity and the purple squirrels just may start rolling in.



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