"We need to get rid of the words 'active' versus 'passive,'" says Kassandra Barnes, research and content manager at CareerBuilder. "They just aren't relevant words in the job-search landscape anymore.'' Barnes is referring to the findings of CareerBuilder's and Inavero's 2012 Candidate Behavior Study, which highlights the behaviors and perceptions of today's job seekers.
One of the survey's major findings was that, employed or unemployed, the vast majority of workers are almost always seeking new opportunities. Of the 1,291 workers nationwide who participated in the survey, 77 percent said they were either actively searching for a new job or open to new opportunities, and 35 percent said they begin preparing for their next job within weeks of starting a new one. When it comes to frequency, 71 percent of workers said that searching for new opportunities is part of their regular routine, whether or not they're employed, with 27 percent searching as frequently as once a week.
These findings weren't unique to any particular demographic segment. Workers of both genders and across various income levels, generations and backgrounds reported similar attitudes and behaviors.
How employers should treat all job candidates
Given these findings, employers should stop thinking of job seekers in terms like "passive" and "active," since a majority of workers are constantly on alert for new job opportunities. Instead, employers who want to hire more effectively should focus less on finding passive job seekers, since most workers are casually browsing opportunities and employers at any given time.
Why employers run into hiring roadblocks
The other danger in using these labels is that it can inadvertently derail the employee search, causing employers to miss out on perfectly qualified workers. "Employers tend to think of active and passive candidates in terms of bad and good," Barnes says. "Yet passive candidates are not necessarily better than active candidates. If anything, they might even be less ambitious or willing to leave their current company." Employers do themselves a disservice by ignoring the active candidates who have shown interest in their companies.
"Think of recruitment in terms of running for political office," Barnes says. "Why would you try to sway a Republican to be a Democrat -- or vice versa -- when you should really focus on re-energizing your base population?" For hiring managers, their base is active job seekers, so it only works against them to ignore or discredit this group.