"Don't worry; I know you have just taken up this role and not looking for one. Think of it as a coffee meeting and no agenda," said my ex-colleague wanting me to meet their APAC SVP for a CXO role. "If not anything, it will be a good networking catch up as he is an influential guy," he assured.
I thought I had nothing to lose, and also, I always liked Starbucks' ambiance next to my office. We met, and I realized that the Senior Vice President was there to court me for the job. He knew what my credentials were and was appreciating me continuously. I felt like recording that and play it for my boss. But, alas, as I wasn't looking to move, I sent a regret note the next day. Out of curiosity, when I checked later, I got to know that they recruited for that role exactly a year later. In fact, they ran without a CEO for a year, not sure what was the opportunity loss. If somebody had advised them that to go for passive candidates, surely they must have got a long list like me who only were interested in coffee.
As recruiters do we romantisize the theory of passive candidates?
Time to hire is an important metric in the recruitment process, and in the name of quality and fitment, do we drag the selection time? Even then, at best, recruitment is a trial and error process. Despite the best efforts, most employers admit that they end up hiring the wrong person.
Does this mean we recruit in a hurry so that we can speed up the process? The hunt for top talent and passive candidates can derail your hiring process. If you want to hire top talent, then you need to budget for more time and money. We know that top talent is generally well paid and mostly engaged due to their existing employers' success and recognition. Finding them is the first tedious ask; in the world of exaggerated claims and difficult to verify circumstances, labeling an external talent as top talent is a hazardous occupation. Many of us settle for qualifications, brand names, and titles as the 'insurance' to call people as top talent. Even if you find high performing, skilled talent by chance, it is quite likely they won't be serious about your recruitment process and time boundaries. Hiring top talent will test your patience. It is not for the weak-hearted or for people who are in a tearing hurry to scale up. But, the larger question would be, are there passive candidates out there?
Let us say you found people who weren't looking for a job and convinced them to attend interviews; what did you do to them? You just converted them from passive to active, then the inevitable happens.
The passive to active conversion happens purely due to titles and money. Every other notion about a better brand, culture, role, and leadership are clever descriptions to support the change.
Irrespective of how happy we are with our current job, we all tend to be triggered by the forum we are in. Social media presence gives us access and also the stimulus to turn active in no time. Everybody on social media is just a call/message away from turning active for a job change. Let's say you are fulfilled and a long-timer with your employer; all it takes is your best friend/nemesis getting a coveted new role for your competitive juices to turn you into an active job seeker.
Once you are on social media should we say you are actively passive or acting passive till that external trigger?
Enterprises are constantly chasing their tail when it comes to hiring. Large organizations measure their speed to hire, how fast they can scale, and particular on the skills they need, and the budgets they have preset for hiring. By the time the roles are negotiated and approved internally, most organizations are already behind the time curve. So speed and scale become important criteria. When there is a short window for hiring, money, and passive candidate, wooing takes too much time and will botch much of your recruitment matrices.
Everybody is not on social media, but all of us are sure active in one way or the other. One call, or one notification away?
Maybe it's time we stop talking about this pipe dream of passive candidates. All of us are active but passive till we are found?
Kamal is the Co-Founder of Xpheno, a specialist talent solutions company that offers direct hire, IT staff augmentation and engineering professional services. Xpheno brings people and companies together, to contribute to the creation of high-performing specialist workforce. Kamal holds a Bachelor degree in Microbiology from Bangalore University.