3 ways to approach them Published on 20-04-2023

How do active-passive and passive-passive candidates differ?

There are two types of passive job candidates, Intelligence Group found: one is bombarded by overzealous recruiters, the other neglected. How do you approach those passive candidates in a smart way, so that you don’t have to join other recruiters in the queue at the back?

Usually, recruiters distinguish active, inactive and latent job seekers. But Intelligence Group looked further into its talent intelligence dashboard Giant and discovered the existence of TWO types of passive candidates. By focusing on those passives, the labour market data analysis group found methods to approach precisely that lesser-known group. Multiple visions of the approach are possible, experts say. In any case, RMA expert Caroline Pols will explain how she operates.

First, let’s explain how we distinguish the two groups of passive candidates. These are active-passive candidates and passive-passive candidates. Active-passive candidates are people who say: ‘I am open to a new job’, without actively applying for a job themselves. Above all, they want to be approached.

In addition, the passive-passive job seeker exists with an attitude of ‘if you come by, then I’m fine with it. I’m open to a new job, but I will not do anything for it.’

In terms of ratio, it is about one-third active-passive job seekers, and two-thirds passive-passive.

How can we tell? We looked at the unique orientation behavior of this group of candidates.

Active candidates

For example, the active job seekers. Typical for these active people: they are on job boards, have uploaded their CV on a job site or on a CV database, they are mediated through an employment agency and ensure that they can be found online. If necessary, they use an unemployment agency, or else an e-mail service.

Active-passive candidates

If you look at the active-passive candidates , you clearly see different behavior. They are not on job boards, they sometimes have a look, but nothing more. They keep an eye on social media, especially when vacancies come along. Long-term branding? Don’t bother. Job marketing, that’s what they love. And they ensure that they can be found via a LinkedIn profile or other profile. They leave digital traces/crumbs in their network so recruiters can find them. And they do so by reporting to recruitment and selection agencies, or by calling an account manager.

Latent-latent candidates

Then you have the latent-latent target group. ‘That’s the real gold’, says Intelligence Group director Geert-Jan Waasdorp, ‘but we don’t really consider them that at all! Recruiters tend to ignore them.’

The latent-latent job seekers follow social media like everyone else, but are receptive to the employer branding message and related content. This group is approachable through acquaintances and network, or with the referral strategy. You can recruit them through their colleagues and former colleagues, acquaintances and friends. Sometimes this group wants to move with an open application, but that is the result of long-term employer branding: they have been following that company for a long time and sometimes communicate with it. Actually, the passive passive candidates cannot be found online, at least, they do not make any extra effort. This group is also focused on internal mobility, vacancies within the company, they like to see what is possible within their own organization. The latter is a fact that employers have ignored in recent years, says Waasdorp, or in his view they are not doing enough about it. Which is actually one of the most important strategies in this tight labor market.


Wonderful, this newly discovered human. But what strategy do you ultimately use to approach this homo latenticus?

For the active job seeker, this is familiar territory, namely Labour Market Communication, Marketing and Recruitment. Good old labour market communication, aimed at attracting candidates. That works, especially if you have a strong employer brand.

The second group, the active-passive seekers? A lot of people are already hunting for them: sourcing. That’s where you’ll find the hunters. Just draw a number for the queue, because too many recruiters approach too few candidates, which only will backfire.

We come to the passive-passive category, which contains about two-thirds of the group of latents.  You reach these people through employmer branding and through RMA (Recruitment Marketing Automation). In addition to that e-commerce strategy, IM is important, Internal Mobility. If you are satisfied where you are, you initially look for another job within your current organization.

Recruitment Marketing Automation

Caroline Pols, founder of Up in Business, is a pioneer and expert in the field of RMA. How does she reach passive passive customers? ‘At UP, we focus on passive candidates, using a lot of LinkedIn. If passive-passives are not present on LinkedIn, I am curious how you contact them. Then the channels become scarce.’

‘What we see a lot is that people have to be active on LinkedIn for their work, and not so much for personal branding. Yet there are opportunities there. By being visible as a company on LinkedIn, you can become part of their world. Only sourcing and – almost out of nowhere – approaching, that is indeed counterproductive, then you get negative employer branding. Before a passive job seeker even gets to your company’s website, a whole process precedes it.’

Pols’ method: ‘For example, if a client needs 50 developers, we consult Giant to get an idea of the target group. Suppose 50 percent passively look for a job. Now we have an eye on how many people we need to build a brand preference with. And we know which channels the target group is on. Then we approach these people structurally. Only with content, professionally, so that people can become better at their profession. That’s what everyone wants, right? There must be a clear correlation with the positions they could later hold with the client. Now we know how big the talent pool has to be, how to build the brand preference, to have 50 developers at the end of the process. Thanks to RMA, we follow the behavior of that passively seeking candidate. 50 developers? There are no searching IT people. Approached by a recruiter? Then the shutters close. Only interesting content, brought by IT professionals, can bring your company into focus.’

Candidate’s willingness to take action

Koen Roozen of HetRecruitingKantoor responds to the classification passive-passive versus active-passive. ‘Interesting, but difficult to get sharp. That passive category is not a group of homogeneous candidates, I very much agree. But focus on the channels through which you get the message to the candidates, such as IM (Internal Mobility), social networks, RMA? It should be much more about the candidate’s willingness to take action or apply, rather than through which channel he gets that information. If that person is going to take action, that has to be the focus of a recruiter.’

Roozen sees applying for a job as a journey. ‘You start satisfied in your job and one day that will shift, but that sentiment is not immediately out in the open. Only when a candidate thinks a job is REALLY appropriate does he/she wants to respond or engage in conversation. Then they make an action, then they transform from passive to active.’

EB, RMA and IM offer opportunities to get passive talent your way, Roozen acknowledges. ‘If someone doesn’t know what they want to do with their life, I can offer a vacancy, but they still don’t know what they want and if this is the ultimate dream job. It is also about orientation, contact moments in advance. As a recruiter, you can apply touch points at several places in the candidate journey – the ‘application journey’. It doesn’t always have to be physical or personal. If people are looking for a vacancy in a job board, the ship is almost in port. Being actively involved in their career with people, but not yet applying (active target group), pitching a vacancy hardly makes sense. You better pitch your employer proposition, that you are a company that does cool things. Then you are working on Employer Branding. RMA can support you well in this. Messages tailored to the phase, this is how you pick the candidate. All those touch points must generate relevance, with every passive candidate, no matter how passive. Above all, they want to be seen as human beings.”

In short, the fight and methodology for the passive candidate – no matter how latent, active, passive – is still wide open. Intelligence Group’s first move to clarify the passive-passive job seeker in particular provokes discussion that is essential to integrate this valuable target group more into the recruitment approach. There are many differences and visions in these approaches, as well as the fact that it requires a different approach, whether it concerns starters, men or blue colar workers. In all cases, having the right knowledge and data of this latent target group is an important starting point.