Passive is Passé – Executives Say Active Job Seekers Make the Best Candidates

Recruiters may favor passive candidates, but C-suite executives say their best candidates are those actively looking for a job.

Overwhelmingly, they find these people via their own professional network, looking for those with the motivation and drive that will mesh best with their company’s culture.

“What executives tell us when they say a candidate’s motivations are most important is that the person they hire must be a good fit for the company’s culture,” said Futurestep Managing Director of Global Operations Vic Khan.

Surveying 500 of Korn Ferry’s most senior executive contacts, Futurestep, Korn Ferry’s recruiting consultancy, found a third of them considered cultural fit the most important factor when sourcing candidates. Skills and experience were not unimportant, yet far fewer of the surveyed executives considered them to be the most important factor in sourcing candidates.

Why nearly 7-in-10 executives declared active job seekers make the best candidates wasn’t part of the survey. One possibility is that active seekers are more highly motivated to pursue the opportunity and thus demonstrate the drive the executives want.

Could ignoring passive candidates be a costly mistake?

That focus might be a costly mistake, Khan suggested.

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“Executives may be missing the opportunity to find highly qualified candidates if they don’t pay attention to passive job seekers,” he said Khan. He recommended companies use multiple channels to build strong brands and communicate the company’s culture. “Even those not looking for a job might become interested in a company if they see it as a dynamic, interesting place to work.”

He also recommended companies improve their internal referral network. A mere 6 percent of executives turn first to their own company for candidates and referrals, perhaps a sign that what internal mobility programs exist aren’t as effective as they should be.

“Having a solid professional network has been and will always be critical for those sourcing candidates,” said Khan. “However, we also recommend that organizations create an internal mobility program to tap into the goldmine of key talent that already exists within the company.”

John Zappe is the former editor of and contributing editor of John was a newspaper reporter and editor before transitioning to digital media. In 1994, he launched one of the  first newspaper sites. Before joining ERE Media , John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group where he developed and managed a team of developers, content producers and digital advertising and marketing specialists.

Today, John is a contract writer producing whitepapers, blog posts, thought leadership articles and marketing content and managing  social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing.His website is

In his spare time he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.