Active Candidates vs Passive Candidates: Understanding the Pros, Cons, and Market Dynamics


When it comes to recruiting talent, employers often categorise candidates into two main types: Active and Passive.

Active Candidates: These are individuals actively seeking a new job, either because they are unemployed or are looking to make a move from their current position.

Passive Candidates: These are individuals who are not actively seeking new employment but may be open to new opportunities.

In this blog, we’ll delve into the pros and cons of hiring active vs passive candidates, explore what percentage of the market they typically occupy, and discuss why passive candidates are often viewed as higher-quality prospects.

Pros and Cons

Pros of Active Candidates

  1. Availability: Ready to start as soon as possible.
  2. Easier to Find: They actively apply for jobs.
  3. Lower Costs: Less time and money spent on recruitment.
  4. Motivated: Eager to make a positive impression.
  5. Updated Skills: May have recently refreshed their skills.

Cons of Active Candidates

  1. Competition: Often applying to multiple places.
  2. Reasons for Leaving: Previous job loss could be a red flag.
  3. Settling: May accept a less-than-ideal role.
  4. Overlaps: Scheduling can sometimes clash if they are currently employed elsewhere.

Pros of Passive Candidates

  1. High-Quality Talent: Often top performers in their current roles.
  2. Less Competition: Less likely to lose them to another offer.
  3. Stability: Indicative of longer job tenure.
  4. Negotiation Leverage: Less stringent about salary.
  5. Cultural Fit: Easier to find through targeted searches.

Cons of Passive Candidates

  1. Hard to Find: Not actively looking for jobs.
  2. Higher Costs: More resources required to recruit.
  3. Contentment Risk: May be too content in their current job.
  4. Time-Consuming: Longer to convince them to make a move.
  5. Compensation Expectations: May demand a higher salary.

Percentage of Active vs Passive Candidates in the Market

 Active Candidates
  • Percentage: Roughly 20-30%, although this can fluctuate depending on various factors like the economy.

Passive Candidates

  • Percentage: Approximately 70-80%, again subject to various influencing factors.

Why Ignoring Passive Candidates is a Missed Opportunity

One key takeaway from the percentage distribution of active and passive candidates is this: If you’re not creating a strategy that targets passive candidates, you’re potentially missing out on 70-80% of the available talent market.

Given that passive candidates comprise such a significant portion of the talent pool, ignoring them could mean missing out on high-quality individuals who could be perfect fits for your organisation. Their experience, skills, and potentially longer tenure make them highly desirable.

This doesn’t mean you should overlook active candidates; however, a balanced approach that also targets passive candidates could provide you with a richer and more diverse talent pipeline.

Why Passive Candidates Are Often of Higher Quality

Skill Level and Performance

  1. Already Employed: Demonstrates a certain skill level.
  2. Track Record: Likely have stable work history.

Motivational Factors

  1. Job Security: Motivated by career growth.
  2. Career-Focused: Likely to be competent and meet current employer expectations.

Professional Development

  1. Continuous Growth: Often up-to-date on industry best practices.
  2. Network: A more active professional network.

Cultural Fit and Soft Skills

  1. Soft Skills: Likely to possess necessary teamwork and communication skills.
  2. Cultural Fit: Easier to find through targeted searches based on aligned values and goals.

Less Competition

  1. Exclusive Talent Pool: Less likely to be considering multiple offers.
  2. Negotiation Leverage: Simplified salary and benefit negotiations.


Understanding the nuances between active and passive candidates can help you formulate a more effective recruitment strategy. Given the dynamic nature of the job market, a blended approach targeting both active and passive candidates may offer the best of both worlds. And while passive candidates are often seen as higher quality, it’s crucial to employ a well-rounded strategy that takes into account the specific needs and conditions of your industry, role, and company.

So, the next time you’re faced with a hiring decision, consider the intricate dynamics of active vs passive candidates, and you might find yourself with not just a new employee, but the right employee.

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