You'd think that the definitions of active and passive candidates are fairly straightforward. Active candidates were the ones who come to you, while passive candidates aren't as motivated to find a new job. Those things are true, but the definitions of active and passive tech candidates are much different than they are for many other roles.
Because of this, your approach to recruiting an active or a passive developer should also be much different than it is when you hire non-technical talent. Based on what we know about how developers of all backgrounds approach the job search, here’s what you should understand about the mindsets of active and passive tech candidates.
It’s no secret that the best tech talent is often not available on the open market, with almost 98% of developers we surveyed earlier this year claiming at least part-time employment status. However, unlike active job-seekers in most industries, developers who are proactively searching for their next job don’t stay available for very long. Our CEO Joel Spolsky wrote that with the way the developer market works, the average programmer will only apply for around four jobs over the course of his or her entire career.
Since programmers usually aren’t without work for very long, it’s important to make sure the active candidates that are in your pipeline have a positive experience throughout the entire interview process, even if you ultimately decide not to hire them. In addition to making sure you’re taking care of developer candidates while they’re in your offices for interviews, make sure you’re not keeping them waiting between interview rounds for very long, especially since they will likely have a number of opportunities to choose between once they’ve finished their search.
Since even the most active tech candidates are often able to choose where they work, it’d be easy to assume that passive candidates are not even remotely interested in discussing new opportunities. In fact, odds are that you’ve been met with enough resistance when hiring developers in the past, you’ve come to assume that an email with the words “I’m not interested” means that you should really leave that developer alone.
We’ve also found that when a developer says they’re not interested in a position, that’s only an indication that they don’t feel the opportunity in front of them is worth considering. However, that does not mean they’ve completely ruled out the idea of making a transition into a new role. While plenty are perfectly content with their current gigs, it’s worth re-emphasizing that 69% of developers we surveyed earlier this year said they would consider moving jobs if the right opportunity presented itself to them. There are a number of things you can to do recruit passive tech candidates, but if you have a good reason for them to be excited about coming to work for you, there’s no reason to be afraid of reaching out to a developer who otherwise seems happily employed.