Why Companies Still Seek Passive Candidates

Goat sticking its head through a fence to eat grass on the other side

I read a post today entitled “Why Are We So Obsessed With Finding ‘Passive’ Job Candidates?” My first thought was, “Still?

I mean, honestly — why would companies stigmatize a person simply because s/he was a victim of the terrible economy we’ve been having for the past few years? Shouldn’t the focus be on the person’s skills and the potential value that could be brought to the company?

And then it hit me. How companies are acting now is really no different than how people have acted from little on.

I noticed around the time my youngest turned two that my children would both go after the exact same toy and then bicker about who got to play with it. It didn’t matter if they both had been happily playing with different toys, nor did it matter if we has a second toy that was similar to the one that was wanted by both of them. What mattered is that they both had to have that toy right now! And now, at 4 and 6, the behavior has abated a bit, but it still continues…

The post I read described the fascination with passive candidates this way:

“It’s all about the notion that the very best candidates are the ones who are working away at their job, accomplishing a great deal, and not particularly engaged in looking for new employment.”

See, there’s this idea that if something appears to be unattainable, it must be superior in some way. You know, the whole “the grass is greener on the other side” mentality that leads kids to fight over the same toy, or to perceive that their friend’s new bike is better than their old, cruddy one, or to pine away after the most popular person in high school.

Other objects or people may possess virtually the same attributes that are admired in “the one” that is being held up on a pedestal, but those characteristics are not recognized. Maybe it’s too easy to get or it “feels” ordinary. There’s little cognition that goes into thinking that way; it just naturally happens.

Isn’t it time that companies stop falling back on this innate behavior that leads to an idolization of the elusive candidate?

Image courtesy of frankenstoen

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