I will first say that I do see value in job boards, and believe it is a critical tool to become successful as a sourcer/recruiter.  It’s like building a house.  You can not and would not build a house with just one tool.  It takes many tools to build a home that will stand the test of time.  As a recruiter/sourcer, you need to take the same approach when finding the perfect candidate.  Not only will you be successful, but you will be able to find candidates no one else is working with.  Doesn’t it feel good when you get asked how you found a candidate, and you have some great story about the sourcing technique? I believe you can find a lot of value in your internal ATS, while taking advantage of work done by others.


What would you need to start your own staffing company? Answer: Telephone and a subscription to a job board.  However, you will soon realize almost every candidate you speak with has 5 other better opportunities he/she is exploring.  I have always been a believer in if you live by the jobs boards you will die by the job boards…


Let me explain a little for those of you who do spend a lot of time on these boards.  What is the first thing you do when you find a good candidate on the job board?  If you are doing your job you most likely put this candidate into your ATS.  As time goes on, this candidate more than likely has either found another job, or decided to stick it out with his/her current employer thus making him/her a non-active candidate.  Many times these candidates realize they have made a bad choice, and would be interested in listening to potential better job opportunities.  BAM! This passive candidate is like gold, and where you want to be spending your time.  Chances are they have not been kept in touch with by other agencies, and at times you are the only one they are speaking to about a new position.  You will need to be cautious about working with these candidates.  This can be a double edged sword, and you will need to dig into why they would want to make a switch so soon, or why they have again decided to leave their employer.  Last thing you want or need is a candidate who will again leave your position for another better opportunity. 


I know what you are saying at this point….”I dig through the database, and NO ONE is interested” or “I dig through the database and feel like I leave 1000 voice mails.”  You will have days like these when working through an internal ATS, but I guarantee if you put into the work you will yield great results. Stick with what you are doing, and the numbers will owe you (I always thought this phrase was a bunch of crock, but for some reason it always rang true).


It is no secret, passive candidates are the candidates we all want to be working with.  Working with passive candidates gives us a better opportunity to sell them on the position we have, and gives us a better chance to reduce fall off after an offer has been accepted.  Those who succeed in this business, are the ones who can find and sell to these candidates.

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Comment by Tim Spagnola on December 20, 2012 at 7:32am

Ryan- your last line of this post sums it up quite well. There is not low lying fruit and the key to long term success is building those relationships and staying in front of folks. We all make a placement from time to time w/. the candidate found on a board or replying to a post, but placing the passive candidates really will be the key to taking your desk to the next level. Thanks for sharing. 

Comment by Randall Scasny on December 20, 2012 at 9:09am

I've been in the job search assistance business for a long time. I've also spent a lot of time "testing" the effectiveness of job boards and social recruiting sites. A handful of leads from social sites--dreadful responses even with high level managers!

I find the job boards very useful in the first stage of a job search campaign. I start with the job boards to see what kind of leads I get from a particular resume and build a specific employer profile (job title, skills, industries, culture etc.). Then I take the job search offline and work with a candidate in (a) finding companies that match our employer profile, (b) teach the candidate how to human network since most jobs are still filled by the human factor and (c) apply directly on an employer's career site cutting out the middle people. It works extremely well and it is quick!

Candidates all have 1 thing in common, whether they are active or passive: they want a job that makes them feel good. Don't worry about passive/active, whatever. Seek out the sincere candidates and you as a recruiter will find success.

Randall Scasny

Director, FS5 Consulting


Comment by Ryan Harding on December 20, 2012 at 11:01am

Thanks for the comments!  You are correct Randall, candidates do want a job that makes them happy, but how many times do candidates measure happiness with $$$$$?  If you are able to find a candidate who truly does want a good position, then you are correct in passive or active not making a differance.

Comment by Randall Scasny on December 20, 2012 at 11:40am


You ask an excellent question. Since I operate a job search assistance service, and the job seeker pays me a fee, I get to know them quite well, especially if i work with them for months. What I have found is that people who are unhappy with their jobs no matter the reason are half delusional and half poor decision makers with a small percent actually being abused. People in general have a difficult time with objectivity in every aspect of their lives. I learn this stuff because I end up dealing with all their issues that dovetail into their career problems. I see my job is to de-babelize this mass confusion and put them on a straight course. When I do see people who are purely motivated by money,it's always a red flag for me -- some kind of hidden agenda. Conversely, I find employers pass up reasonable applicants all the time with completely unrealistic expectations. I  often see job ads that I say "no one exists anywhere who has all this stuff and if she/he does exist, they are not available." Employers who seek geniuses or their so-called perfect candidate are fooling themselves. Find a reasonable 85% er who is eager to do  good job. This kind of candidate requires minimal investment with maximum return. Getting people hired is a study in human nature.



Comment by Malia Jorgensen on December 20, 2012 at 12:00pm

Totally agree with you, Ryan!  I spent 8 years in agency recruiting and I was successful because of the passive candidates - whom I found through referrals (this was before Linked In) and our database (staying in touch).  I'm now working for a consulting firm and the same practice applies.  When you scrape the job boards you are competing with everyone else and you may get lucky, but it is worth the time to develop relationships with people who are "happy in their current jobs". 

Comment by Jen Dewar on December 20, 2012 at 4:17pm

So simple, and yet so effective. It baffles me that recruiters don't utilize their ATSs to find candidates more often. If you put a little extra time into getting to know the candidate at the start, you likely understand what they're looking for and can approach them with the perfect opportunity when it comes up. And if you're smart, you've connected with them on Linkedin so you can supplement your (perhaps) outdated resume with updated information before you reach out.

The only place I disagree is that "passive candidates are the candidates we all want to be working with". The point of sourcing/recruiting is to find the best person for the position - and that person can be actively seeking a new job, looking but not applying anywhere, or happily employed and not looking to make a move. To have the most success, sourcers and recruiters should be looking at the entire talent pool to find the best from each category. Although active job seekers are more likely to be applying and interviewing elsewhere - you will have less work to do in terms of convincing them to make a move. They're open to hearing from you and are more likely to respond to your message.


Jen Picard

Comment by Tiffany Branch on December 21, 2012 at 12:32pm

I agree Jen. I hate the idea that the "passive" candidate is the "best" candidate. Have we never looked for another opportunity? Just because one may be "actively" seeking a new job doesn't translate to "poor candidate." I think we as recruiters can sometimes forget what it is like to be a "jobseeker."

Comment by Pamela Witzig on December 25, 2012 at 3:46pm

Relationships and sourcing passive candidates is the only way. As stated in a recent blog, we never use job boards. Ever.

Happy New Year.

Pam Witzig


Comment by Amy Ala on December 27, 2012 at 7:58pm

Wait - relationships and sourcing passive candidates is the only way to what, exactly?

Comment by Rayanne on December 29, 2012 at 12:15pm

Wow-- never use job boards? - even though that is the first place candidates (active OR passive) go when even thinking about looking for a job? 

I think you all have lost the point of a job board - it is to advertise a job opening - not recruit the perfect candidate.  That is a recruiter's job.  The "problem with job boards" is that recruiters, hiring managers, or HR professionals assume that a job posting should produce perfectly qualified candidates.  Maybe if those individuals who posted jobs to job boards or their own career page actually wrote a quality job advertisement/posting instead of simply copying and pasting a staid and crappy job description into the job summary section of the posting process, there would be better candidates in the recruiter's inbox.

You are forgetting a very important FACT:  Job boards still account for 20% of hires, second only to Employee referrals.  It is short-sighted to discount such a classic and still-standing source of hire.  Perhaps success has been limited because recruiters who post jobs simply expect that to be all the work they have to do.

It is important to remember that there is a BIG difference between corporate or in-house recruiting and 3rd party or agency recruiting.  If you think corporations are going to quite posting to job boards or pull down their own career pages, you have a nut loose.    FACT: Aggressive hiring campaigns utilize job boards.  And with the implementation of social sharing, job postings are reaching more passive candidates than ever before.  And employment branding is REAL. 

Job boards are not dead and they are not going away - they are just going have continually improving tech behind them and savvy recruiting departments will figure out how to benefit better from their use.  If they were dead, do think companies  like Broadbean would be successful and after eleven years in business be finishing up their best quarter ever?  

But, by all means, keep thinking that innovative and intelligent software or that jobseekers will have no impact on the sourcing process.  While you're at it, you might want to dust off your resume, too. (Yikes - that means you'll probably upload it to a job board!!)


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