Motivators That Accelerate Job Transition Among Passive Candidates

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Building a talent pipeline is exceedingly complex. There is a shortage of skilled talent and a surplus of lower-skilled workers – increasing competition for the best, brightest and most experienced employees. Added to this challenge is the fact that the best and the smartest talent is seldom actively looking for a job. Employees who are satisfied with their current roles, professional development prospects, compensation, work culture, and leadership are not usually scouring job boards, activating their social networks or submitting applications and resumes.

As a matter of fact, ManpowerGroup Solutions’ recent survey showed that 64 percent of all job seekers have applied for two or fewer jobs in the last six months. Candidates who are not actively pursuing a career or position switch are known as “passive candidates.” In contrast to their “active” counterparts –  people who have applied to three or more jobs during the same time period – passive candidates account for only 36 percent of job seekers. The survey also revealed that passive candidates have the level of experience and loyalty that employers want. In essence, they are exactly the kinds of employees that can give an organization a competitive advantage. However, these are the very candidates that are hiding in plain sight.

To understand how HR professionals can engage passive candidates, ManpowerGroup Solutions, surveyed more than 200 job seekers and enquired about their current employment, their job search preferences and the transition motivators that drive them to seek and apply for new opportunities. What emerged was a clear profile of passive candidates along with insights about how to attract them to an organization and prevent them from being lured away by competitors.

ManpowerGroup Solutions research identified six key motivators that impact a job seeker’s decision to move on and take a new job. Survey respondents were asked to identify the top three factors that they considered to be the most important while making career decisions.

Additionally, the respondents were also asked to identify the single most important factor that could motivate them to immediately pursue a different job opportunity in order for the employers to understand what can create a sense of urgency among candidates. More research is needed to determine how these may differ for passive candidates, but the findings suggest there is evidence that a possibility of advancement might be especially appealing to passive candidates. Here’s a closer look at these aforementioned factors that can help employers develop recruiting strategies to attract passive candidates:

Recruiting Strategies to Attract Passive Candidates


Compensation was cited by 57 percent of job seekers as the most important factor influencing their career decisions. It was also identified as the most motivating factor for getting job seekers to immediately pursue a different job opportunity (37 percent). In fact, it was approximately two to three times as powerful as the next highest ranking motivator – “type of work.”

This was also true for passive candidates, 44 percent of whom identified compensation as an immediate transition motivator. To compete effectively for talent, employers must know their markets and align pay with job function, level and performance. Given passive candidates’ experience, advanced skill sets and track records for stability, a case can even be made for compensation levels at the higher end of an established range. For employers who cannot always offer the most competitive salaries, other key motivators (e.g., type of work) can be important parts of the package.

Offered Benefits

Benefits were cited by 41 percent of all job seekers as being one of the most important factors affecting their career decision. Benefits also ranked third as an immediate motivator for job seekers to pursue a different opportunity (11 percent). Although more research is needed on this topic, benefits were not included in the top three factors motivating immediate change among passive candidates.

“Advancement opportunities” outranked healthcare coverage, profit sharing and other valuable types of benefits. By offering exceptional benefits and other perks and translating them into monetary value for candidates, employers may be able to sweeten the compensation packages they offer both passive and active candidates.

Nature of work

The nature of work proffered was identified by 56 percent of job seekers as one of the most important factors affecting their career decisions. The importance of an individual’s job description also ranked second among job seekers as an immediate motivator for transitioning (16 percent). Among passive candidates, the type of work they would be expected to perform tied with the rank of “advancement” as the second key motivator for making an immediate occupational change.

These findings point to the importance of clear, well-crafted job descriptions as well as the need for employers to develop recruiting strategies that emphasize opportunities to develop new skills, expand responsibilities or broaden a candidate’s contributions to the organization. In targeting and competing effectively for passive candidates, employers should listen carefully to candidates and potentially customize job descriptions to meet their individual interests.

Scope of Growth

Approximately 1 in 3 (32 percent) job seekers identified “the opportunity for advancement” as a top factor in considering career changes. As previously mentioned, passive candidates even ranked it third as a reason to make an immediate transition to a new job. Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that job tenure may be a factor in this difference.

Prospective employers and recruiters targeting passive candidates should articulate growth opportunities and outline clear pathways for professional advancement to compete for passive candidates effectively. Likewise, employers who wish to retain talent and prevent passive candidates from being wooed by the competition need to provide employees with professional development opportunities to acquire new skill-sets, continue their education, advance their careers and contribute towards organizational goals.

Flexibility Of Schedule

Comparable to the scope of growth, 1 in 3 job seekers surveyed (34 percent) also identified flexible scheduling options as a key factor affecting their career decisions. In fact, 8 percent of the job seekers surveyed ranked “schedule flexibility” as a top factor that would motivate them to immediately pursue a different job opportunity.

Regardless of their age or experience level, today’s employees want to take advantage of technological advancements that enable them to be connected to their work anytime and from any place. HR professionals who clearly articulate flexible work schedules in their job descriptions and broach it early on in the recruiting process could have the most success in attracting passive candidates to the talent pipeline.

Reputation Of The Organization

An employer’s reputation matters to job seekers considerably. 23 percent of the survey respondents considered “brand reputation” as one of the most important factors while making career decisions. Although it fell behind geographic location as an immediate transition motivator for job seekers, company brand remains an important part of the motivational mix.

The stronger the company’s brand and its reputation, the more attractive it is to potential applicants. The lesson for employers and recruiters is to know the brand and the company culture and learn how to “sell” it to potential candidates, active or passive. Applying strategic workforce solutions to enhance their brand image can be an effective tactic for businesses to engage and retain passive candidates.


ManpowerGroup Solutions’ research shows that the motivational factors for job seekers to contact recruiters about specific opportunities differ slightly from the factors considered while making general career decisions or immediate transitions. In fact, 43 percent of job seekers who had previously worked with recruiters or had been approached by one in the past, identified “job description” as one of the leading factors.

Trailing well behind that were the other top two factors: “attractive compensation package” and “the company is well-respected with a strong reputation for taking care of their employees.” This suggests that recruiters can add value to the talent acquisition process by helping their clients create job descriptions that clarify roles and responsibilities rather than just list all potential skills desired. This should also be of special value when targeting passive candidates who rate type of work as a motivating factor for immediate transition.

As recruiters tap passive talent, they should consider life stage and shifts in the candidate’s career which determine a candidate’s propensity for passivity. These shifts can help recruiters and other HR professionals determine when and how they should approach passive employees to ensure they can help them with successful career transitions.

To identify the unique factors that motivate candidates to make career transitions, recruiters must listen to and get to know candidates and create the right value proposition. They must use high-touch (personalized) as well as high-tech approaches to optimize their talent acquisition process. Recruiters must not only humanize their job descriptions, but they must also be able to clearly articulate the opportunity for growth, advancement and schedule flexibility as well as the compensation and benefits packages. Consulting experienced and reputable recruitment process outsourcing providers like Manpower can help businesses develop recruiting strategies to attract passive candidates. Consult our experts to know more today.

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