Bill Wednieski 248-343-6027

The best kept secret: passive pocket candidates

best kept secret

There are many reasons candidates look for new roles and it is no secret that gainfully employed candidates are more attractive to potential employers. It may not be fair but it is simply human nature to want what you can’t have.

What is a passive candidate?

A passive candidate is an employed person that is not actively looking for a job but will listen or consider other opportunities. Essentially, the candidate listens to a recruiter’s pitch or reviews a job post to gauge whether the new opportunity is better than their current role. It helps if passive candidates have skills that are in high demand, have achieved success, work in high growth industries, or have a career background that fits. Recruiters love passive candidates because the chances of a placement and earning a fee go up exponentially. Employers love passive candidates because a lot of risk is alleviated if the candidate is currently working and achieving tangible results now.

What is a pocket listing? 


In many previous blogs,I have mentioned my mom and that she was a damn good realtor. As a child, I ran all over town in my mom’s car and had to listen to “boring” work conversations about stuff I wasn’t interested in at 8 or 9 years old. I specifically remember that she used to get real excited about something called a “pocket listing.” Now, I know that this occurs when there are more homes for sale than there are buyers. The pocket listing worked when she had a seller with a high quality home that they wished to sell. Typically, her relationship to the seller was exclusive and she would often suggest waiting on publicly listing the home. Instead, she would share this listing with her own buyers and competent office colleagues. The message was simple – buyers had first dibs but had to move quickly if they wanted to purchase the off-market home before the rest of the world found out about it. A notable side benefit was that pocket listings also helped my mom double check the seller was asking the right price.

It goes both ways  

Our best and repeat clients have trust in us. If we find an incredible candidate, then we make phone calls within our executive network to share our “pocket candidates.” Sometimes there is a need and sometimes there is not. Some CEOs and executives have a best available mentality or top grading philosophy. For some added context, Top grading is when companies identify and cull their bottom 20% performers. Our approach is a much cleaner process, the recruiter describes what the candidate is looking for including compensation and  the executive or hiring manager can decide if they are willing to pay to attract the pocket candidate. While at the same time the executive gets a feel for the market by taking the recruiter’s call. 

The candidate benefit is substantial, even if there is no new role. First, the candidate gets a feel for the market and whether their target position is in high demand right now. Second, a solid recruiter will give candidates an understanding of reasonable compensation. Third, candidates can share timing and urgency for making a move. Sometimes a candidate may need to wait on stock options vesting down the road or there is a transaction on the horizon for their current employer to sell. Most importantly, the candidate gains comfort and peace of mind when they talk with a subject matter expert.

So, what does this all mean?

It’s important for candidates to have recruiters in their network. Though it’s better to have established relationships with recruiters when you’re gainfully employed rather than introducing yourself when you’re out of work or in full blown search mode. As for employers and hiring managers, make sure to speak with recruiters to stay up-to-date on  current hiring trends and compensation ranges. Pick up the phone,spend 10-15 minutes having dialogue – it benefits all parties.

Recruiter Bill Wednieski is the Managing Director for The Headhunters. Learn more here.

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