Why Passive Job Hunters Have Better Results

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: January 5, 2015

Job hunting is a nerve-racking process. Scouring LinkedIn for opportunities, waiting by the phone for employers to call, and sending out countless résumés to people who may never read them is a huge pain.

But as any HR professional will tell you, the best time to look for a job is when you already have one. When you’re happily employed, your negotiating power skyrockets and you're more likely to be wooed by hiring managers with higher compensation, better benefits, and stock options. That's where passive candidacy comes in.

Passive candidates are people who aren’t actively looking for a job but would consider themselves to be “on the market.” They’re a huge commodity among corporations and headhunters because they’re stable and probably making an impact at their current company.

Headhunters call passive candidates (rather than the other way around) because passive candidates are either too busy to look for jobs themselves or aren’t actively seeking employment. They can also be candidates who will only consider another opportunity if it includes an advancement in rank, pay, or location. These professionals can be challenging to secure because HR managers will try to retain them by any means necessary.

If you’re a hard worker with a strong professional background who wouldn’t be opposed to changing jobs, you may be a passive candidate and not even know it. Even if you're not actively looking for a new position, there are four things you can do to make yourself attractive to potential employers and become a magnet for professional opportunities.

4. Beef Up Your Online Presence

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are a blast to fiddle around with, but there’s no better place than LinkedIn for professionals. It's slowly becoming a comprehensive list of professionals from around the world, and it's growing every day.

There's absolutely no excuse not to be on LinkedIn right now. It’s a powerful, up-to-date profile that puts your greatest professional achievements and key projects on display for everyone to see. LinkedIn Groups can also be a great way to connect with other professionals in your field, and it's a way to get noticed without actually and actively searching for a new job.

While you're updating your profile, spend some time on other platforms, such as your personal website or digital portfolio. Chances are, these will be the first things prospective employers see when they Google your name.

3. Don't Feel Like You're Cheating

LinkedIn is a bit like dating. You can portray yourself as someone open to meeting new people, or you can scream commitment to your current company. Putting yourself out there doesn’t mean you’re cheating on your current employer; it just shows you’re open to opportunities.

While you shouldn't mark your LinkedIn profile as “seeking career opportunities” because it might raise suspicion around your office, don't turn off or ignore InMail messages, either, as that can keep potential employers from reaching out to you.

In other words, relax. If someone reaches out to you with a potential opportunity, take it from there. But it's not wrong to be open to new things.

2. Always Take the Phone Call (or email)

When you do get opportunities, don't write them off or ignore them. It takes a lot of courage for a company to reach out to an established professional. The least you can do is offer a bit of your time to hear them out.

With headhunters, be careful not to burn any bridges. It's their job to know when the best positions become available, and if you're friendly and open, they'll do the same for you. Speak to them on the phone whenever you get the chance. They have great connections with some high-level hiring managers and HR professionals who could help you snag your dream job.

Remember: Even if an opportunity doesn’t make sense right now, the connection might be worth it later.

1. Never Stop Networking

Whether or not you plan to stay at your company for the foreseeable future, you should still work on forging good relationships within your organization.

Let's say you work at a large company with multiple hiring managers. If you make a good impression on them through your performance and loyalty and then one of those hiring managers leaves to work for another company, you can become a passive candidate. All you have to do is be yourself and maintain your network.

Passive candidacy is a position of power, so you should embrace it even if you’re perfectly content with your current job. What you do to exploit your passive candidate status — building a strong online presence, forming relationships, and staying open to new opportunities — just makes you a better professional. Anyone can do it, and it’s a good idea to start today.

Never Be Passive About Negotiating Salary

You can be passive while searching for a job, but when you receive and offer and it's time to negotiate, take a direct approach. And Salary.com can help you get paid fairly what you do.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.