Turning passive candidates into active candidates

Sparking Action: From Passive to Active Candidates


The search for healthcare executive leadership is a nuanced journey. The absence of executive leadership in healthcare organizations can diminish productivity, dampen morale across the leadership and caregiving continuum, and result in missed strategic milestones at pivotal times. Achieving swift and strategic recruitment is paramount.

Recruiting executive leaders often presents challenges in both accuracy and speed. A mid-2022 study revealed that the filling of key C-suite positions can extend beyond four months, signaling the need for a more efficient approach. So, what’s the solution?

Expanding your search beyond candidates actively seeking new roles, looking at the passive candidates already succeeding, and demonstrating the competencies your organization is seeking can get you there faster.

Related read: Why Passive Candidates are Vital to Healthcare Executive Search

What is a passive candidate? It’s someone who’s not on the job market. However, if that’s the case, how can they be valuable to your healthcare organization that needs a candidate? Jocelyn Clarke, Assistant Vice President of Executive Search Services, explains why it’s not that simple.

“A passive candidate is somebody who doesn’t know they’re on the job market until something sparks. It could be a motivation just beneath the surface that gets their gears turning and drives them toward an active process,” Clarke shared.

Passive candidates are vital to healthcare organizations’ executive leadership because the candidates actively seeking roles represent only a fraction of the talent pool. More importantly, passive candidates frequently possess the attributes that allow them to succeed in any role, even if where they are currently isn’t their ideal role.

The Top Five Reasons Candidates Make the Switch

For organizations striving to attract a diverse and well-prepared talent pool, igniting that initial spark of interest is crucial. Transforming passive candidates into active seekers involves understanding and leveraging specific triggers that motivate individuals to consider new opportunities.

We’ve identified five key factors that can effectively encourage candidates to transition from a state of passivity to active engagement. Let’s take a deeper look at each of them.

1. Career advancement

Career advancement opportunities stand as a pivotal reason why passive candidates transition into active job seekers. Consider the scenario of a program director approached by a recruiter for a Vice President role—a leap that may not seem attainable within their current organization’s timeline.

Similarly, a candidate who has consistently demonstrated success in their role but faces obstacles when seeking promotions might find an external offer for their desired position irresistible. These opportunities to advance beyond their current trajectory or circumvent ongoing promotional challenges can significantly motivate passive candidates to reconsider their stance and actively pursue new roles.

This shift underscores the importance of presenting roles that align with the candidate’s career goals and that offer a clear path for growth beyond their present circumstances.

2. Company reputation

The allure of prestige associated with particular organizations can significantly influence a passive candidate’s decision to explore new opportunities. Imagine a professional who is content in their role at a hospital with a less recognized brand when a chance to join a globally recognized organization arises. Despite thriving in their current position, the prestige and myriad opportunities accompanying a role at a renowned organization can be compelling enough to reconsider a career path. 

Similarly, for those aspiring to align their careers with institutions known for their academic excellence, an opportunity at a public university’s hospital could be the catalyst for change. The draw of contributing to an organization with a storied academic reputation may be the push needed for a candidate to transition from satisfaction with their current role to the pursuit of new, prestigious opportunities.

3. Personal development

Passive candidates with professional growth and specific skill enhancement aspirations are highly receptive to roles that align with their developmental goals. The best passive candidates will find ways to grow professionally regardless of what their current role offers — or doesn’t offer. However, candidates may have growth goals such as developing their financial acumen or honing their budget management skills.

When approached with a role that precisely aligns with these developmental aspirations — be it a position that offers hands-on experience in financial strategy or one within an organization willing to invest in their pursuit of an MBA — such candidates are likely to be motivated to act. This alignment between the candidate’s personal growth goals and the opportunities presented by the role can serve as a compelling reason for them to transition from passive to active job seekers.

4. Work-life balance

In the high-stakes realm of healthcare, in which professionals across the spectrum — from bedside clinicians to executives — often navigate the challenges of being ‘on call,’ achieving a healthy work-life balance is notably challenging. Given this context, it’s understandable that opportunities promising a better equilibrium between professional responsibilities and personal life are particularly appealing to potential candidates.

Geographical preferences can also be crucial in a candidate’s decision-making process. Whether it’s the allure of living in a vibrant metropolis like New York City or the desire to be closer to family, the location of a job opportunity can significantly impact a candidate’s willingness to explore new avenues.

Such considerations reflect the candidate’s aspirations for a fulfilling personal life and highlight the importance of aligning job opportunities with individual lifestyle goals. For healthcare professionals in particular, an opportunity that offers both professional fulfillment and a conducive personal life setting can be the key factor in deciding to transition to a new organization.

5. Market conditions

Market conditions play a significant role in nudging passive candidates toward action. Uncertainty within their current organization, such as rumors of restructuring, shakeups, or downsizing, can trigger a proactive search for more stable opportunities. The instinct for job security prompts professionals to consider alternatives before potential changes affect their positions.

Conversely, expansion within a specific area or a recognized industry-wide demand for their expertise can motivate candidates. Such market dynamics offer a fertile ground for professionals to cultivate their networks further and establish themselves as leading subject matter experts.

This dual perspective on market conditions—whether as a response to potential instability or an opportunity for growth—underscores how external factors can significantly influence career decisions. For candidates, aligning with roles that offer stability, development, and the chance to enhance their reputational capital becomes a strategic move in navigating their professional trajectory.

The Key to Recruiting Passive Candidates in Healthcare

Passive candidates are the cornerstone of modern healthcare executive search, requiring a focused and dedicated approach to engagement beyond conventional recruitment strategies. Kirby Bates Associates stands out in this arena thanks to our executive recruiters’ deep immersion in the healthcare sector. Our exclusive focus on healthcare enables us to harness our ever-expanding networks with precision for each search initiative.

Kirby Bates’ approach is distinguished by the personal relationships we cultivate with candidates, allowing us to discern the unique motivations that prompt a passive candidate to consider new opportunities actively. Our recruiters’ insight into a candidate’s career aspirations and personal circumstances—whether it’s a commitment to complete significant projects or a preference to remain within a specific geographic locale—equips us to effectively reengage with leading healthcare executives.

By leveraging these longstanding connections within the healthcare leadership community, Kirby Bates Associates delivers unmatched speed and precision in presenting candidate slates. This approach not only accelerates the recruitment process but also enhances the alignment between client needs and candidate aspirations, assuring a seamless integration of new leaders into your organization.

Contact our team to learn more about how Kirby Bates can help your organization quickly find top talent.