Changing the Game with a Passive Candidate Recruitment Strategy

By: Matt Gainsford


How A Scarcity Mindset Affects Your Hiring Strategy

“Would you be open to exploring a position if it were clearly superior to what you’re doing today?” 

What does a shell game have to do with an effective hiring strategy? You know the game, three cups, one ball, one pair of keen eyes, and a guess that is invariably incorrect. On the surface, what looks to be an easy win; ends up resulting in quite the opposite. What makes this game so unique; is that it is about perception and control. It’s not about the cups. 

This may be a strange way to open a blog on hiring, but don’t worry; we’re not out to trick you, quite the opposite. We’ve got clearance from the magic circle, and thanks to Penn and Teller (and YouTube), we can share a secret that could change the way you think about your hiring strategy. 

What we’re talking about is the way the candidate market is perceived. Layoffs mean a surplus of great candidates, right? Low unemployment means a scarce market, right? That’s why hiring is so hard, and why hiring strategies can be so affected by situations outside of our control, right? These are just cups hiding the ball that is a great hire… 

The terms candidate surplus and candidate scarcity are often used in the recruitment industry to describe the supply and demand of qualified job candidates. A candidate surplus occurs when there are more qualified candidates than available jobs, while candidate scarcity occurs when there are more job openings than qualified candidates. 

This is where it all gets a little bit, Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock was a master of perception and misdirection. He had a way of being able to still see the big picture through the minutiae of detail. With Sherlock, there was always another option, something so obvious we kick ourselves for not having seen it while simultaneously standing in awe of this genius. Genius has a habit of doing that (making the complex seem obvious).   

While both scenarios can present challenges for recruiters and hiring managers, understanding the difference between candidate surplus and candidate scarcity can help organizations develop effective hiring strategies and better meet their talent needs. With this way of thinking there’s either abundance or lack, little or plenty, scarcity or surplus. It all seems a little, well, black and white. What if there was a third way? What would Sherlock see? We’ll get to that, but first, let’s look at why surplus and scarcity appear to be such a big issue and why that doesn’t have to be the case.  

Candidate Surplus: 

A candidate surplus is a situation in which there are more qualified candidates than available job openings. This often occurs in industries or regions where there is a high supply of talent, such as in industries with high job turnover rates or regions with high population growth. While it may seem like having a candidate surplus would make it easier to find the right person for the job, it can present several challenges for recruiters and hiring managers. 

With a candidate surplus, recruiters may receive an overwhelming number of applications for a single job opening, making it difficult to effectively screen candidates, and identify the best fit for the role. This can result in a lengthy hiring process and may even lead to the loss of qualified candidates who become frustrated with the slow pace of the recruitment process.  

Additionally, a candidate surplus can make it challenging for organizations to stand out as an employer of choice. With so many qualified candidates available, organizations may struggle to attract and retain top talent and may need to offer more competitive compensation packages or better benefits to remain competitive (that’s if they haven’t first addressed and defined their Employee Value Proposition).  

Candidate Scarcity: 

On the other hand, candidate scarcity occurs when there are more job openings than qualified candidates. This often happens in industries with low unemployment rates or regions with limited talent pools. While candidate scarcity can make it challenging for organizations to fill open positions, it can also present opportunities for organizations to develop more effective recruiting strategies and differentiate themselves as an employer of choice. 

With candidate scarcity, organizations often invest more time and resources into sourcing and attracting qualified candidates. This may include leveraging social media and online job boards, partnering with local educational institutions or professional associations, or offering more competitive compensation packages or better benefits. 

Additionally, candidate scarcity can create a sense of urgency among recruiters and hiring managers, which may lead to more effective screening and selection processes. By focusing on the most important criteria for the role and being more selective in the hiring process, organizations may be able to identify and attract the best fit for the role more quickly and efficiently. 

Changing the game! The Only Passive Element of This Approach is the Candidates. 

Then there’s door number three. The game is afoot (as Sherlock would say). While a lot of companies are watching the cups and trying to figure out which cup the ball is under, passive candidate pursuit changes the game. Scarcity or surplus, it doesn’t matter, we’re changing the rules. 

  • Scarcity – There are a limited number of quality candidates out there, so a company must settle – wrong.  
  • Surplus – Candidates need an offer that is far above the competitive compensation range – wrong. 

Passive candidate recruitment is the pursuit of candidates who are not actively searching for new roles. These aren’t your regular candidates though. These candidates are a little bit special because they are the ones who are a perfect fit for your company from a skill, values, and cultural perspective. 

A-Players, top performers, the top 10%; these candidates are performing in their roles, and they are driven by impact. The likelihood is that they aren’t looking for a role, and in most cases, they are the ones who survive layoffs due to their value to the organizations they work for. It doesn’t mean they might not be considering a move though, or at least tempted by an opportunity that promises growth, impact, or one that aligns with their values and motivators. 

This proactive approach is an investment in both time and effort. It means starting with a clearly defined Performance Profile that outlines what success looks like in the role, why the role exists, and what impact it will provide the candidate. From there, a picture of the ideal candidate can be put together. What skills and attributes do they need to function in the role? What is the candidate’s achievement pattern? What are the candidate’s core values and motivators, and how does this align with the company searching to fill the role? Then there’s the use of tools like the Behavioral and Cognitive assessments from the Predictive Index, which provide the ability to benchmark for the ideal relational fit of a candidate and how they are likely to synergize with the team. These are all elements that make up our Hire for Performance philosophy, a holistic approach that focuses on finding, attracting, and hiring candidates that are going to thrive within the organizations they join. 

This approach puts control back in the hands of the companies searching. While others are looking to the cups and lamenting scarcity or surplus, we’re equipping companies to hold the winning hand (it is a different game after all).  

More than recruiters, Titus Talent Strategies are a team of Talent Optimizers who genuinely care about the work we do. We empower companies to put the right people in the right seats through informed, connected strategies that combine data with an empathetic understanding of what makes people tick. We recognize that our partners are investing in us and that results mean more than just people placed in a role. It’s about impact and connection. 

Related Insights

Talent Checkup

Want to start a journey towards building a high performing culture? We can give you a roadmap. It takes less than 10 minutes.