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Should You Hire a Candidate In Transition?

Change. It’s inevitable. Several fundamental changes have recently occurred within the paradigm of executive search, and I’d like to address one change in particular. Namely, many executive recruiters have started to place an emphasis on the passive candidate as their primary source of talent. In other words, these recruiters are only looking to recruit those who are currently employed, and are not actively looking. In this scenario, if you’re out of a job, you’re out of luck. Many recruiters will pass right over you…whether that’s a qualified decision or not.

Executive search firms have used this methodology as a point of differentiation, standing by the policy that they only hire passive candidates. Hiring managers and business owners have used it as a required qualification of candidates to be presented. I’ve even heard myself say it when responding to a client’s question regarding my area of focus when recruiting for a specific engagement.

The change that needs to be addressed is an “an emphasis on the passive candidate” as the primary source of talent when recruiting. As recruiters, our ultimate objective, as well as the primary method of justifying our service, is to recruit and present for evaluation the best talent available for a position. Whether the prospective candidate is presently employed or not, should not be a motivating factor in the recruiting process. Obviously, reasons for a person’s transition from one position to the next need to be fully vetted during the prescreening process, and special emphasis needs to be placed on the validation of credentials during the professional reference check. However, to overlook a person simply because they happen to be “in-transition,” is just not the right thing to do.

Without exception, I meet people every week who happen to be in-transition and represent exceptionally qualified talent who are perfectly capable of bringing value to a relevant position, just as a person who happens to be employed. Extremely qualified individuals end up “in-transition” for a variety of reasons; some of these reasons have nothing to do at all with that individual’s performance or ability to bring value to an organization. People in-transition should not be overlooked in the recruiting process merely because they’ve found themselves in a situation that more often than not, was completely out of their control.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Have you found yourself in this position as a recruiter, or as a candidate?