Passively Looking? How to Be Found Without Looking Like You Want to Be

Passively Looking? How to Be Found Without Looking Like You Want to Be


Having been a recruiter for more than forty years, I started in the industry at a time when running ads meant in a newspaper, cold calling candidates from company telephone directories was common, and lying to them was far more common than it is today (thank goodness).

We were trained to present ourselves as updating telephone books to get names, to call the operator at a company, pretend we were at the airport, and … I’ll skip telling you all the fraud that recruiters would engage in “days of old.”

One of the things I was extremely proud of was helping to create a myth that has gained such wide acceptance today ­­The Myth of The Passive Candidate. The way the story goes is that passive applicants are superior to active ones because they are busy doing their job and not reading the newspaper looking for work. The way the myth goes, you could run the largest ad in the newspaper and it wouldn’t be seen by this person because he or she was too busy working to see it.

As a result, through “aggressive recruiting,” I was representing the best person available and not just the best person reading the newspaper on a given Sunday.

I started using this strategy because at the time I started my first business, I didn’t have the budget to compete with the larger firms with enormous ad spends. Thus, in the mind of many clients and firms, I was marketing to, I diminished the referrals from my competitors who did advertise and put a halo around mine all at once.

Today, I read posts from recruiters who swear on a stack of Bibles that passive candidates are superior to active ones. It is ridiculously easy to poke holes in the argument but zealots exist in religion, politics, and recruiting.

Your job search should be run in such a way as to maneuver some of the people who have this belief system.

Why? Because to these people, the active job hunter is inferior and unworthy of their client’s time.

Here are some strategies to entice and seduce this segment of the search profession.

Start by understanding what your online persona is by searching your name. When you run a Google search on mine, I show up in the fourth position behind the comedian Jeff Altman (he is very funny). When you add “The Big Game Hunter” to the search, there are about 752,000 answers including job ads I’ve written, my websites, articles I’ve written, and much more. What is yours?

Write a professional bio for yourself and post it on your website (You do have a website, don’t you).

Use LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Add Xing if you are in Europe. LinkedIn is the largest business social network; Xing, the largest in Europe. I don’t think I have to explain Facebook and Twitter to you. Write articles about your experience and knowledge to demonstrate your competence for trade publications.

Become active in online communities.

Give referrals to recruiters.

Blog about your work.

If you aggressively look for work, where possible only post “blind resumes.” Post a resume with your name on it and one that does not have it on the top but is different in some respects from the public one.

Collect contact information from people when they leave your firm. They may be great sources of leads, particularly if you send them Christmas and holiday cards that tell the detailed stories of the year for you professionally and personally.

Remember, for this class of recruiters, you can not look good to them if you are looking for work publicly. Thus, put yourself in the position to be “found” so that they can have a false feeling of success and accomplishment.

Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2008, 2011, 2020



Jeff Altman, The Big Game HunterJeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

Are you interested in 1:1 coaching, interview coaching, advice about networking more effectively, how to negotiate your offer or leadership coaching? Schedule a free Discovery call.

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Don’t forget to give the show 5 stars and a good review in iTunes. It helps other people discover the show like you did.Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

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