Did you know that many job seekers frequenting remote job sites following the motions of searching for remote jobs are not really that interested in leaving their current employer?
Some job seekers are not quite ready yet to pull the trigger. This isn’t to say that their current employer is in the clear. Nor to indicate that employed staff passively looking for job opportunities are totally content. It could be interpreted to mean that personnel who are passive about job search activities are taking preparatory steps to make a change. But, they haven’t quite made a commitment yet to become more active in their job search.
I/O psychological research has shown there are other key reasons why passive job searching may not lead to a change in employers are:
(a) the passive job seeker failed to find job alternatives that offered job preferred features that are more suitable than the ones already provided by their current place of employment and
(b) the economy is contracting , in a time of uncertainty, such as war or societal upheaval for instance, making the perception that it could be more risky to leave what you know about and have experienced for some job, position, or company for which you lack insight and internal knowledge.
98% employers poach passive job seekers to fill job vacancies
The Australian Human Resources Institute cited Robert Half research showing that recruiters are poaching top talent (workers gainfully employed) as a way to fill jobs that are in high demand. Approximately 98% of employers attempt to steal away proven performers from competitors in an effort to fill vacancies and job openings that are in high demand.
How to headhunters and recruiters find top producers with demonstrated success? They are not too hard to find. Often top talent passively search for job opportunities, even though they are pretty content with their current job and place of employment. Poachers take advantage of this the tendency of content workers to passively search for jobs, even when they have no intent to leave.
In an article, “Job Search as Goal Directed Behavior: Objectives and Methods,” appearing in the Journal of Vocational Behavior, Greet Van Hoye, Ghant University and Alan M. Sakes, University of Toronto defined these job searchers as ‘passive job seekers.’ In fact, these esteemed workers are just the type of candidates recruiters hope to poach. Even though they are technically not actively looking to change jobs, they still want to keep appraised of potential opportunities and alternatives.
Passive Job Seekers Goal 1: To stay aware of job alternatives
So, from the perspective of a people highly skilled, experienced and valued where they work, they aren’t actually looking to switch jobs, seek career advancement, increase level of responsibility, change companies or obtain a higher salary. What is their primary objective? To stay aware of one’s choices (Boswell, 2002). The passive job seeker’s actions may mimic those of job seekers who really have the desire to:
(a) change unemployed status to employed,
(b) find a job offering higher / better pay and benefits (remote job, hybrid work arrangements, or work from home),
(c) find a job position where there is a better corporate fit / better relations with supervisor, or
(d) fill an immediate job vacancy offering greater chances at career advancement.
Passive Job Seekers Goal 2: To network for career advancement
Highly productive, successful top talent skilled in problem solving, according to research psychologists often employ the job search function as a way to meet new people who can help them advance their career (Wanbery et al, 2000). Forret & Dougherty suggest that networking is growing ever more as a critical success factor (2001). They even coined the term, ‘boundaryless’ back in 2001. Twenty years ago researchers had the foresight to envision an environment where jobs and therefore careers are less defined by the location of where one works.
This fact is particularly true for remote staff working from home, working from anywhere or participating in virtual teams. As a career management strategy, remote workers must find ways to stay glued into professional networks and associations. I/O psychologists concluded that passive job seekers use specific job search methods to serve as an entry point (communication topic) to meet and talk to professionals who might be critical agents in support of their work and career. This type of passive job seeker hopes to use job search activities to:
(a) network with key business leaders in their field,
(b) contact headhunters and employment agencies,
(c) seek out informational discussions with potential employers
Once again, it is worth repeating that passive job seekers in this instance, have not yet decided to make a change. They are merely taking the initial steps to test the waters.
Passive Job Seekers Goal 3: To use as a bargaining tool
Workers holding positions in high demand often use passive job seeking activities to conduct informal research. What are they hoping to do? These gainfully employees are trying to gather critical information that they can then use to better position themselves at their current place of employment (Boswell et al. 2004).
While working from a hotel lobby, I overheard a remote employee’s discussion with a work colleague where he argued profusely that he had collected chips to improve high salary. He talked about how he had worked at the company for over 25 years. How the company would be hard-pressed without him. And, how he had been networking. Through the act of networking, he found out (what he believed) was underpayment by about 20%.
As I listened to his arguments, I see how he was discussing his situation with his peer to try to get a sense of what should be his next move. I left the hotel lobby shortly thereafter bemused of the final outcome. When reading the last two sub-sections, I think
Anyway, this true situation was brought up to exemplify an actual passive job seeker who really had no intention of leaving a job where he had worked comfortably for more than 20 years. He just wanted to use the data he had collected in an effort to receive higher pay.
Obtaining information used for bargaining is effective
Interestingly, I/O psychologists found that once the facts and figures where collected by the passive job searcher, the use of the newly obtained information was (more likely than not) used as a bargaining tool. Further, leveraging this information was not related to the act of actually leaving current employment voluntarily. That’s a long sentence. In essence, the researchers determined that using the information for bargaining purposes to obtain better benefits, pay, advancement was effective. And, when used, this tactic did not lead to voluntarily leaving the company. What was omitted from the research however, was whether the current employer’s response was, “ok, we can’t match those terms. When do you plant to leave?” Or, said another way involuntary departure, dismissal, firing immediately or later down the road.
Obtaining written offers most effective for bargaining
Also, what was uncovered during the research was that professional networking played a crucial role in the ability to get ‘front line’ ‘on the ground’ information. To use this option successfully, the passive job seeker is required to collect information that isn’t typically posted on job vacancy announcements, obtained thorough headhunters, recruiters or employment agencies. Often the key inside information used to exact better benefits can come from the alternative employer itself.
And how can one find out inside information for an alternate employer? Obtain a written job offer. So being armed with information during the negotiation with your current employer can be of help. But what turns the tide in the job seekers’ favor is an job offer in hand that will motivate their current employer to make a better counteroffer (Boswell et al., 2004).
How would one go about getting a job offer? They’ve got to search for and submit job applications to alternate employers when in fact they are not looking to move jobs or change companies.
In closing, remote job seekers can take advantage of the tendency of recruiters and headhunters to partake in poaching to gather pertinent information to use for negotiating for better salary, benefits, conditions and advancement. But, consider the risks. Don’t let your mouth write a check that your body can’t cash.