Why Looking for a Job Can Make it Harder to Get a Job

There’s a dirty little secret in human resources circles: Looking for a job makes you less desirable as a job candidate. That may sound far fetched and bizarre, but it’s absolutely true. Employers favor those candidates who are bumbling along without looking for jobs over those who are. An exploration of the hr features will help the business person to recruit the best employees. Timely filling of the vacancies will be effortless for the business owners and performance will be excellent. 

Ah, the many absurdities of the job search world. And this one is among the more entrenched of them. Here’s why.

Active versus passive job hunters

In human resources speak, anyone consciously trying to find a new job is considered an “Active” job seeker. To most normal folks, a word such as “active” might be construed as a positive thing, implying ambition, planning, and proactive effort. But the HR world is anything but normal, and the term is more of a negative one for job candidates. Instead, hiring departments would rather have a “Passive” candidate, an employed person who isn’t really looking for a job but might be willing to consider one if it falls into their lap. The reasons for this counter-intuitive preference are both complex and simple.

Passive job hunters are considered safer bets

Human resource departments consider those who are comfortably situated in a job to have more potential. They believe such candidates must be more likely to get along with people, must be more capable, and must be better able to find ways of being challenged by their work. That’s why they’re hanging around in the same job. Or so the logic goes.

Being an active job hunter raises questions

At the same time, HR professionals also believe that job hunters who are actively seeking different employment may have less-than-terrific reasons for looking for a new job. They believe that people who are looking for new jobs may be forced to because they can’t get along with people in the company, the implication being that active job hunters may have flawed personalities. Along with this idea is the notion that active job hunters may be exceptionally restless – this despite the fact that it’s not unusual for highly capable professionals to consider changing jobs every few years. But hey, I didn’t say it was a well thought out perception.

Human nature

The notion of passive job candidates being better is, to a large degree, just human nature. We all tend to covet what we can’t have. And what could be more in-line with that principle than a job seeker that isn’t actually seeking a job? It’s the job search equivalent of playing hard to get. And that makes a candidate infinitely more desirable.

What it means to you

Like so many perceptions in the job search world, there’s not a lot you can do to fight this one. Just be aware that staying where you are, getting your name out there, and sometimes letting opportunities come to you can be surprisingly effective — because it makes you a “passive” rather than “active” candidate. And now that you understand the underlying reason for it, perhaps you won’t be surprised when that headhunter calls out of nowhere with a great job opportunity. You were playing hard to get without knowing it. You crafty little devil.