The Truth About Talent

By Peter Weddle • December 3, 2014

Peter Weddle
Peter Weddle,

Talented people aren’t job seekers.  Ever. They’re career activists. They never look for a job, but they are always searching for a way to advance themselves in their field. And, that’s how you recruit them.

Whether you’re in the corporate, government or not-for-profit sector, the conventional view of the workforce is that it is composed of just two cohorts: active job seekers and passive job seekers. These groups aren’t of equal size, however. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, at any point in time, just 16 percent of the workforce is actively in transition. That would imply that the passive population accounts for the remaining 84 percent … only it doesn’t.



 Highly talented professionals never look for jobs, but they always search for ways to advance their careers. LilTweetablesSmall

Let top talent know your organization cares about their career advancement even before they have expressed interest in an opening with you. LilTweetablesSmall

To recruit career activists, you need to convince them to do what most humans hate to do: make a change from the known to the unknown. LilTweetablesSmall

There is actually a third cohort in the workforce. This group is probably as large as the active job seeker cohort, but it is composed of people who behave in exactly the opposite way. They are non-job seekers.  They will never voluntarily leave their current employer. They are, in effect, “unrecruitable.”

For most recruiters, therefore, the target demographic is the 68 percent of the workforce considered recruitable passive job seekers.  But, here’s the rub: these people aren’t job seekers at all. They don’t think of themselves as job seekers, nor do they act that way. They are, instead, career activists.

Career activists are recruitable, but associations have to reach out to them first.
Career activists are a cross-generational slice of the American workforce who proactively seek out employers and other organizations with the culture and opportunities that enable them to do so.

Career activists are a cross-generational slice of the American workforce bound together by a common aspirational goal. Whether they are 25, 40 or 55, they want to be the best they can be in their profession, craft or trade. They want to express and experience their talent on-the-job.  And, they proactively seek out employers and other organizations with the culture and opportunities that enable them to do so.

A distinction that’s more than semantics

Career Activists are seldom recruited with conventional strategies and tactics. As I detail in my book, The Career Activist Republic, these individuals are unlike traditional job seekers. The key to recruiting them, therefore, is to focus on the factors that distinguish them. Here are two.

They are almost always employed. The only way to recruit career activists, therefore, is to convince them to do the one thing humans most hate to do: Change. You have to persuade them to go from the devil they know (their current employer, boss and commute) to the devil they don’t know (a new employer, boss and commute).

This can’t be accomplished by a job posting that is a cure for insomnia—a classified ad repurposed online or a position description from the HR Department.  It takes an “electronic sales brochure”—a consumer oriented message that sells both the organization as a dream employer and the opening as a dream job.

They listened to their mother. What was the first lesson your mother taught you?  “Don’t speak to strangers,” right? Career Activists are risk averse. They have something to lose–their current job. So, they will only consider a career change when it is presented by someone they know and trust.

That’s why so many InMail and email messages go unanswered. They are the product of seeing social recruiting as a “contact sport”—the focus is on the number of followers, friends and connections rather than on the caliber of the interaction with them. A better approach is to fashion social recruiting as a “team sport” and to give top talent the experience of being a member of your team—make them feel as if your employer already cares about and supports their career advancement—even before they have expressed an interest in an opening.


The truth about talented people is simple. They’re different. They know it, and they expect employers to know it, as well. Employers that do AND demonstrate that’s the case in their recruiting strategy and tactics will have a genuine advantage over their competitors in the war for the best talent.

About the Author

Peter Weddle is the author of over two dozen employment-related books, including A Multitude of Hope: A Novel About Rediscovering the American Dream, The Career Fitness Workbook: How to Find, Win & Hang Onto the Job of Your Dreams, The Career Activist Republic, The Success Matrix: Wisdom from the Web on How to Get Hired & Not Be Fired, and WEDDLE’s Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet.  Get them at and at the all new today.