How should passive ‘High Performers’ plan for their future?

Published on: 25 Jul 2015

    I can’t make my mind up about a recent article on the Smart Recruiter Blog.  Essentially, it says there are three key areas to be assessed in any interview: competency (can they do it?), growth potential (will they just sit in this job and not advance my business?), and cultural fit (are their values the same as ours?).  An uncharitable part of me says, “well I'd never have guessed”, but another, slightly more generous part says “given the welter of articles offering advice perhaps it’s time we all remembered some of the basics”.  However, it was only when I then read another article, from, that I started to see how the second of those three essential interview elements is, in some respects, actually the most important for executives looking to move up the career ladder. 

    From your perspective, as a potential candidate, perhaps it’s time to turn much of the interviewing/growth potential elements discussed in these articles on their head.  You’re a high performer (you would not be on if you were not), and you are thinking about moving onwards and upwards.  You’re probably not desperate, but you know that it’s better to be in control of your career than vice versa.  So you’re what the recruiters call a ‘passive’ candidate.

    Here’s where you can take the recruiters’ skills and turn them to your advantage.  The article is largely about ‘talent mapping’, where a recruitment agency and/or its client will seek individual talent by company, job role or department, then profile the people identified to create a database/talent bank of potential candidates who match the future growth plans of their client/company.

    Like the interviewer investigating ‘future growth potential’, these recruiters consider the members of this talent pool for growth potential, look at their educational background, their work experience, work accomplishments and career path. What management experience do the candidates have, have they been (rapidly) promoted, developed new skills and do they have outside interests that reveal a rounded human being? 

    Now, as a passive candidate, thinking about your next career move, look at these attributes from your perspective. It’s time for you to take control. How can you ‘talent map’ prospective employers?  What do they offer, in terms of their growth potential, their cultural fit with you and what you hold dear (will they send you to the ends of the earth at short notice when you’re about to celebrate your wedding anniversary?), do they have ‘outside interests’ (CSR) that fit with your values?  What training do they provide? Do they promote from within?  What do they pay?  How well are they regarded in their industry?

    In my view, it’s far too often the case that candidates want to wait to be approached.  This is particularly true of executive level candidates, who sometimes seem to believe they have a divine right to be headhunted.  Perhaps they do, but in their own business they would never wait for something to happen; they’d seize the day and make it happen.  So why do so many of us not proactively manage our careers?  Take the recruiters’ strategies and turn them to your advantage. ‘Talent map’ the potential companies you might work for and you’ll be better placed to answer those three questions about competency, growth potential and cultural fit.  And to get the job you want!

    John Stone