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Proactive Vs. Reactive Recruiting

7 min read
hiring managers at a uk company discussing recruitment strategy

In the UK, it’s becoming increasingly hard to find the right candidate for an open position. This is exacerbated by the trend of existing employers counter-offering to retain valuable employees. As organisations grapple with this dilemma, it raises the question: How can they attract talent in the most efficient way?

Many businesses often just see recruiting as the act of bringing new people into the organisation, i.e. vacancy + job advert + interview = recruitment.

However, this is not the only formula.

A traditional reactive recruitment strategy, where companies wait for job applications to land before making recruitment decisions, is no longer the only way to approach talent acquisition. To gain a competitive edge and secure the best candidates, companies can implement proactive recruiting.


Reactive Vs. Proactive: What’s The Difference?

Reactive recruitment could be seen as ‘traditional’ recruitment’. It happens when there is a vacancy and a live job advert to fill it. Those responsible for recruitment review applications and interview candidates to find the best person for the job.

Whereas proactive recruiting, unlike reactive recruiting, focuses on building relationships and engaging with potential candidates long before there is an immediate need to fill a position.

Instead of waiting for applicants to respond to job postings or relying solely on active job seekers, proactive recruiting involves actively identifying and engaging with individuals. These individuals might not be actively looking for new opportunities but could be the perfect match for the organisation at some point in the future.

hr team engaging in proactive recruitment to find talent

The Benefits Of Proactive Recruiting

Reactive recruitment is often favoured because there’s an immediate need. However, if recruitment professionals shift their mindset, a mix of proactive and reactive recruitment might actually provide significant benefits in the long run.

Here are a few reasons why proactive recruiting could be great for your organisation:

  1. Access To Hidden Talent

One of the biggest advantages of proactive recruiting is the ability to tap into the vast pool of passive candidates. These individuals, who may not be actively seeking new job opportunities, can often possess the skills, experience, and qualities necessary for a particular role. By proactively reaching out to passive candidates, organisations can identify and attract exceptional talent that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. Proactive recruitment opens up the possibility of finding the ideal candidate, even if they are not actively in the market.

  1. Avoiding Costly Hiring Mistakes

Appointing the wrong person for a role can have a serious detrimental impact on an organisation. It can lead to a loss of time, money, and productivity. Proactive recruiting minimises the risk of making hasty hiring decisions and offering the job to the ‘best of a bad bunch’ just to fill the vacancy.

By building relationships and engaging with potential candidates before vacancies actually materialise, recruiters gain deeper insights into their capabilities and values. This comprehensive evaluation process reduces the chances of hiring mistakes and increases the likelihood of making successful long-term hires.

  1. Accelerated Recruitment Process

Waiting for applications to pour in and sifting through numerous CVs can be a time-consuming and tedious process. Proactive recruiting, on the other hand, offers a faster and more targeted approach. This recruitment approach of actively seeking out potential candidates can actually streamline the recruitment process. With pre-established talent pipelines and a talent pool of interested candidates, organisations can quickly fill vacant positions when the need arises, ensuring continuity and efficiency in operations.

  1. Enhancement of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Proactive recruiting plays a crucial role in improving equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) within organisations. The hiring team can actively seek out candidates from diverse backgrounds and underrepresented groups. Proactive recruiting strategies allow recruiters to identify and engage with talent from a wide range of demographics, ensuring that the candidate pool is diverse and representative of the broader population. This, in turn, contributes to a more inclusive and equitable workplace culture.

  1. Enhanced Candidate Experience

Proactive recruiting not only benefits the organisation but also creates a positive candidate experience. Research by iCIMS shows that 67% of candidates would change their mind about a job based on their candidate experience. When approached proactively, candidates feel valued and recognised for their skills and potential. This personalised approach to recruitment demonstrates the organisation’s commitment to nurturing talent and investing in professional development.

candidate entering into the hiring process at a company

The Challenges Of Proactive Recruitment

Whilst proactive recruitment can prove to be effective, it is not without its challenges:


One of the main obstacles in proactive recruitment is the time-consuming nature of nurturing relationships that may never materialise. Proactive recruiting requires patience and persistence as building connections with passive candidates can be challenging. The hiring team invests time and effort in establishing rapport, understanding the candidate’s aspirations, and maintaining regular communication.

However, despite these efforts, there is always the possibility that the candidate may not be interested or available when a suitable position arises. This can be disheartening and can consume valuable resources that could be allocated to other recruitment strategies.

Costly Processes

Although proactive recruitment may save you money in the long run, it may be hard to see if the wood for the trees when your proactive recruiting process costs far exceed those of your reactive recruitment processes.

Unlike candidates who are actively seeking job opportunities, passive candidates may not have their CVs readily available or be actively monitoring job boards. As a result, recruiters often rely on various channels such as social media platforms or professional networking sites. These methods can incur additional expenses, including paid subscriptions for accessing candidate databases. These costs can add up, particularly when considering the large talent pool of potential passive candidates.

Unconscious Bias

Proactive recruiting has the potential to significantly enhance EDI efforts within organisations. However, there are inherent risks of unconscious bias that need to be addressed to ensure fairness and inclusivity throughout the process.

Unconscious bias refers to individuals’ implicit biases or stereotypes, often unintentionally influencing their decision-making. In proactive recruiting, there is a very real possibility that recruiters may bring their own unconscious biases to the table, which could inadvertently influence who they reach out to during their proactive recruitment efforts.

Proactive Recruitment Strategies

Reactive recruitment is a tried and tested approach. Post a job advert, sift through the CVs, and interview the best candidates. However, proactive hiring isn’t necessarily as straightforward. Let’s explore ways to enhance your proactive recruitment strategies:

  1. Talent Mapping

Proactive recruiting begins with talent mapping, which involves gaining a comprehensive understanding of future role requirements within the organisation. The hiring team needs to identify the skills, experience, and qualifications necessary for upcoming positions. By proactively anticipating talent needs, recruiters can develop a targeted approach to sourcing and engaging potential candidates.

  1. Headhunting

To recruit proactively, it is essential to utilise various channels to identify and connect with potential candidates. Social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, offer an excellent opportunity to engage with professionals in specific industries or roles. Hiring managers can search for individuals with the desired skills and qualifications and reach out to them directly. Professional networks, industry events, and online communities are also valuable sources for identifying and approaching potential candidates.

  1. Building a Talent Pipeline

One of the key aspects of proactive recruiting is developing a talent pipeline. Recruiters should consistently network and engage with potential candidates, even if there are no immediate vacancies. By building relationships over time, recruiters can establish trust, understand candidates’ career aspirations, and maintain regular communication. This pipeline ensures that when a suitable opportunity arises, recruiters have a pool of pre-screened, interested candidates to tap into, expediting the hiring process.

  1. Turbocharging Your Employer Brand

An effective employer brand plays a pivotal role in attracting top talent. Proactive recruiters collaborate with marketing and HR teams to develop and promote a compelling employer brand. Highlighting the organisation’s mission, values, culture, and employee benefits can help create a positive and appealing image. By showcasing the organisation as an employer of choice, proactive recruiters can pique the interest of passive candidates and increase their likelihood of considering opportunities within the organisation.

  1. Employee Referrals

Employees can be powerful brand advocates and valuable resources for proactive hiring. Establishing an employee referral programme incentivises employees to recommend qualified candidates from their professional networks. Leveraging the existing connections and knowledge of employees can result in high-quality referrals and a faster recruitment process. Employee referrals often bring candidates who are aligned with the organisation’s culture and values, contributing to better employee retention and engagement.

employee talking to her manager to refer one of her friends for a open position

Is Reactive Recruitment Still (Sometimes) The Best Approach?

While proactive recruitment has many merits, reactive hiring methods still hold value in different situations. Here are a few reasons why you might still opt for reactive recruitment:


One of the primary reasons why reactive recruitment is sometimes the best approach is the immediacy it offers. When there is an urgent need to fill a vacant position quickly, reactive recruitment can sometimes deliver results more rapidly than proactive sourcing.

Organisations can attract a talent pool who are actively seeking new opportunities and may be more likely to accept a role if an offer is made. This can lead to a faster hiring process, especially if the recruitment team can swiftly evaluate and screen applicants. Research shows that experienced hiring managers can review applications in just 6 – 8 seconds.


Another advantage of reactive recruitment is the cost-effectiveness it offers in terms of reaching a wide audience. Many free job boards are available, which can reach a wide pool of candidates. This broad exposure can attract more applicants without incurring significant costs associated with proactive recruitment methods, such as targeted advertising or specialised sourcing tools. This makes reactive recruitment an appealing choice for organisations with limited recruitment budgets or those seeking to cast a wide net in their talent search.


Reactive recruitment often provides a more straightforward and streamlined process compared to proactive approaches. With a well-established framework for receiving and reviewing applications, recruiters can follow a standardised selection process that includes an interview process, reference checks, and background screenings. This familiarity allows for efficient assessment and comparison of candidates, saving time and resources that would otherwise be spent on building relationships and engaging with passive candidates.

How Can Factorial Help?

Our platform is the perfect way to help you with both your reactive and proactive recruitment processes.

Factorial’s ATS (Applicant Tracking System) allows businesses to organise their own candidate database in a single platform. Recruiters can create detailed candidate profiles, store CVs, and track interactions, ensuring that important information is easily accessible. This centralised candidate management system simplifies the process of building and maintaining talent pipelines, enabling recruiters to efficiently manage relationships with candidates both with immediate recruitment needs as well as over time.

On top of that, you’ll have access to insightful analytics and reporting capabilities, enabling businesses to make data-driven decisions in their recruiting efforts.

Amy is a knowledgeable People professional with over a decade of experience across a variety of private and public sector organisations. With a particular interest in employee engagement, Amy is an advocate for employee-centric approaches in all areas of HR which is reflected in her writing. Before a career in HR, Amy read English and Creative Writing at university and later studied for her CIPD, HR Management.

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