Over the past few months, I've been collaborating with LinkedIn's research group on a survey designed to understand how employee satisfaction impacts a person's job-seeking behavior. (These results will be presented in a public webcast on June 5.)

Here are some of the big findings:

  • While 79 percent of the workforce (North America) is very satisfied or somewhat satisfied in their current jobs, more than two-thirds of this group are willing to change if the new job represented a better career move. That could mean they're open to being recruited away.
  • None of the 77 percent  of the workforce who consider themselves passive candidates are interested in job descriptions that emphasize skills, duties, competencies and experience requirements. Neither do the best of the 23 percent who are actively looking for better jobs.
  • Middle managers and executives are more satisfied with their current positions than individual contributors. Despite this, most are still willing to explore opportunities that represent significant career moves.
  • The person who makes first contact with a passive candidate has the biggest impact on whether the person is recruited and ultimately hired. Few talent leaders, hiring managers or recruiters recognize the importance of this initial step.

Recognize that time is an employee's most valuable asset. The best people use it more wisely than others for maximizing their personal growth and development. This same concept can be used to better understand why some people are passive job seekers, others more active, and some anxious to leave for greener pastures.


The Career Zone model tracks changes in employee satisfaction over time from high growth on the left, flattening in the middle and declining on the right. Knowing where a person falls on the Career Zone curve provides a recruiter or manager insight on what it would take to offer a more attractive opportunity. Much of this involves demonstrating how the prospect can better maximize his or her use of time by changing jobs for the right reasons.

Here's a quick summary of each Career Zone:

Zone 1 consists of "super passive" candidates.

These people are highly satisfied, currently making a significant impact, and not looking to make a job change. Twenty-one percent of the people responding to the survey categorized themselves as super passive. You need an extraordinary career move to attract people in Zone 1.

Zone 2 is the domain of "explorers."

These people are not looking, but due to a variety of circumstances would be willing to consider other opportunities that represent significant career moves. Since they're not looking, they need to be first contacted directly by a recruiter, but 43 percent of the survey respondents indicated they were explorers. To get their attention, though, the recruiter or hiring manager must convince the prospect to first focus on the long-term aspects of the job--not the title, company, compensation or location.

Zone 3 represents the "tiptoers."

While not actively looking, tiptoers have decided to test the market by quietly reaching out to their close personal network to discuss potential next moves. Thirteen percent of the respondents indicated they were in this category. One of the best ways to find them is to make sure they contact one of your employees first.

Zone 4 represents the "very active" job-seekers.

They are using all sources to find another job similar to the one they now hold. While 23 percent of the workforce is active, the best are still choosy, so you need to make sure your job postings are compelling, career focused and easy to find. (Here's a sample of a compelling posting for a controller position we ran a few years.) You'll send a link to your job posting to everyone, so don't shortcut this step or think it's unnecessary.

High job satisfaction is no guarantee your best employees can't be lured away. Understanding what it takes to attract and hire the best people for your open jobs starts by understanding what's motivating them to even consider leaving. This same concept should be applied to your best employees, figuring out where they are on the Career Zone curve, and what it would take to ensure that can't be lured away. Otherwise you risk losing them to someone who will.