2014, the year of the 'passive' job hunter

January 9, 2014: 5:00 AM ET

Not thrilled where you are, but can't quite find the energy (or the time) to launch a job search? Not to worry. Employers will find you.

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FORTUNE -- If your phone has been ringing a lot lately with calls from recruiters -- either in-house at big companies or at retained-search firms -- that's no fluke. You're part of a growing trend.

"We're seeing more employers proactively seeking out and contacting candidates, compared to last year at this time," says Shon Burton, CEO of online recruiting firm HiringSolved.

Partly as a result, he adds, "Top candidates now are much more passive or what I would even call lazy. They're willing to wait for the right job to land in their lap, because they know recruiters or hiring managers will contact them."

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Most difficult to find and hire, Burton says, are two groups: men and high earners (including people who happen to be both). HiringSolved recently surveyed about 1,620 full-time employees, weighted to represent a sample of the total U.S. workforce, and found that 47% of men say they don't plan to look for a new job this year, vs. just one-third (33%) of women.

At the same time, almost 60% of people making $80,000 a year or more think they'll stay put in 2014. "Organizations that need to fill senior-level positions will have to try harder to lure potential candidates, rather than expecting those people to apply as they did in past years," Burton says.

If finding someone who isn't looking seems like searching for a needle in a haystack, it would be, except for one thing: the Internet. "Everyone is throwing off a signal now," notes Burton. "The same way your smartphone can throw off a GPS signal without your even thinking about it, everyone who's online is putting information out there all the time."

To pick up on more of those signals in 2014, employers will be using big-data-based algorithms that are both fast and cheap. Remember when job interviewers' asking people for their Facebook passwords caused a big controversy not long ago? "Employers don't ask for your password anymore because they don't need to," Burton says. "They can find out everything about you without it."

Take, for example, those calls you may be getting from headhunters. Some of them probably seem eerily spot-on. "The new online tools employers are using now can really help with conversation-starters," Burton observes. "Let's say a company needs a senior person in Austin. If your tweets and social media pages indicate you're a fan of indie bands and microbreweries, that gives recruiters a way to entice you. Or you may get a call where someone says, 'I know from your tweets that you're a big '49ers fan. Have you thought about moving to San Francisco?' "

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Burton believes one consequence of all this is that resumes are fast becoming obsolete -- and that's okay. "Resumes favor good writers and native English-speakers, who may not be the best candidates for some jobs," he notes. "Resumes are also hard to read and easy to ignore. You still need one, but now it's usually the least important thing about you."

For anyone hoping to attract job offers, his point is clear: Spend less time polishing a resume and getting the keywords exactly right, and a lot more time making your online signal stronger so that headhunters can find you.

"As a potential candidate, think about how you can showcase online what's special about you" through a website, blog, or, at the very least, a consistently updated LinkedIn profile, Burton says. That may seem obvious, but only about one-third of employees in HiringSolved's survey say they're already doing it.

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About This Author
Anne Fisher
Anne Fisher
Contributor, Fortune

Anne Fisher has been writing "Ask Annie," a column on careers, for Fortune since 1996, helping readers navigate booms, recessions, changing industries, and changing ideas about what's appropriate in the workplace (and beyond). Anne is the author of two books, Wall Street Women (Knopf, 1990) and If My Career's on the Fast Track, Where Do I Get a Road Map? (William Morrow, 2001).

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