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The LLoyd blog: hidden talent.

Expanding the Talent Pool at the Screening Stage

As recruitment professionals, we hear this every day:
We have too many openings and not enough qualified talent to fill our needs!”  

Yet there are people out there.  CNBC.com recently reported there are about 1 million more job openings than available people.   That translates to approximately 8.6 million Americans considered to be “out of work” with nearly 10 million positions to be filled. Still – that’s 8.6 million who are unemployed – so where are they and why haven’t you found them?

In a reverse job market when jobs are scarce and candidates plentiful, companies tend to establish strict hiring criteria as a means to screen out applicants.  However, in a tight market like this one, companies should consider revisiting these hiring requirements to determine if they are truly essential to job performance, or just what might be deemed “nice to have.”

What does that mean for your vacancies?
Let’s assume you are fortunate to have a few qualified, skilled candidates under consideration – the typical next step is screening.  Many times good candidates are immediately rejected because they fail previously prescribed screening standards.  Hiring experts are currently urging employers to re-assess their screening standards and rethink the skill requirements needed for hire.  In other words, apply a degree of leniency if possible.  They suggest you ask yourself, “Are we rejecting an appropriately skilled candidate because of an infraction or a missing element that has no real relevance to their job or the task this individual will perform for us?”

This kind of introspection is not for every company and much is dependent on your industry and the job itself, but such leniency can significantly broaden your applicant pool.   Of course, you must always think about your company’s risk tolerance and the value and potential use of the prospective employee’s skill set.  What a call center might tolerate in someone’s background is totally different than what a hospital might tolerate.  The goal is to ensure the person you are thinking of hiring meets your organization’s employment requirements while still mitigating potential risks.

As providers of talent, a staffing recruiter always asks if there is any room to relax the screening that a client company requests as a prerequisite to their use for a contract associate or full time hire. We do this because staffing companies are trying to help clients fill as many openings as possible. The goal is to make the candidate pool wider, not narrower and easing screening can often make a measurable difference to availabilityFor example, is a four-year college degree an absolute must, or can work experience and/or some college be acceptable? Even the slightest ease in such pre-requisites can open doors.

Are you currently doing pre-hire drug screens?  Numerous states have now legalized medical marijuana and some have legalized it for recreational use as well. In response, many companies have changed their drug testing requirements.  They no longer do pre-employment screening for marijuana use except for safety and security sensitive jobs, and jobs bound by a federal or state contract or grant.  Removing a requirement does not imply that it isn’t relevant to the job. It just means that it, by itself, cannot tell you that someone is totally unfit for the position

If you identify a requirement that is not truly necessary for a position, consider removing it totally rather that describing it as a desired qualification or mandatory.  It is best to be uncompromising in an application for a hiring decision and you shouldn’t allow managers to make exceptions to the requirement.  You should have requirements for a reason, not as a nicety. If and when a hiring manager is able to make an exception on an individual case, it just increases the risk of a bad hire and may even lead to legal challenges based on inconsistent hiring methods.  You must know what is an essential job requirement and what is not.

Some of the easier ways to increase applicant pool size is to look at previous work experience (in years), educational degree criteria and the field of degree.  A few good questions to determine if such screening is essential include:

  • Why is it important?
  • What capabilities are we assuming candidates will have gained as a result of certain levels of experience or education?
  • Could a person develop these capabilities in other ways?

Higher levels of education do not guarantee learning or the knowledge to perform certain duties.

To be clear, relaxing screening standards are not feasible for every employer, but it is a concept to think about when recruiting and retaining talent is a major pain point for your business. One of the workforce’s greatest social challenges is how to provide economic opportunities for people often viewed as unemployable. Being open to considering ways to include workers rather than exclude them can change the face of your recruitment pool.  Tools used today can be used as a layer of protection or comfort to compliment your hiring decision, instead of possibly eliminating some very significant contributors to your organization.  When candidates are scarce, it is a good practice to Screen In, Not Out.

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