Many employers mistakenly believe that passive candidates are the best fit for job openings while unemployed candidates lack the necessary qualifications. This assumption stems from the idea that someone wouldn’t be unemployed if they possessed the right qualifications for a job.

However, it’s important to recognize that many unemployed candidates find themselves in this situation due to factors beyond their control, not due to their job performance. For example, they might’ve been laid off due to budget constraints or left their jobs voluntarily for personal reasons.

Tapping into this often-overlooked talent pool can increase your chances of finding the ideal candidate. The following are some things to keep in mind when hiring unemployed candidates.

1. Craft Inclusive Job Descriptions

Avoid language in your job descriptions that may deter unemployed candidates. For instance, specifying that applicants must currently hold a similar position excludes those who are not currently employed.

Instead, consider requiring recent experience in a related role or a specific amount of relevant industry experience.

2. Check Your Applicant Tracking System (ATS) Filters

Applicant tracking systems simplify the sourcing process by scanning resumes submitted by candidates. These systems search for keywords that are relevant to the job description. However, it’s important to ensure the ATS isn’t automatically blocking unemployed applicants’ resumes.

For example, an ATS may filter out unemployed candidates based on the following details:

  • Employment status
  • Questions like, “May we contact your current employer?”
  • Requests for dates of prior employment that are more than a few months old

Such filters have the potential to prevent you from recruiting impressive candidates merely because they’re presently unemployed. Therefore, you’ll want to ensure your ATS isn’t inadvertently disadvantaging unemployed applicants.

Woman shaking hands as she accepts job - portraying she is accepting job with a company with a strong employer brand

3. Encourage Employee Referrals of Qualified, Unemployed Candidates

According to Deloitte, recent studies suggest that employee referrals are among the most effective hiring methods, with referred workers being 20% less likely to leave their jobs.

Consider establishing an employee referral program that welcomes referrals from various work backgrounds, including veterans, older workers, working parents, and the long-term unemployed.

Offer incentives like cash bonuses or non-cash rewards to motivate your employees to recommend qualified candidates.

4. Use Behavioral Interview Questions

Interviewing unemployed candidates is important to assess their suitability for the job, including their skills and character.

Use behavioral interview questions to gain insights into their qualifications, work ethic, and personality. These questions allow you to examine how candidates respond to work-related situations, perform specific job functions, and react to the outcomes of their actions.

5. Conduct Due Diligence

Deloitte reports that hiring the long-term unemployed can lead to higher retention rates and increased workforce loyalty. Keep in mind that unemployed candidates are typically available to start work immediately, which is advantageous for positions that require quick staffing.

Regardless of employment status, you’ll want to perform thorough due diligence before making any hiring decisions to ensure the right fit for your organization.

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