Low-risk recruitment strategies and the unemployed

Expanding your business typically requires taking on new hires, but adding new people comes with a risk—which is why so much emphasis is now  being placed on low-risk recruitment strategies. Do a bad job in recruiting and you can harm the morale of your team, and damage your brand and growth potential. Drag your feet and your team and company get dragged down too.

There are no shortcuts to growing great staff and finding the right fit, and missteps are costly. Whatever the workforce environment looks like, hiring remains the one of the most important yet trickiest tasks, so you have to get better at it, and that requires low-risk recruitment strategies. But what does that actually mean, and how do categories of workers such as the unemployed fit into that kind of strategy?

“It’s no longer sufficient just to find a willing individual with a good attitude who can be trained,” Michelle Tajudeen, human resources consultant and leadership/career coach at MetaCC Inc. “Managers are now tasked with finding the right ‘fit’ for their teams with candidates who possess the right level of education, work experience and competencies required to successfully navigate their complex environments while modeling the values of the organization.”

The pickings are plentiful—from top-performing types currently employed and not looking to active job seekers who are talented, eager and unemployed—and definitely looking. But picking talent takes talent.

Keep your eyes on the prize with these simple low-risk recruitment strategies and prevent a toxic hire:

Accurate job description is critical

In their haste to hire, many hiring leaders fail to put out an accurate job description. “The end result may be a high volume of applicants but few who actually have the right fit to be considered for the interview,” according to Tajudeen.

Invest the time to create or update job descriptions to ensure they accurately reflect the requirements of the role, including the knowledge, skills and competencies, she says, as well as align with the mission and values of the organization. You’ll lower hiring risk and save time by attracting the best-suited candidates right out of the gate.

Revamp your hiring process

Time-strapped managers often rush the recruiting process, and then get burned with a bad candidate, says Graham Brown, an HR consultant and managing partner at GBC HR. “In many cases, they do not know why and repeat the process – only to get burned again. That’s when we get called in.”

Do your due diligence with a written assessment that is linked to core skills, competencies and abilities, Brown advises. Completed by the applicant either at home or onsite, it evaluates cognitive skills, like numeracy and vocabulary, as well as aptitudes and career fit.

This is but one critical step in the assessment process. “Hiring managers should use each step in the process, including screening, interviews, written assessments, etc., as pieces of a puzzle to put together a full picture of the candidate.”

According to Brown, each step must have a specific purpose and clearly link back to the competencies/attributes that are required— “many times pressured managers skip steps that are necessary because they do not fully understand the information they need to gather.”

Test candidates’ skills

Use applicant assignments during the screening process to validate what they claim to know and their skill level. “Get candidates to complete something they would normally do on the job,” says Brown.

For example, ask the candidate to develop a spreadsheet using MS Excel; provide a financial statement and ask them to analyze and provide recommendations; or provide a case situation and ask the candidate to write how they will handle it. “For a technician job, we have given candidates a broken piece of equipment and asked them to diagnose it,” says Brown.

Get insight into the time and effort you’ll need to invest in a great candidate to get them fully up to speed. In some cases, someone who has been unemployed may not be current with technology or your industry practices, adds Tajudeen. “This may result in additional requirements for training, resources or leadership support.”

Turn your focus on the unemployed

Why spend a vastly disproportionate amount of budget and effort on targeting employed candidates who aren’t even looking to leave their job? Or they’d be looking! There’s no evidence that passive candidates become better employees than unemployed job seekers so get over the outdated notion that the jobless are a riskier hire.

More than ever, redundancies and restructuring are part of the business landscape, and this has created a veritable reservoir of hungry, active job seekers. “Someone unemployed can be an enthusiastic and grateful candidate who will do their best—they will certainly not look back at what they just left,” Brown says.

Along with increased levels of motivation, gratitude and loyalty for giving them a chance, an unemployed applicant has the ability to start new roles very rapidly and there may be more flexibility in negotiations around compensation and other perks and benefits, Tajudeen adds.

On the other hand, there may be an unfavourable reason that they are unemployed, suggests Brown, or if they have been unemployed for a while, it may take longer for them to integrate back to the workplace—“but really the risks are low if there is a proper recruitment process in place.”

Do your reference checks

Every hire should have a reference check – this lowers your risk of taking on a problem employee. When checking references, whether an active or passive job seeker, Brown suggests getting hiring help from an HR expert trained in conducting professional reference checks and reading between the lines.

“You will find out a lot more than you can on your own,” he says. “You want to confirm what you heard in the interviews and assess strengths and possible development areas for your top one to two candidates, prior to extending a job offer.”

Don’t get stuck on employed versus unemployed—it is the “story” the candidates have for being unemployed that matters, says Brown, and you can verify their story both during the recruitment process and the reference checks with organizations the candidate left. “If the story makes sense, unemployed candidates are as strong as employed ones in our experience.”

Former supervisors are a great reference resource but keep in mind you always need prior approval and agreement from the candidate as to who will be contacted as a reference.

 If you suffer from recruiting remorse, it’s time to reassess your hiring process. Check how well your practices predict the quality of hires by looking at your outcomes. Stuck with a lack-lustre team or high turnover? Enough said. Quality employees are yours for the hiring – just implement some of our low-risk recruitment strategies and you’ll come out with a great hire and no headaches or regrets.