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If your company has had an unwritten policy to only interview candidates who are currently employed, it may be time for your organization to trash the grandfathered notion that the unemployed are somehow less qualified for your positions and take another look at your applicant pool.

In today’s economy, the long-term unemployed don’t always fit the stereotypes that came to mind before the recent downturn.  The unemployed were often previously seen as the slackers other companies had let go or those that didn’t really want to work.

But since the downturn, those perceived notions don’t necessarily fit the truth—that there are many talented, hirable candidates, begging for an interview, who could be your company’s next rock star employee.  In fact you may be surprised at the talent available, especially if you’re willing to think outside the box.

And with the estimates reaching around 5.5 million people considered the long-term unemployed, which makes up almost 43% of the total unemployed population (US Department of Labor), there’s a lot of talent waiting to be discovered.

Why is this applicant pool worth taking a second look at for an interview?  Glad you asked:

  • They Were Rock Stars Before

When the economy tanked, companies cut jobs across the board, including some of their best talent.  That applicant you may have tried to steal away from your competitor a few years ago could be a very viable option now.  Just because your competitor couldn’t keep them on, doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from their skills and expertise—after all, you wanted them once, why not now?

  • They Have Mad Skills

Many candidates are fighting the notion their skills are getting rusty during the job hunt.  In fact, through government and other programs, many have gone on to get additional certifications that your company may not have been able to provide access to.  And that added time on their hands has allowed them to devote to networking within their industries, staying on top of trends, honing their expertise, and learning new skills, whereas their working counterparts’ time commitments to self education have been scaled back due to their increased workloads when the workforce was cut lean.

  • They’re a Diamond in the Rough

As industry is rapidly changing, the way companies are adapting is also changing our career paths.  Companies that are creative and strategic can identify talent from other industries who may help them transform their workforce and the way they compete in business.  Business concepts and technical skills can be taught, but critical thinking, strategic visioning, and the like are traits in individuals that can only be fostered to grow.  Some major software companies are crossing boundaries and hiring liberal arts majors as programmers even when they’ve never seen a line of code-why?—because their new workforce of critical thinkers can adapt and change with the technology they’re creating.  Their focus shifts from developing a code to seeing the potential of what it can do and how it can be adapted to new trends.  Finding the right visionaries for your company and diversifying your workforce could shed new light on your organization’s future and ability to stay competitive.

  •  They’ll Return the Favor

If you treat these candidates right, respect them for their talents and skills, and show them their worth, they’ll remember you took a chance on them when others closed their doors and didn’t even give them a shot at an interview to prove themselves.  Being valued is important to all employees, but when you’ve been out of work for quite some time, you appreciate a great job all the more and realize how lucky you are to land it.  And you’ll work hard to keep it.

So when it’s time to hire for that next open position, it may be worth opening your mind and widening the parameters of your search to give someone who’s been unemployed a chance to prove themselves with an interview.  Pick up the phone, find out what they’ve been doing with their time, explore what they have to offer, and see if they might provide a new perspective on some outdated practices.

Source
THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION — JANUARY 2012 . Bureau of Labor Statistics. United States Department of Labor. February 03, 2012

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