When it comes to hiring the most qualified candidate, many hiring managers and recruiters have a habit of prioritizing applicants who are actively generating value for another company. The practice of "candidate poaching" is quite common in the labor market, as it can be difficult to accurately assess the skills and qualifications of unemployed job seekers. However, overlooking certain applicant groups can prevent companies from hiring strong workers with the expertise, experience and dedication needed to truly excel.
Job seekers who have been laid off are often approached with a great deal of caution, which makes sense from an operational standpoint as it's not always clear why someone was let go. That said, ignoring this group of applicants can eliminate a massive number of potential hires from your talent pool. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 1.7 million employees were laid off or discharged in January 2019 alone. While it's true that many employees are terminated as a result of poor performance, there are a number of alternative factors that might equally explain an applicant's lack of employment, such as:
- Corporate reorganization
- Labor cost reduction
- Job outsourcing
- Mergers and buyouts
- Downsizing or rightsizing
In these cases, employees are laid off through no fault of their own, which places them in an extremely challenging position as they begin hunting for a new job. Considering the stigma surrounding laid-off applicants, it's no wonder that many unemployed workers underestimate their chances of finding lucrative employment — but one company's loss is another's gain.
The value of laid-off job seekers
In early March, Fast Company published an article discussing the benefits of hiring laid-off employees to shed light on this underserved job-seeking community. In truth, recruiters' predisposition toward passive candidates highlights the importance of talent capital in the hiring process, as most companies are looking for skilled workers with a high degree of personal drive. Unemployed applicants are, by nature, hungry for a chance to prove their worth, which can bring a lot of immediate value to your organization. Before you pass over a laid-off candidate, consider these key benefits:
- Rapid onboarding: Passive candidates have existing obligations to their employer, whether they are content with their current position. Employed applicants may be reluctant to leave their company without substantial concessions, as transitioning to a new role tends to cause at least some short-term instability. In contrast, laid-off workers are often ready to start as soon as possible, and do not have to go through the customary two-week-notice process.
- Raw talent: Some unemployed candidates were laid off as a result of the "last-in, first-out" resourcing formula that prioritizes seniority over growth potential. These applicants usually have a tough time landing interviews due to the short tenure listed on their resume, which many recruiters interpret as a lack of competency. If your company is looking to carefully develop the perfect employee, these types of job seekers are a strong choice.
- High morale: Laid-off workers tend to be excited about getting back to a normal employment schedule, and receiving a job offer can be both a relief and a source of soaring optimism. Hiring applicants that are full of positive energy can breathe new life into your work environment and stimulate productivity.
No matter what position you're hiring for, a laid-off candidate may represent the perfect fit for your company. While it's good to hire selectively, it's important to keep an open mind during your search and avoid writing-off applicants before they've had a chance to impress you.