Why Expanding Your Candidate Pool is Still a Good Idea

Man looking over resume

Just when you finally adjust, everything changes again.

That’s certainly been the case for employers, who made strides to expand employee training, retention programs and candidate requirements for open positions. This was a natural reaction to a labor market with historically low unemployment rates for years leading up to coronavirus.

Now, with more than 14 million people having lost their job since February and permanent unemployment is accelerating, there is a suddenly massive labor pool searching for a job. It seems like a return to rigid candidate requirements may be in the works.

But is that the right approach?

We sat down with Aerotek Delivery Solutions Executive Robert Barsamian to better understand why employers may still want to cast a wider net for candidates. After all, even in the “new normal” of an upside-down labor market, you wouldn’t want to overlook an amazing source of new talent.

Behavior, not background, defines employee value

The rigidity of candidate requirements can vary by company and position, and for a number of different reasons. In many cases, thresholds are handed down by Human Resources to comply with a particular business goal.

But in every case, a candidate’s qualifications cease to matter as much once they’re on the job. Even in a buyer’s market for talent, educational attainment and years of prior experience don’t drive value as much as how well a given employee can apply their knowledge to the task at hand.

“We always ask our clients what the day to day job looks like and what skills are required to successfully navigate that job,” says Barsamian. “From there, we can find candidates based on what the best employees do rather than simply filtering resumes for profiles that might be good.”

This philosophical approach to the hiring process — seeking candidates based on behaviors rather than on-paper qualifications — helps bring in employees who fit culture and drive value more effectively.

The most valuable skills are transferable

A great employee tends to be great everywhere they go. Regardless of a candidate's qualifications or expected role, their value on the job comes down to a few key skills such as attention to detail, problem-solving and communication. These could have been developed through experience in any industry.

If your company’s new hire training process was built robustly to help you upskill less experienced candidates from a much thinner pre-coronavirus labor pool, use it. Keep your hiring searches open to candidates from a wider range of backgrounds who have demonstrated exceptional ability with those key value-driving skills.

“Your training that goes into onboarding a new hire is important,” says Barsamian. “If that is strong, then you can take anyone and apply those transferable skills directly to the job.“

Build a culture of active upskilling

One of the best ways for companies to survive and thrive in an era marked by big changes is to build a nimble workforce full of curious, adaptable people.

Broadening your applicant pool can help you do that.

Wherever your organization finds itself up against a skills gap for new hires, there’s an opportunity to prioritize candidates who demonstrate motivation to learn on the job. By expanding your applicant base to include experience in other industries, you’re more likely to find candidates who have already proven themselves capable of learning new skills in a previous position.

“There’s a widening skills gap,” says Barsamian, “and the only solution is to make sure motivated people have a chance to improve their career.”

Crucially, bringing in multiple people from a broad range of professional backgrounds who share a desire to build their skillset will influence the culture of your organization and build momentum towards continuous learning, teaching and informal mentorship.

Multiple perspectives improve team problem-solving

When employees with a range of backgrounds collaborate to solve a problem, a diversity of perspective can be a huge asset.

For example, say a customer service call center team includes a newly hired representative with only prior retail experience. This may appear to be a disadvantage at first glance. But since this customer service background includes more of a visual and experiential component, the new hire may be more capable of describing the physical features of products in ways that can benefit the whole team.

“Companies potentially miss out on effective solutions by keeping a single, narrow perspective on the problems they face,” says Barsamian. “By hiring people from different industries, you get a new set of eyes and a new solution.”

No matter what industry you’re in or how readily available your applicant pool is, you still run the risk of missing the best possible candidate because of rigid job requirements.

Candidates with core transferable skills can succeed in almost any job. By expanding your candidate pool, even now, your company will develop a more well-rounded and responsive workforce that incorporates a diverse set of skills and perspectives.

That’s always a good idea.

To explore options for redefining your applicant pool, reach out to Aerotek.