Finding Qualified Talent Where You Least Expect It

We spend a lot of time talking about a lack of qualified people, especially in relation to the coming workforce shortage. But I’m going to argue that aspects of this shortage is artificial. In fact, we have two overlooked, overlapping populations that are a rich source of qualified personnel. Both exist and are awaiting exploitation at this very instant. The In-House Talent Oversight Back in June, at ERE’s Metrics Symposium in Los Angeles, ER Daily author Kevin Wheeler pointed out that a rich, and often overlooked, source of talent is in-house personnel. No doubt some have toned down their resumes in order to get a shoe in the door. But too often, once a person is hired, they find themselves doomed to being pigeon-holed in that same position for the rest of their organizational lives. Opportunities for which they are profoundly qualified go to new hires or others already in those echelons simply because no one bothered to look a little deeper into the existing talent pool. The lost opportunity costs of promoting existing in-house talent is multiplied by the costs of external advertising, recruiting, and interviewing. Talent acquisition costs can be saved by looking deeper within the existing talent base. In-house personnel are not the only group who constitute a lost opportunity. Frequently disregarded are the in-house under-employed. As we leave behind the dust of the New Millennium Depression, we need to survey our internal potential talent pool landscape ó the under-utilized one, that is. What we’ll discover as we move toward full employment is that there is a thick layer of under-employed right in front of us. In many instances, they became part of the typically overlooked strata because they took a common sense approach to living ó they vied for and accepted a position below their past experience as a means of covering the minimum living standard while the economic storm clouds dissipated. Here’s what frequently happens to this segment of the workforce. In order to save dollars, workers are asked to work longer hours or more hours per week. As the work/life ratio becomes nearly non-existent, morale slips and thoughts of going elsewhere ó where there will be appreciation for “what I have to offer,” and pay in accordance with the many roles the candidate fills ó become cemented as a more reasonable option. Too seldom we ó nay, I would say never ó ask the forward-looking question: “But do you have experience in doing…” during the interview. Getting the answer to this critical question will reveal the gold mine we have sitting before us. This is a gold mine that can significantly cut recruiting and training costs because the experience and know-how already exist. The need to groom for promotion is negligible. All that’s required is a short period of orientation so that the new hire learns the organizational methods before they move into their proper position. In this regard, another ER Daily author, Lou Adler, pointed out in his Los Angeles Hiring 2.0 workshop in July that the basis for many of our lost quality hires is using traditional measures rather than performance-based methodologies that demonstrate comparable experience and ability. Lou explained that when we begin using performance-based methodologies for screening and interviewing candidates, we will open a greater candidate pool that is more inclusive of not only women but all manner of diverse candidates. According to Lou, “Many people can perform the job with a different mix of skills by demonstrating competency in comparable rather than identical accomplishments.” So it is advantageous for us to view not only our candidates, but also in-house talent, with a view toward comparable experience. The oversight of assuming complacent satisfaction with low-rung opportunities gives short shrift to both sides of the hiring desk. It is a better practice to consider whether the candidate has developed the desired skills through non-traditional avenues and via comparable experiences, not just the standard. The prudent move is to learn more than whether the candidate can use a copier and type more than 35 words per minute. This is the time to cull through some of those old interview notes for the candidates who did not reveal in their resumes that those other five to ten years of experience were in positions of responsibility, successfully interacting with government entities, writing reports, managing budgets, cutting costs, turning profits, and having staff that reported to them. If interviewing questions about that type of background weren’t asked or the expediency caused that oversight, a good remedy is to keep an interviewing checklist with items on the order of:

  • Promotion interest
  • Article Continues Below
  • Promotion potential
  • Management experience
  • Report writing
  • Budgets and costs experience
  • Negotiations experience

I’ll let our metrics gurus calculate how many corporate dollars can be saved by doing this type of additional screening as we interview and determine whether a candidate is qualified. If this exploration is overlooked, I would dare say there is a large pool of “qualified hires” that are not being hired. The longer there is qualified talent languishing and under-utilized, the lower corporate morale will slip, the higher the turnover rate will go, and the greater recruiting costs will be. A good recruiter will become aware of these additional marketable skills and background in their candidates and promote them to the client. Not only is there the potential for increased recruiter fees for outside recruiters, but the potential for a more meaningful and satisfying match for both the client as well as the candidate. The Other Under-Employed This brings me to a unique class of qualified, under-employed hires who not only go overlooked but tend to get buried in the organizational frenzy for getting the right person. Last year, I talked with you about the candidate worth a closer look. It’s obvious that they’re more than qualified for the entry-level position for which they’ve applied. There is refinement in the way they handle things. Their communication and negotiation skills are impressive. Yet we greedily screen and hire this talent for the less-than-optimal opportunities, giving no consideration to the fact that they are extremely qualified to do more and be promoted to a situation more in keeping with their abilities, speaking to them in condescending tones. Survivors of domestic abuse are not completely unqualified for positions of responsibility. Nor are they traditionally from impoverished, needy backgrounds, or lacking in education or intelligence. According to National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH), about a quarter of women (26%) with incomes above $50,000 have reported domestic abuse in their lifetimes by a spouse or boyfriend. People who have achieved this salary range have made other significant employment accomplishments. These are people who have been in positions of responsibility. Accomplishments they bring to bear are equally traditional and nontraditional. So screening them by using traditional tools will more than likely reveal an extraordinary talent that is under-reaching their potential. They, like their New Millennium Depression survivor counterparts, take positions far below their capabilities and experience for the sake of getting back into the workforce. Screening these candidates using performance-based methodologies will expose an even richer talent. The important matter is to screen with a view to seeing the entire person and their potential. The NDVH reports that still another quarter of women (37%) with incomes of $16,000 or below report the same abuse. Survivors of domestic abuse are more likely to be in this economic stratum. This is because, through no conscious fault of their own, they have lost assets and other material resources. Making a comparison of the two statistics, it is safe to assume that there is some homogeneity between the two populations. The important issue here is to do performance-based screening in order to cull the qualified talent. Some Recruiting Methodology Refinements As we look forward in our recruiting and hiring initiatives, we should begin to re-examine our screening protocols. It is important for us to rethink how we conduct our quest for “qualified talent” so that we don’t miss some rich opportunities. One of the things we need to put at the top of our recruiting checklist is to search our in-house talent pool before we do an external search. Under-employed, under-utilized employees are lost gold mines. Rather than give them away to another industry, a competitor or allow them to become a competitor, the opportunities they afford are worth the time it takes to get the full story about their potential addition in other, more significant roles within the company. In addition to doing an internal search for talent, we need to enlist our human resource professionals to make certain their screenings of potential talent include analysis of candidates for their experiences beyond the advertised desired qualities, evaluate experiences and qualifications candidates have in comparables, and look at candidates’ interest in promotional opportunities (especially in the near future). Having a good interviewing checklist is critical. All too often, the interview focuses only on the immediate situation without a view to other opportunities with higher responsibility and remuneration for which the candidate is a match. It’s important to dig for the unstated background that is rich in management, responsibility, and successful decision making that’s been camouflaged just to get in the door. Lastly, we need to take steps to harness in our recruiting, hiring, and retention dollars and rid ourselves of the social blinders that cause us to overlook the qualified talent under our very noses.

Yvonne LaRose ( is a California-accredited consultant and freelance writer. Her column, Career and Executive Recruiting Advice, is read by professionals from all parts of six continents who rely on her advice, previous board experience, and insights on business management, recruiting, and career development issues. Former producer and host of "Legally Speaking," a bi-weekly legal news radio program, Ms. LaRose's 15 years of writing encompasses various media, including print. Her online writing appears at such places as, AIRS Directory, Workforce, ITWorld's Managing the IT Pro, and SmartPros. She has been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Savoy Professional Magazine, The New York Times Job Market, and SmartPros. Yvonne helped author the e-book "The Last Job Search Guide You'll Ever Need: How to Find and Get the Job or Internship of Your Dreams." Her contributions deal with professionalism, how to handle criticism and the qualities of a good resume. For more information on her book, visit


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