The COVID pandemic significantly disrupted the labor force. In 2021, more than 47 million U.S. workers quit their jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Many people who quit in search of better work-life balance, enhanced flexibility and increased pay were rehired elsewhere. In fact, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce noted, as of March 2023, hiring rates have outpaced quit rates since November 2020.
Tips for Hiring the Long-Term Unemployed
Being unemployed sometimes has a negative stigma. But most people are unemployed through no fault of their own — either due to company-specific or market-driven layoffs — or for a valid reason — for instance, they needed to care for a child or an ill family member. But attracting these workers requires a special approach. Here are some ideas to integrate into your hiring program to help bring them into the fold.
Use appropriate language in job postings. Common job descriptions can deter these individuals from even filling out the application. For example, substitute the phrases “must be currently employed” or “actively employed” with the years of “recent” experience required. Also, an application shouldn’t ask for the candidate’s current employer or current job details. Instead, ask applicants to list their previous employers, beginning with the most recent.
Apply filtering that’s inclusive of long-term unemployed candidates. As you sort through candidates’ applications, take steps to avoid inadvertently excluding people who’ve been out of the workforce for a while. You might need to change certain pre-established filters in your hiring process — such as employment status, dates of current employment and failure to answer the question, “Can we contact your current employer?”
Emphasize relevant skills. When screening long-term unemployed applicants, evaluate skills and utilize behavioral interviews to determine if the individual is a good match for the job. Also, AI-enabled video interviewing technology can assist in evaluating an applicant’s soft skills. During interviews, it can be helpful to ask questions about what the candidate did during their unemployment and if any skills from volunteer work or temporary jobs can apply to the position.
Partner with community organizations. Working with local organizations that support the long-term unemployed can make your hiring process stronger and provide a deeper pool of talent. These organizations can offer a wealth of prescreened applicants with relevant skills and experience.
Some industries have been hit harder by the labor shortage than others. The hardest hit sectors include durable goods manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, and education and health services. Conversely, the Chamber of Commerce reports that some sectors — such as transportation, construction, and mining — currently have a surplus of labor.
If your company is having trouble filling vacant positions in today’s labor market, consider targeting these populations to help expand your talent pool.
Some employers are reaching out to college or high school students to fill positions. You may have to hire them part-time. However, as a group, they tend to be teachable, energetic and tech-savvy.
For example, a poll conducted in March 2020 by the Medical Group Management Association found that 40% of medical practice leaders reported they were facing staffing shortages. One solution to fill positions was hiring college students — often pre-med or life sciences majors — to take on nonclinical positions in the front office or medical assistant positions. As a bonus, this strategy can also provide students with hands-on experience for their careers. In certain situations, it could even lead to a full-time position for students after they complete their education.
If you’re interested in candidates in this target group, start by networking with counselors at local high schools, community colleges and universities. Set up meetings with school representatives to discuss internship or apprenticeship programs. You can also attend local job fairs to connect with talented young people directly.
2. Unemployed or Underemployed Individuals
As of April 2023, the U.S. unemployment rate is comparatively low (3.4%). However, unemployment statistics don’t include:
- Part-time workers without benefits,
- Workers who have accepted a pay cut to stay on the job, or
- Unemployed people who stopped actively hunting for work.
In addition, local unemployment rates can vary significantly from the national average.
Despite the tight labor market, some people remain unemployed or underemployed because they lack the education or high-tech skills that employers want. State and federal governments have a variety of training programs to help bridge the talent gap.
For example, the federal government launched TechHire in 2015. Today it’s grown to 72 TechHire communities, 237 training providers, 1,300 employer partners and more than 4,000 job placements. One TechHire initiative is “coding boot camps” that work with hiring managers, technical recruiters and software engineers to identify specific skills that employers want and offer training and employment resources to interested job candidates. (See “4 Tips for Hiring the Long-Term Unemployed,” at right.)
3. Existing Employees
Your company may have an untapped pool of workers on site. With the right training, your current employees can be promoted to hard-to-fill positions within your organization.
LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report found that having opportunities to learn and grow was the top factor in what defines an exceptional work environment. The study found that employees who feel their skills aren’t being used by their employers are 10 times more likely to look for a new job.
There are numerous benefits to investing in worker training programs or paying workers to stay updated on their continuing education requirements. For tax purposes, companies can generally deduct the cost of courses or seminars the employees attend to maintain professional or work-related skills. The write-off isn’t limited to tuition. It can also cover books, supplies and some travel costs.
In addition, some states have introduced Lifelong Learning Accounts (LiLAs) to encourage employees and employers to invest in ongoing skills training. These savings accounts are funded through matching employer-employee contributions and cover the education costs of the participating employee.
Unlike tuition reimbursement programs, which are usually dedicated to improving current job-related skills, LiLAs cover the costs of any type of postsecondary education chosen by the participating employee. Many programs also include career advisory services. LiLAs have been proposed in many other states and by the federal government, possibly to expand the Section 529 college savings concept.
It’s a Process
Finding and retaining talented employees doesn’t occur overnight. It demands intentional planning and ongoing efforts. Considering additional talent pools can help. Contact your tax and financial advisors to help brainstorm ways to find qualified workers in today’s challenging labor market.