It’s frustrating when your organization’s job openings don’t attract enough applicants, or worse, when no one qualified applies at all. Or perhaps you’ve been told to hire someone new immediately, meaning your usual thoughtful recruitment process is out the window.
You may already have an easily accessible pool of qualified candidates. The secret is to take a look at people who previously applied for positions at your organization.
The appeal of recruiting past applicants
Human resources often overlooks past applicants as a source for top talent. Don’t dismiss these people just because your organization didn’t hire them before. There are many reasons to reconsider them.
If they were overqualified or underqualified for the job they initially applied for, today they could be a match for a different job opening. They may have picked up crucial skills or experiences they were missing, boosting their appeal. They might have been a top contender, but didn’t shine as bright as the superstar you wound up hiring. The timing may simply have been off, and they either withdrew their application or rejected your job offer.
Recruiting from the pool of past applicants can also save time. They’re already familiar with your organization and probably considered the merits of joining your team. You might have already vetted their qualifications, conducted interviews, or checked their references.
Ways to leverage past applicants
Your options are not limited to persuading past applicants to reapply for your new job openings, though that’s a logical and viable option.
In the case that they’re not interested or available, or are not quite right for the job, you can ask past applicants to share the job description with their friends and colleagues, alumni groups, and professional social networks. They may even realize there’s a specific person they know who would be be a great candidate for the job.
Before you begin
Though you’re understandably eager to connect with this untapped talent pool, before you do, take a moment to assess the situation.
Keep in mind that they may not be actively job hunting, but still might be curious to learn about your opportunity. Perhaps they took it hard when you didn’t offer them a job before, and need to hear from you that they shouldn’t feel discouraged from trying again. If your organization treated job applicants poorly in the past (of course, that stopped as soon as you arrived), you may need to repair their perception of your brand reputation.
It’s also worth considering if the reason they didn’t become employees the last time was your doing, not theirs. Your previous recruitment process may have been derailed by a hiring freeze, budget fiasco, or leadership upheavals.
How to tactfully contact past applicants
A personalized invitation to apply for a new job opening shows your commitment to a positive hiring process. Explain that there’s an open position and why you thought they might be interested. Describe your hiring process, especially if it changed since they last applied.
Manage their expectations so they aren’t misled into believing the invitation to apply gives them a special advantage. You might suggest a phone call as a way to walk them through the process, discuss their interest and availability, and pre-screen them for the position.
Track past applicants with human resources software
Sorting through through past applicants will be easy if you keep track of them in your human resources software. You won’t have to struggle to pick through printed resumes, email attachments, or clunky spreadsheets to identify who is worth contacting.
With applicant tracking software, you can easily find people with the traits and skills you need in a new hire. Depending on the information your recruiting team logs in the software, you might be able to review their job application rating and detailed notes from interviews.
If you haven’t started using applicant tracking software at your public sector organization, tapping into the past applicant talent pool is a compelling reason to start.