The U.S. unemployment rate is at a record low and is projected to continue decreasing in the coming years. That's a big deal: There are more open roles than available talent to fill them, making the hiring market highly competitive for employers.

You're probably looking for every hiring edge you can get, and your team might be overlooking a key candidate pool that is right in front of you -- past candidates with whom you've interacted previously.

You probably chose not to move forward with them because they weren't a fit for your team from a culture standpoint, or didn't have the relevant background or experience to join your team. Maybe you couldn't afford them, or maybe someone else was just better. That doesn't always mean he or she will never be a fit for your team.

You always have the option to stay in touch and consider these candidates for open roles in the future--and the way the job market is going, you should seriously consider it. Here are two tips to build relationships with those quality candidates:

1. Share honest feedback.

Whether job seekers don't make it past the initial application stage or don't end up receiving an offer following a final interview -- or anywhere in between -- it's critical to close the loop with job applicants. Recent data from the Society of Human Resources Professionals (SHRM) found that only 20 percent of candidates on average receive an email from a recruiter or hiring manager, and only 8 percent receive a phone call letting them know they aren't moving forward in the hiring process.

That can be really frustrating. If their initial applications aren't a fit for your open roles or team, an automated email letting candidates know you are moving in another direction works just fine.

But if candidates complete several steps of your hiring process -- such as a prescreen surveys, skills tests and multiple interviews -- it's best to provide personalized, honest feedback. For example, a candidate who isn't a fit for a given role for a handful of reasons can potentially join your team as a top employee several months down the road in a different role. Let candidates know how their skill sets and experience fit with other roles you foresee filling in in the future if this is the case.

2. Keep in touch.

This one's easier said than done. Your team can't hire every great candidate who applies to your open roles. But if you think they might be a fit for your team down the road, you should make an effort to stay in touch.

A simple way to keep in touch by connecting with top candidates on LinkedIn. Then, when new roles come up that past candidates are qualified for, you can easily scan through your LinkedIn network to jog your memory about some of your top candidates from the past.

You might come into contact with candidates you want on your team but don't have the resources to hire them right away. For example, you might meet a great sales leader at a networking event but don't have the budget for that particular role at the time.

Consider meeting with them informally every so often -- either for lunch, coffee or something similar. Or, if you host job fairs or networking events at your business, invite top connections you have crossed paths with to show you're still interested. Then, when you do have the perfect open roles for these candidates, they'll remember all the effort you put into building the relationship, feel valued by your team and be more interested in applying.

Today's stiff competition for top talent means employers need to think outside the box to attract and hire their best teams. By building relationships with previous candidates, you'll have a leg up on other employers and fill open roles with quality employees sooner.

Published on: Dec 19, 2018
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