The Quality Of The US Talent Pool Is At A Record High… So Start Cherry Picking Exceptional Talent

Experts seldom mention the quality of the available talent pool, even though it’s at record levels. Yes, because of large-scale layoffs. The amount of highly qualified talent that is currently available to recruit is now at its highest level in memory. And those that follow business trends already know that this record volume of available quality candidates recently got a gigantic boost on or around “Black Thursday” (11/3/22). When a large number of elite firms (including Twitter, Microsoft, Oracle, Intel, Ford, Meta, and Google) announced additional large-scale layoffs and/or hiring freezes. 

And to recruiters, this means that the overall percentage of the talent pool comprised of high-quality candidates will continue to rise (i.e., those with great experience, exceptional credentials, and up-to-date in-demand skills and training). While the percentage of less desirable longer-term unemployed candidates is simultaneously shrinking (they are less desirable because they have dated experience, training, and skills). So the key lesson that smart recruiters and hiring managers must learn is that they now have a “can’t be missed” opportunity to easily recruit highly qualified individuals that historically have not been available to most non-elite firms. However, hiring managers must act quickly because this surge in candidate pool quality is likely to last only a few more business quarters.

Part I – Don’t Pass On This Opportunity… Without Knowing Its Many Benefits 

Everyone should realize that this is truly a rare opportunity. Because there are many reasons why smart recruiting leaders should immediately put together a proactive data-driven plan for recruiting from this high-quality talent pool. The top 10+ justifications for beginning this targeted recruiting effort immediately include:

  • The qualifications held by your recruiting targets will be exceptional – because many of the candidates in the current pool will have recently departed from industry-leading and elite companies. They will be highly qualified, and their experience, skills, and training will be up-to-date. In addition, many new hires will come from elite firms. They will likely also bring with them the speed, innovation, adaptability, and best practices found in the cultures of these elite corporations. 
  • There are a large number of high-quality candidates available – with literally hundreds of thousands of high-quality candidates entering the current talent pool. You will easily be able to find both the volume and the quality of the hires that you need.
  • You will have first choice, if you are one of the first firms to recruit –entering this recruiting segment first before the competition. It will not only provide you with the first choice of in-demand candidates. But it will also give you time to refine your recruiting approach before other organizations even get started. In addition, candidates will look favorably upon your company and its culture because you have demonstrated directly to them through recruiting that your company is aggressive and proactive and that your leaders make good decisions fast.
  • You will be able to fill your jobs relatively quickly – under this approach, your time to fill can be extremely short. In part because continued high inflation rates will make it difficult for non-working candidates to live off of their unemployment benefits. So, the economics will force these anxious candidates to quickly identify and apply to all serious opportunities. In addition, the possibility that your firm might freeze hiring will also likely push “offered candidates” (whether they are still working or not) to accept your offer quickly. Because that will allow them to quickly build seniority and job security at their new organization. 
  • If you offer job security, candidates will seek you out – because of the real threat of a recession and perhaps more layoffs. If your organization is stable and you can offer candidates a high probability of long-term job security. Almost all candidates will give you a serious look. 
  • Your cost per hire will be low –  note that your cost per hire will also likely be low. Because the recently laid off will be extremely active jobseekers. They are easy to find and relatively easy to sell because even the most qualified candidates in the pool are anxious about all future job opportunities.
  • These new hires will likely stay a while – because most of these targeted candidates in the pool will have been through great turmoil. If you provide a stable work environment for them after being hired, they will likely stay for an above-average period of time.
  • You will likely find much more diversity in the current talent pool – because many layoffs are not designed specifically to retain diverse talent. The layoff process that many firms have used have inadvertently increased the diversity in the US talent pool. And as a result, for the short term, you will be able to find a higher percentage of diverse exceptional talent in the current talent pool. Obviously, your odds of landing diverse candidates will be increased dramatically if you have developed a personalized approach for recruiting this highly valuable talent segment.
  • It will be easy to find candidates that excel in technology – because a significant percentage of recent layoffs and voluntary turnover has come from high-tech firms. Also, because of the likely long-term instability of this industry. For the first time, you may now be able to find and hire many technology-savvy candidates that in the past wouldn’t even consider working at an average organization.
  • With a few great hires, others will likely follow them – because so much of both unemployed and employed talent in the pool is looking to make a significantly better job choice next time around. Therefore, you should know that if you initially hire only a few well-known industry icons. The word will spread to their former, and current colleagues the top talent that they admire have already thoroughly vetted your organization. So many will conclude that it’s a wise choice to follow these icons to your organization.
  • If you act quickly, you may still have sufficient recruiting resources to succeed – of course, you must realize that your own recruiting team will not be exempt from budget-cutting measures. So hiring quickly before your team suffers internal budget cuts will allow you to demonstrate recruiting’s impact. Which may in turn build the business case for maintaining your current level of recruiting resources.

Part II – Yes, The Quality Of The Talent Pool Is Increasing – And Here’s Why 

During almost every recruiting cycle over the last few decades, I estimate that the percentage of potential applicants that have been unemployed for many months to be over 50% of the total talent pool. This percentage has been much higher than the percentage of candidates that have had uninterrupted work experience. However, these ratios are now being steadily reversed. And if you’re curious about many reasons why this percentage of highly qualified, continually employed candidates is steadily increasing. Those causes are listed below.

  • Large-scale layoffs have suddenly expanded the volume of available quality talent – after years of literally fighting to acquire even average talent. The massive layoffs that have recently been announced at so many elite firms may reach into the hundreds of thousands. And, even though the total unemployment rate has yet to rise significantly. However, because a high volume of these laid-off employees has occurred at elite companies that can afford to only hire highly qualified employees. You will find that these elite layoffs have caused the volume of quality talent in the pool to also continue to increase. 
  • High levels of employee turnover have been continually raising the quality of the talent pool – in addition to the departures from layoffs. Many top employees that have multiple job choices have been quitting their current firms. And these voluntary departures have further added to the number of high-quality candidates in the talent pool.
  • Deep cost-cutting means that many top performers have unwittingly been released – in many organizations, the worst performers are laid-off first. However, because many recent layoffs have been so deep that they resulted in the complete elimination of entire teams and business units. That means that those in the eliminated teams have not been selected for layoff because of any performance issues. And as a result, many among those from the eliminated teams quarter top-performers with exceptional skills. These laid-off top-performers could make a major contribution to another company that still maintains their eliminated business unit or team.
  • Severe cost-cutting has resulted in the loss of higher-paid leaders – because layoffs are usually made to cut costs. The current pool now includes a significant number of experienced leaders that were let go only because of their high pay rate. While other former leaders are in the pool only because they lead eliminated teams. So if you can afford them, this is a rare time when such a high volume of experienced and successful leaders will be active jobseekers.
  • Layoffs that were based on seniority have unwittingly released generational talent – because many layoffs at larger traditional firms are made based on seniority. And as a result, the large-scale release of employees with no other fault other than low seniority. This means that the current talent pool now includes many exciting former employees from recent generations. They are valuable to hiring managers because they frequently possess high energy, exceptional ideas, new approaches, and they have been high performers. 
  • New return-to-work mandates are also inadvertently boosting the quality of the pool – an increasing number of return-to-work edicts at large companies like Google and Apple are directly increasing both the volume and the quality of the talent pool. This is because many of those that have been working remotely over the last several years simply can’t return to in-person work because they have physically moved. While other remote workers that haven’t moved have simply learned to prefer this approach to work. So any strict return-to-work mandate may cause a large percentage of workers to become active jobseekers. You can now easily hire if you offer them remote work jobs.
  • Many will voluntarily leave for an increase in job security – the sudden rise in concern for job security as a result of a possible upcoming recession. This means that even those that have not yet been laid-off are working in an organization where career movement is likely to be minimal over the next two years. So they are now considering actively looking for more secure job opportunities with better career paths at other firms. 

Part III – Hiring Tips For This Rare Opportunity 

Even during normal recruiting times, organizations, unfortunately, take their sweet time in making a hiring decision (for example, the City of San Francisco currently takes 255 days to hire their average worker). However, because anxious candidates in today’s talent pool will have multiple reasons to make their job acceptance decisions extremely fast. If you expect to get their commitment before they accept another offer. You will need to streamline your hiring process for these candidates so the time to fill is less than three weeks. Other hiring tips include directly raiding weakened firms that have not yet begun layoffs. Also, remember to rely heavily on employee referrals and to target top former employees (i.e., boomerangs) that have recently been laid-off by their current firm. More detailed tips on how to cherry-pick exceptional candidates can be found here

If you only do one thing – periodically track one of the many websites that report large-scale corporate layoffs. And then on LinkedIn, identify the most qualified individuals that have recently left these firms. And that have also checked the “open to new job opportunities” feature on LinkedIn. 

Final Thoughts

During normal times of high unemployment, the talent pool is literally cluttered with a majority of highly active but low-quality jobseekers. However, for at least the next several months. In direct contrast, you will find that the current talent pool has an abundance of highly qualified candidates with up-to-date skills and training. So it makes sense to put together a data-driven plan to quickly identify the most qualified that fit your jobs. And then jump on the opportunity to cherry-pick the very best. Finally, remember that hiring only the most qualified becomes even more critical. And at the same time, it has the highest business impact whenever the total volume of hiring at your organization is extremely low.

Author’s Note 

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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