Revisiting Top Talent Failures – Recruiting Sources That Only The Best Use

Most “revisits” are top prospects that applied, and came close, but were never hired during a job search. So they can be classified as top-talent failures. However, I find that these talent failures are right under your nose. It should be considered as a top-quality talent pool instead. It is a talent pool that only the very best recruiters regularly tap into.

But unfortunately, I find everyone else completely ignores these top “failed candidates” after the initial hiring process is completed. And the best part about utilizing this talent pool is that those in it are easier and cheaper to recruit because you have already rated them as top talent and sold them on the company during their past job search. So for those that are interested in unique sources of talent. This article contains my list of the top five talent failure sources that are filled with top-rated candidates that should be considered for future job openings. 

Who Are Your Top Talent Failures, And Why Should You Revisit Them?

Yes, the very best candidates may be right under your nose and in your files. These top talent failures earn that name because they were rated at the very top, but we never hired them during their first job search. They were one-time failures that should be revisited. Because in the past, they turned down your offer, came in a close second place, or prematurely dropped out of your interview process. And unlike most candidates, these top talent failures are not “strangers” because you have already positively assessed and ranked them as top candidates during a past job search. Another plus is that they are easy to revisit and reassess because you already have their evaluation materials in your files. Top talent failures are also superior recruiting prospects because they have already expressed an interest in your company (by proactively applying at least once). And now, since some time has passed by since they were assessed, they are now likely to have even better skills, knowledge, and more experience. 

The Top 5 “Top Talent Failure” Sourcing Categories That Only The Best Use

Only the very best recruiting departments keep track of these “talent failures” that just missed being hired. In my view, all smart recruiters should automatically add their names to their prospect list whenever a relevant new job opens up. And in the following list of the best five hiring failure sources, the most powerful ones are listed first.

#1 Best Hiring Failure Source – Finalists Who Turned Down Your Offer (Turndowns)

Those in this category are classified as hiring failures because they didn’t accept your job offer the first time around. Obviously, any finalist who got to the offer stage at your company, and perhaps another also, must be a top-quality candidate. And even though they turned down your offer, they should be revisited later as a prospect. 

As time has passed, their reasons for turning you down have probably disappeared (check the file to see what reasons they gave for turning you down). But also, what you are able to offer them may now have improved. And it may also be true after working in their new job. These “turndowns” may be a little disillusioned, or their current company may now be going through some turmoil. Both will make them think about other opportunities. So if you subtly let them know you are still interested in them. They may now be willing to try again to get a second offer from your company. 

Action steps – if you don’t do it already, the first step is to create an ongoing master list of these offer turndowns. Next, each of these former turn-downed candidates should be automatically added to your talent community and your candidate pipeline. Next, assign a recruiter to each one of them in order to “keep them warm” as potential future hires. And when a relevant job opens up for them. The best way to “rekindle their interest” is for the manager or team member to call them. In a general way, inquire about how they’re doing and their future plans. And during the conversation, subtly leave the impression that you might have an opportunity that could be of some interest to them. Incidentally, finalist turndowns often feel slightly guilty about rejecting your offer. So when it’s appropriate now (or during the offer conversation). Ask them to provide you with one or two referral names that are at least as good as they are.

#2 – Revisit Past Finalists That Came In A Close Second To An Outstanding Finalist (Pure Silver Medalists)

This category of candidates is classified as hiring failures because they lost out to an exceptional candidate. So it makes sense to revisit what I call “pure silver medalists.” 

They are outstanding finalist candidates for a job that they came in second to a truly outstanding candidate (e.g., yes, we would’ve hired you for our golf team had Tiger Woods not applied at the same time). In fact, they are designated as “pure silver medalists” (as opposed to regular silver medalists). Because if the hired finalist weren’t so extremely exceptional, this exceptional candidate would’ve been hired every other time.

Note that they make great recruiting targets because they clearly have outstanding qualifications, and have already been assessed and sold. So it makes sense to automatically revisit them when the next vacancy occurs in their field. And despite the fact that many managers initially think it’s a mistake to hire another manager’s “rejects,” you might be surprised to learn that a survey revealed that “77% of recruiters have gone back and hired a “Silver Medalist.”

Action steps – start making a note of the cases where a candidate came in second simply because they had the bad luck of applying at the same time as a superstar or truly exceptional candidate did. And now they should be revisited. Because since time has passed, the revisited prospect’s skills and experience are even better now. So start by developing a process for identifying them and then automatically adding them to the prospect list whenever their job opens up again. A separate list should also be created for regular silver medalists because many of them do get hired the second time around. For more details on hiring all silver medalists, click here.

#3 – Revisit Exceptional Candidates That Dropped Out Of Your Final Interview Process (Exceptional Dropouts)

Those in this category are classified as hiring failures because they dropped out of your final interview process before completing it. So you had no chance to fully evaluate them or even hire them. Of course, everyone these days loses a great number of candidates because they prematurely “drop out” of your hiring process. However, those who make the final interview list will likely be exceptional candidates. So you should identify and evaluate all exceptionally qualified finalist candidates that prematurely drop out before their final interview to determine if they should be considered for future openings. And incidentally, you should never assume that a candidate is dropping out because of something in the job. Research has shown that 70% of applicants dropped out not because of a fault in the job itself but because the hiring process was too tedious.

Action steps – start by developing an “exceptional finalist dropout “identification process that identifies those who made the final interview list but never completed it. So after the hiring process has been completed for that job, if you have time, you should try to identify the reasons why each one dropped out of your interview process to ensure that the reasons are no longer valid. And for those candidates with reasonable explanations. When a relevant opening occurs, a recruiter should contact them in order to assess their willingness to complete the process this time around.

#4 Revisit The Top Finalists That Were Rejected Because They Were Not A Team Fit (Team Misfits)

Those in this category are classified as hiring failures. Because they were not hired for a very specific narrow reason, their hiring manager decided that this highly qualified candidate “wasn’t a fit” for this current team. In fact, it’s not unusual for a top finalist to be rejected solely because they were assessed as not being “a good team fit.” However, because the rejection determination was limited to the team (and not the entire company), it makes sense to reconsider these team misfits for jobs where they would likely fit the team. 

Action steps – recruiters should ask every hiring manager why they hired their top candidate and why they rejected numbers two and three. Of course, every recruiting function should be cautious in every case where they learn that an individual hiring manager dropped a top candidate solely because of their fit. First off because the process that most use for defining and measuring “fit” can be extremely subjective and even discriminatory. But more specifically, because this exceptional finalist may fit superbly in the same job with another team. So start by getting hiring managers to tell their recruiter whenever a top finalist is rejected solely because they are not a fit for this team. And then these “team misfits” should be automatically placed on the prospect list when a similar job opens up in an unrelated team. In my experience, it’s a good idea also to let this hiring manager assess their fit independently (without being told of their previous fit assessment).

#5 The Boomerang Rehiring Of Former Top Performers (Boomerang Top Performers)

Those in this category are classified as talent failures (rather than hiring failures) because their manager failed to retain a top performer. It’s true with all hiring that it is difficult to tell whether a candidate will turn out to be a top, average, or bottom performer.

However, there is one recruiting source where you can know in advance that a candidate will be a top performer in your organization. And that is when you target a “boomerang top performer rehire.” This is the targeted recruiting of a former employee that was rated as a top performer when they left your company. This extremely powerful revisit approach is where you keep in touch with your top performers who voluntarily left. This approach produces quality hires because the individuals you are targeting were clearly already top performers when they left. One study found that a whopping 72%of past employees would return” to their former company if the opportunity arose. And now that some time has passed, they will also have stronger skills and knowledge gained while working at another company. Incidentally, if you target diverse former employees, this approach can bring added benefits.

Action steps – when an open position is so critical that you can’t afford to have a mis-hire. You should proactively seek out your former employees that were top performers in that job family. The recruiting approach is simple. You start by telling each targeted top-performing employee (not everyone) during their exit interview that they would be welcomed back in the future. And then ask for their permission to keep in touch. If they say yes, you assign a recruiter to maintain the relationship with each revisit prospect. And then, over time, the recruiter coaxes them until they are willing to return to a position in the same job family. That recruiter should also educate their hiring manager on why recruiting them back will be much easier than most candidates. Because they already like you and your culture, and you already know what it takes to attract them. It also makes sense to target them today because the company they left for may now be in turmoil. Incidentally, because of the turmoil that many retirees are also facing. You should also consider top-performing retirees as potential boomerangs. Use this link to find out more about how to land boomerang rehires

Two Additional Talent Failure Action Tips

  • Revisit college hiring failures too – the college hiring process also produces failures. So be sure to include college hire failures in sourcing categories 1 – 4. 
  • Be notified the instant that a targeted hiring failure reapplies for a job – be sure to add a trigger to your ATS system that will automatically alert you whenever one of your targeted “revisit prospects” reapplies for another job so that you can respond immediately and express your renewed interest.
If you only do one thing – as an individual recruiter, create your own list of revisit prospects from your own hiring failures on this list. And over time, select a few of the very best candidates that should be revisited. Then recommend them to your hiring manager in order to see if they would be willing to try re-recruiting them. 

Final Thoughts

I have found over many years that most corporate recruiters are unaware and don’t use some of the most valuable recruiting sources for top performers. Prospects from these sources have the added benefit of not being complete “strangers.” They can easily fool you because you have so little exposure to them during your brief hiring window. However, under this “revisit hiring failures” approach.” You are, fortunately, evaluating a candidate for the second time, so you are more likely to get it right. And when revisiting them, this hiring manager can add their own second and hopefully higher level of candidate selling. So that this time around, these revisited former failed candidates can quickly, easily, and inexpensively become top hires.

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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