Identifying Underemployed Workers: How to Find Great Talent

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics today’s U.S. unemployment rate is hovering around 5.5%. This is a significant improvement to the 10% unemployment rate that was reached in 2009. How does the 5.5% relate to the actual job market of today? A recent article by US News and World Report presents data suggesting that the current unemployment rate does not accurately capture how Americans are living and working today. It is important to note that the official unemployment rate only counts people who are actively seeking a job. Those not actively looking for work, those working part-time because they can’t find full-time work, and workers who are underemployed are not counted. If we include these individuals, the unemployment rate equals 11% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, February 2015). This is 25% higher than when the Great Recession started in 2007.

Who are the Underemployed Workers?

Based on the job market data, it is safe to say that there is a large number of professional workers who are working in jobs that are below their skill levels, as well as part-time workers who are actually in need of full-time jobs. Although the number of new jobs in the last few years has increased, the majority of those jobs are at the entry and low-experience level. Therefore, those laid off at the start or during the recession may have only been able to find new jobs that underutilize their skills and experience. For example, someone who held a Director-level position pre-recession, may now be working as a manager.

The WorkPlace Group® has seen first-hand instances of underemployed workers on numerous occasions. For example, a recruiter at The WorkPlace Group® recently read the resume of an applicant who, on a cursory review, would be deemed not qualified. At first glance, her most recent positions involved temporary or contract work in roles that were a step back in comparison to her earlier work experience. But, upon closer review of her resume, it became obvious that she has extensive experience as a Senior Publications Editor & Publishing Specialist at a multinational mass media firm with just the specialized knowledge and experience our client needed. She is just one of the many underemployed workers who are likely to be passed over by hiring managers looking for specialized talent.

How To Find Great Talent Among the Underemployed Workers

As recruiters go through the selection and hiring process to find great talent for their employer, it is often difficult to determine if a candidate is the right fit for the job based on his or her resume. HR managers or recruiters might find themselves skipping over some great, quality candidates if they strictly focus on candidates’ current positions. It’s important to note that although someone may have taken a step back in their career due to labor market conditions, it does not mean that they aren’t looking to get back on track in their field or career advancement. While a resume tells us whether the candidate has the right experience for the job, it may not tell us the whole story. The WorkPlace Group® has some great tips for helping identify hidden talent among the underemployed:

1. When reviewing a candidate’s resume, evaluate their employment history for the past 10+ years, rather than the past 5 or 7 years. Consider candidates who had a consistent progression in their career prior to their most recent roles.

2. While reviewing a candidate’s resume, pay particular attention to candidates with educational credentials and certifications not required in their current role. These are likely to be candidates who are currently underemployed workers and will welcome an opportunity to work for your company.

3. When reviewing candidates look for individuals who are continually developing their skill sets. Candidates taking courses or attending seminars related to the positions they previously held may be currently underemployed and will welcome an opportunity to work for your company.

4. While interviewing candidates make sure to have a deep conversation about their job transitions to get an understanding of their current capacity. Topics to consider:

a. Does the candidate express feeling under-utilized in their current role?
b. Would the candidate prefer working in their current capacity or their prior capacity?
c. Is the candidate looking for a management or more senior level role?
d. Is this a role available with their current employer and why have they not moved into that role with their current employer?

The WorkPlace Group® Discovers Hidden Talent

While the unemployment rate seems to show promise in the job market and economy, the underemployed may beg to differ. Underemployed workers are out there, and more often than not are keenly interested in getting back on track in their chosen field and careers. The WorkPlace Group® has proven methods of finding and recruiting this hidden and talented workforce. For more information about how to tap into the underemployed market, please feel free to contact The WorkPlace Group®.

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