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Does your recruiting and screening process have some blind spots? Have your current hiring criteria become too restrictive? Are you tossing potential A-level prospects into a growing reject pile?

Recent employment and jobs data suggests that's happening at more companies and in more industries than you might think. According to the latest data from the Labor Department, the U.S. economy is cranking out the highest number of job openings since 2008 -- an 11 percent jump over 2012. Yet that far outpaces the rate of day-to-day hiring: Between January and February of this year, the number of openings jumped 8.7 percent, yet the pace of hiring grew by just 2.8 percent. Unemployment, meanwhile, is still stuck at 7.5 percent -- 2.2 percent higher than it was during the last hiring peak in 2008. 

So what gives? While an array of economic variables factor into the big picture here, some HR and labor experts argue that hiring managers today are suffering from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder caused by the Great Recession: They've become too risk-averse, too infatuated with cost savings, and applying overly strict job criteria to their screening process. "The real culprits are the employers themselves," explains Peter Cappelli, professor of management and human resources at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, in the Wall Street Journal. "It is part of a long-term trend, and the recession caused employers to be able to be pickier, to get even more specific in the skills they think they can find outside the company and to cut back on training."

All of which suggests that now might be a great time for hiring managers to take a serious look at the job applicants they've turned down over the last year or two -- and look at the best of them with fresh eyes. Why? No screening process is foolproof, and the labor trends strongly suggest there may be more wheat than chaff lurking in the pile. Here are a few other reasons to reconsider the rejects:

1. Moving from Need to Want

A lot of hesitancy around hiring is often derived from immediate need. Do we need this candidate or do we want this candidate? During the times of economic strife, as Cappelli points out, need generally outweighs want. Today though, with the economy on the rise, it would do hiring managers well to revisit the people they passed on months earlier. Some hiring managers see this practice as laziness -- why not look at the current talent pool? -- but there's something to be said for the candidate that endured multiple rounds of interviews and still accepted a rejection gracefully.

2. Looks Are Deceiving on Paper

Hiring managers turn away applicants because of how the perceived "fit" looks on paper -- with recent and relevant experience showing up at the top of resumes. Yet recent data suggests it's a foolish practice. According to a recent workforce report from analytics firm Evolv, 8 percent of recently hired employees had prior experience in the job they were hired for, while 72 percent did not. What's more, the study found that after six months there was no noticeable difference in the attrition rates between the two groups. The point is that the resume shouldn't be your single selling point. In leaner times for business, it seems easier to rely on someone who looks good on paper, but the numbers don't lie. It's a good time to listen to your gut.

3. Using Rejection to Your Advantage

For some, pain and rejection can be powerful motivators -- a factor that comes into play when re-connecting with a job prospect you may have interviewed and turned down earlier. But hiring managers should heed the results of this Stanford University study, showing that while rejection can increase someone's desire to obtain something, it can also diminish its attractiveness. During the study, participants who failed to win a prize were willing to pay more for it than those who won it, but were also more likely to trade it away after they got it. In other words, your rejects may be inclined to work harder when they first come on board, but it's important to make them feel a part of something -- if not, they'll be more inclined to jump ship.

 

Photo credit: Can Stock