“Companies don’t get rid of their good people, right?”

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This was a question posed to me recently by a senior executive from a top US healthcare company when I recommended someone who was “between jobs”. His question, of course, was really a statement of his opinion rather than a question, but my answer was “actually they do, sometimes!”

In the current turbulent international job market, companies that refuse to interview out-of- work candidates may be missing out on excellent people who may have very legitimate reasons for losing their position.
There are a number of top quality people who are highly motivated and capable who are today not in work, and are highly motivated to consider a new job. This contrasts with individuals who are in work who a few years ago would have moved but in the current climate would rather stay put.

My view is that someone never having lost a job is not necessarily an indicator of high performance. It is just possible that someone who has been through their career without ever losing their job is either very lucky, very cautious, very political (in a pejorative sense), or all of the above!
These are just some of the legitimate reasons that I have come across for individuals that have found themselves out of work:
• Their position was made redundant through reorganisation. (“wouldn’t the company have found them something else if they were good?” asks the cynic – answer: no not always – when a company  downsizes this may not be possible)
 • They were offered a very good financial package as part of a voluntary redundancy downsizing or restructuring program (in Europe this is quite common to try to reduce workforce size voluntarily)
 • They didn’t get on with a new boss so resigned/or were fired. (“Whoa there, that is scary” says the cynic “definitely better not hire him/her” – actually this maybe because the individual has high standards and was not willing to work somewhere where their values were compromised. Candidates will often not reveal the “bad boss reason” for leaving, but it is probably one of the most common.
 • They were culturally misaligned – this doesn’t mean they might be culturally misaligned to a different organisation, just the one that they were most recently at! Again, this may say more about employer than employee
 • They were promoted and found that they did not have either the resources or capabilities to do the job – again highly legitimate and honest reason for discontinuing the job. This does not mean to say that they do not have the capability to do a different one!
The fact is that all of the above examples may equally apply to those applicants seemingly in work – they simply haven’t been terminated or resigned yet! Most people who are serious about finding a new job have some pressing motivation for attending an interview.

So what can one do to ensure that your applicant is “one of the good ones”? Essentially it is exactly the same as considering candidates who are currently in work: thorough referencing and good selection procedures. Nothing can totally mitigate risk from hiring, but good process and decisive decision making is the best advice. Removing highly motivated talented individuals from your talent pool just because they have found themselves in the unfortunate position of being out of work will not assist you. Keep your process good and your selection criteria diverse and hiring success follows.

Written By: Nigel Job, CEO Remtec Search and Selection Ltd

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