Top tips for hiring returners

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​Tapping into an underused talent pool by hiring returners is a smart decision for any hiring team – particularly as a way to tackle skills shortages

Returners are talented and highly-capable individuals who can bring their varied experiences to the table and help narrow skills gaps. Contrary to what many people assume returner candidates have often spent their time away working on other initiatives, learning new and transferable skills that could benefit many companies.

Here are some dos and don'ts for hiring returners:

Do...

Secure senior buy-in

Establishing senior buy-in is critical. Any senior priorities need to be effectively filtered down to hiring managers to ensure the dialogue from CEOs is mirrored in hiring practices.

Target channels where returners are likely to look

Make sure your job adverts do not unintentionally exclude returners. Highly-skilled individuals often get overlooked by traditional search firms, recruiters and job sites because they are currently out of the market. Focus your attention on channels that have a dedicated returner network and promote returner roles.

Establish a support network

Whether it’s by developing an official returner programme, or through more informal training, ensure returners are given the correct level of support and onboarding when they join. If you’ve hired returners before you could set up a mentor system to share experiences, tips and learnings.

Continue to evaluate how you attract and hire returners

Once you’ve started to hire returners ensure that you ask them for feedback on the recruitment process. Having an understanding of where they looked for roles, how they found the interview process and what their general experiences have been returning to work, will help you better attract talent in the future.

Don't...

Be too prescriptive

Keep the criteria of what you’re looking for broad and be open-minded about candidates whose experience doesn’t necessarily tick every box. Look at candidates whose experiences don’t reflect your own or of those around you. Their different experiences can bring something new to the table.

Rely too heavily on automation

While handy to churn through stacks of CVs, be wary of automated recruitment systems. The algorithms used often mean only CVs that match the current workforce get picked up. Anyone with an unusual experience or who has taken a career break will immediately be discarded. Spend time going through CVs manually and work with trusted executive search firms.

Forget to communicate clearly

Being more open to hiring people with diverse experiences should be viewed as a talent attraction strategy and not a CSR exercise. In external and internal communications make sure you focus on the business case for hiring returners. Avoid positioning schemes as a way to help 'women get their confidence back' as this can alienate potential candidates and undermine progress.

Make assumptions about potential candidates

There are many misconceptions about people who have taken career breaks, primarily that most are women who took time out to care for children and now want to work part time. This does not reflect the reality of the candidates we work with. Many took time away to build businesses, study or look after a relative. We’d encourage recruiters and HR managers to treat returners on a case-by-case basis so they can better understand their reasons for taking a career break and get a firm sense of exactly what it is they are looking for now.

Dominie Moss is founder of The Return Hub
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