Overlooked Talent Pools–And Why You Should Tap Them

Author: Katie Truesdell Date: August 11, 2014

Reach out to different groups to make a great hire

The shrinking American workforce has made numerous headlines over the past year, but don’t despair—instead, think broadly when hiring and recruiting to make sure you’re not leaving talent on the table. Here are four overlooked talent pools ripe for small business hiring opportunities.


Retirement-age seniors are generally not included in studies tracking the U.S. labor force participation rate, but that doesn’t mean they’re done contributing. Some have been downsized but still want or need to work full-time; others may have retired from a longtime position but still want to work part-time.

“Many will have a wealth of knowledge from specific industries that you can tap,” says Laurie Prochnow, president of Management Recruiters of Wausau in Wausau, Wisconsin. “Generally, this generation has excellent work habits and perseverance in completing urgent tasks. You will find some great loyalty here for continuing to give them a useful purpose.”

To recruit retirement-age workers, Prochnow suggests using SCORE volunteers, networking through the Chamber of Commerce and posting advertisements in church bulletins, senior centers and retirement communities where residents live independently.

Stay-at-Home Parents

Many parents who stepped out of the workforce during their children’s younger years want to return to work as their kids get older. Options could include full-time or part-time on-site work as well as from-home work arrangements.

Often stay-at-home parents will have gained valuable leadership skills by presiding over PTA groups or leading Boy or Girl Scout troops, and many of these programs provide great training for their volunteers, Prochnow says. And, of course, parents have nonstop, hands-on experience with multitasking and juggling multiple priorities.

In addition to working with SCORE and the Chamber of Commerce, Prochnow recommends using social networking, job sites (like Monster or Career Builder) and Craigslist to advertise opportunities to former at-home parents.


Veterans are often overlooked, partly because small business owners may not know how to match military skills with business needs, says Paul Dillon, owner of Dillon Consulting Services in Durham, North Carolina, and Chicago.

While there is work being done nationally and locally to assist veterans with translating military experience into a skill set that potential employers can understand and use—the White House put out two reports on the topic in the past two years. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides a military skills translator—Dillon says veterans offer excellent overall qualities.

“Veterans bring discipline, a commitment to accomplishing the mission, unparalleled leadership skills and, most important, a flexibility and adaptability to improvise and change plans on a moment’s notice to reach a goal,” Dillon says.

A small business can recruit veterans through several websites and organizations, Dillon says, including VetNet, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes, America’s Heroes at Work, Hire Heroes USA and state Departments of Veterans Affairs.


As the availability of tenured positions shrinks—the American Association of University Professors reported in 2013 that tenured jobs account for only 24 percent of the academic workforce—doctorate recipients are increasingly seeking career opportunities outside of academia.

While there are misconceptions about what doctoral training entails, says Michelle Erickson, founder of New York-based Ph.D.s at Work, these candidates bring a lot to the table. They have deep expertise in their subject area, expert learning capabilities and exceptional skills in analysis. They also are adept at problem solving, project management, organization, research, information management, written and oral communication, leadership, and training and instruction.

In addition to posting on Ph.D.s at Work’s job board—postings are free to employers and job seekers—Erickson recommends reaching out to the career services department at your local college or university.

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