Parents who left the workforcefor a few years can offer employers experience and a wealth ofknowledge from their former professional life. (Photo:Getty)

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In September 2018, the unemployment rate dropped to3.7 percent, the lowest it's been since 1969. Even if thatrate has ticked up a bit by the time you read this, chances arewe're still at historic lows of unemployment, and that you, as anHR leader tasked with filling new positions, are feeling it.

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Finding top talent can be a challenge on a good day, which makestoday's hiring environment all the more challenging. When the usualpools of applicants run dry, it's time to getcreative. Here are three groups of potentially talented candidateswe often overlook.

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1. Stay-at-home parents who want to return to theworkforce

Parents who left the workforce for a few years can offeremployers experience and a wealth of knowledge from their formerprofessional life. After a hiatus, moms and dads are oftenenergized and excited to get back to what they were doing beforechanging diapers.

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Expanding the talent pool: 10 groups employers areusing to fill vacancies

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Finding them, however, may require some creative tactics. Theparents who are already actively looking most likely registered onall the job boards—so keep posting—but to reach this demographicmost effectively, pull out the stops. First and foremost, consideran employee referral program. Your current employees are often thebest recruiters. Additionally, you may want to advertise jobpostings on community boards (municipality, school), social mediagroups (including “mom” and “dad” groups) and in local parentingmagazines.

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Employers should keep a few things in mind when recruitingstay-at-home parents. Flexibility and the option to work from homea couple days a week could go a long way to attracting top talent.Learn to judge performance rather than face time in the office. Andif you have a particularly interesting or well qualified candidate,feel free to forgive gaps in an otherwise excellent resume. Afterall, just think about the new transferable skills a parent learnswhile raising kids (patience, anyone?).

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Finally, it's always a good idea in the interview to do someprobing: why is the candidate re-entering the workforce? What'stheir primary motivation? Discovering the motivation behind thedrive is key to matching applicants with the right type of job.

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2. Veterans offer stability and dedication

More companies are actively hiring veterans , no doubt becauseveterans can bring unique qualities to the workplace. The nature oftheir military training often makes veterans goal-oriented problemsolvers who take responsibility seriously. Many veterans areleaders with a great work ethic who never give up—in other words,they can be the perfect job candidates.

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There are a few things you can do as a recruiter or HRdepartment to make sure veterans are on your radar. First,understand that a veteran's resume probably won't look like others.During the interview process, give them an opportunity to explaintheir military service and ask them open-ended questions so you canconnect the dots between what they've done in their militarycareers and what they'll need to do on the job. You might alsoconsider hiring a veteran as a recruiter so he or she can helptranslate military jargon and skillsets. At the very least, trainyour current recruiters on how to identify and enable veteranapplicants.

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To that end, you might ask veterans currently working for you tohelp develop a plan. As for how best to advertise jobs to veterans,your first step is to identify the roles in your organization thatare ideal for ex-military and then post those positions on militaryjob boards such as Military.com's Veterans Career Network. Visitmilitary bases, job fairs and ask current employees who areex-military if they know of other veterans who are looking forwork.

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When recruiting veterans, it's important to keep in mind theymay consider the corporate world foreign and overwhelming. In themilitary, the path to advancement is clearly defined, but in thecivilian workforce it can sometimes be a mystery. To help veteranssucceed in your organization, try establishing a mentoring systemwhere you pair a new hire to a tenured employee (preferably avet).

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In general, it's always a good idea to offer flexibility if youcan. A flex schedule will allow veterans to fulfillresponsibilities to the National Guard or the Reserves. Finally, besure to recognize a veteran's service to our country and provideeducation on the vast array of support systems available tothem.

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3. Returning citizens eager for a second chance

There are a couple of good reasons to consider expanding yoursearch to include people with a criminal record. First, it significantlyincreases your pool of candidates. There are tens of millions ofpeople in the U.S. with prior convictions. Opening your hiringprocess to this class of candidate also has practical benefits.Hiring people with a criminal record, or even just interviewingthem, can become evidence of nondiscriminatory hiring practices.And your company might qualify for a tax credit.

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Per the Department of Labor, “the Work Opportunity Tax Credit(WOTC) is a Federal tax credit available to employers for hiringindividuals from certain target groups who have consistently facedsignificant barriers to employment.” It's also worth checking intoadditional incentives at the state and local level. Finally,returning citizens who do in fact get a second chance are oftenmore loyal, more focused and more committed than your average jobcandidate.

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The next step is to remove any bias your current recruitingprocess may have toward people with criminal records. For manycompanies, that starts with striking the “have you ever beenconvicted of a felony?” from your application, because thatquestion stops the process before it can even begin. And if you dofind a promising candidate, don't dwell on their past during theinterview. Instead, focus on an applicant's skills and what he orshe can bring to your workplace.

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If you're apprehensive, try partnering with a local organizationthat specializes in the training and rehabilitation of returningcitizens. Check with your state's unemployment office forreferrals.


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Scott Conklin is vice president of HR atPaycor.

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