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Open Your Mind to Second Chances

Adi Assaf


Preconceptions are a very human weakness. People have preconceptions about society, nationalities, politics, religion and countless other issues. In this article, I’m going to focus on preconceptions in startup hiring and how they can result in the loss of prime candidates for key positions.


Let me share a recent experience related to preconceptions: I met with the CEO of a start-up who had initiated a hiring round for highly experienced programmers in a specific technological field. We discussed the type of candidates he was seeking for the positions and how to go about the recruitment process. At one point, he noted that he had compiled a list of candidates he had rejected in previous recruitment rounds and stated that if they were to apply again, they should be disqualified immediately. 


As it happened, later I unwittingly met with a highly suitable candidate who had been turned down for an opening a year earlier. In the interim, she had picked up more relevant job experience and skills that made her perfect for the position currently on offer. 


So here’s a piece of advice - keep an open mind: The fact that you disqualified someone for a position in the past does not mean that they cannot successfully fill another position in your company today. 



Here’s how past applicants and employees can become a rich resource for future hirings:



  • Candidates can develop and evolve

  • Unless the candidate made a truly bad impression at the first interview, they may well have a lot more to offer this time around, especially if they are applying for a different position. 


  • Ask the right questions

  • When calling back a candidate you have interviewed in the past, ask specifically about the experience they have acquired in the interim and how it will help them in the new position. Discuss why they believe they have the right qualifications for the specific opening and what they can contribute now as opposed to before.


  • Use the “black list” for your benefit

  • The “black list” of rejected applications can actually serve as a treasure trove for future hirings. Don’t let the fact that they were turned down once blind you to their skills. Check the list when you begin hiring rounds. You may find a few gems who are perfect for current positions. 


  • An applicant turned you down - so what? 

  • Don’t be too proud to reach out to an applicant who turned down a position in your company in the past. If you were impressed with the candidate and they decided to go elsewhere, they may be interested in working for you now. It’s worth a try, and you may just acquire a real asset.


  • Don’t hesitate to rehire a past asset

  • Sometimes a former employee will contact the company regarding open positions. Whether they were laid off or chose to leave at their own volition, it is worth considering rehiring them. If the candidate proved to be diligent and successful in the past, they will be even more so now due to their gratitude.



Widen Your Hiring Horizons


There are various standard ways to hire applicants for startups, from online advertising to social media. Many startups like to use “bring a friend” strategies to find new talents. They offer all kinds of bonuses to employees who can bring a qualified friend for a new position. 


While these are all successful methods, their effectiveness is limited. When hiring talents with highly specific qualifications, you need to take advantage of less obvious channels to increase the number of suitable candidates. So remove those blinders and open your hiring horizons. Good luck!