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What is ‘open hiring’ and could it work for your business?

Open hiring is when recruiters choose to hire on a first-come-first-serve basis. This includes candidates with a criminal record, carers, addicts who are recovering, people with disabilities, veterans, or have experienced long-term unemployment. In this article, we explore why some recruiters choose to use open hiring – or open recruitment – practices, as well as whether it could work for your business.

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What is open hiring?

Open hiring simply means hiring the first candidate that applies for their role, regardless of their previous qualifications or experience. You don’t expect candidates to have a reference, background check, or undergo an interview process. The motivation behind open hiring is the aim of opening up job possibilities to candidates who might be disadvantaged in some way when applying for a job. It also means that employers get to broaden their talent pool by attracting a much broader range of candidates to apply.

How to make open hiring work for you

While this hiring technique involves taking on a candidate without interviewing them, it’s usually the case that employers train their new hire on-the-job. This ensures that even despite a possible lack of experience or qualifications, the candidate is ready to take on their responsibilities on their very first day. 

As an employer, you might not consider this means of hiring for all types of role in your business. It may be suited to some roles, but not others. Typically, these roles are entry-level, which means that it’s easier for you to train employees in the skills they need for the job – roles that require specific knowledge and qualifications may not be suitable for open hiring.

Perhaps your open hiring strategy is part of a recruitment drive to hire people from specific disadvantaged backgrounds, such as people with a criminal record. According to the National Business Crime Centre, minor criminal offences such as low-level shoplifting or traffic light violations can still impact the chances of someone finding a job. Therefore, by including candidates with criminal records, you may open up the talent pool. 

How to advertise open hiring roles

If you decide to use open hiring to recruit new employees, it’s a good first step to ensure that this is clearly stated in the job description itself. That way, candidates know exactly what to expect when they apply for the role.

It’s also useful to make sure that you advertise your open hiring roles using suitable portals, websites, job centres, jobs bulletins. For example, if your open hiring is for a programme that aims to promote opportunities for people with disabilities, then you might look at advertising it through a job centre or website. 

Strengths of using open hiring

Open hiring is noted for its strengths when it comes to widening your talent pool, and increasing the diversity of your teams. Let’s explore some of these in greater detail.

May speed up hiring process

One of the main key strengths of open hiring is that it can speed up the hiring process by eliminating the need to interview, check employee references, and read hundreds of cover letters. This, therefore, means that open hiring can be useful when you’re dealing with hundreds of applicants for the same role, and the role doesn’t require specific experience or skills that the candidate could be trained in pre-employment.

This means that if managers have gaps in their team – for instance in their customer service department – then they are filled quickly and efficiently. For businesses with a strong customer-facing component that relies on a team of entry-level customer assistants, open hiring could be a sufficient option. 

Can increase team diversity

Another benefit of open hiring is that it can diversify a team, bringing in a range of new perspectives to your company. By expanding your hiring practices to include a wider talent pool, you might be able to tap into a wider range of different skill profiles.

Can reduce turnover

Employees recruited through open hiring may demonstrate resilience, as they have overcome personal struggles in their life – which could lead to a strong work ethic and loyalty to your business. This may reduce turnover, as employees recruited this way may be more committed to working for you if opportunities have been less available to them in the past. 

May reduce the effects of unconscious bias on hiring

Open hiring may reduce unconscious bias. It’s possible for unconscious bias to creep into hiring decisions – unconscious choices that employers make when selecting a candidate based on assumptions they might make about who makes a suitable candidate. This could be on the basis of gender, race, disability, ethnicity, or sexuality. As open hiring does not involve a hiring process, this may widen the talent pool you’re recruiting from, as you’re not filtering out candidates on the basis of unconscious bias.  

Weaknesses of using open hiring

While open hiring may work for businesses that face customers day-in-day-out, open hiring could be a good fix for hiring staff that only require some pre-employment training before they hit the ground running. However, there are some potential pitfalls that can emerge when relying on this hiring tactic. 

No interview for culture add or culture fit

Not everyone you hire may have a personality or innate traits that gel well with the rest of your team, providing the right culture fit or culture add (depending on which approach you prefer). The candidate you hire might create conflict with your established staff members, or they may not be the best communicator with customers. While some of these issues can be solved with the right management support and training, others may simply be resistant to change. Therefore, it can be good to consider having a probation period for staff hired via this method, so you can assess and discuss their performance with them once it’s over.

Security risks

Some security risks come with a lack of a background check. Employees with a criminal record may pose a safety concern, particularly if they will be working closely with customers or a team of staff. Current employees may also be resistant or uncomfortable working alongside new employees with a criminal record, as they may not know what offences they have been charged with. Assessing the character and behaviours of each employee you hire using open hiring could be a wise idea, particularly when considering the safety of both your other employees, and your customers. 

Legal risks

All businesses have to remain compliant with health and safety regulations, and this encompasses the welfare of their employees. Therefore, by hiring candidates who have not undergone criminal background checks, you may be posing a safety risk to your other staff. Furthermore, if a new employee hasn’t disclosed any physical or mental health requirements, you may not know how to adequately provide reasonable adjustments, or whether they are suited to the role requirements at all (such as if the role requires a lot of heavy lifting). 

While you may not have to complete background checks as part of the hiring process, it is still important to conduct a right to work check before you hire a candidate. That is because if they are not allowed to work in the UK, they will be working for you illegally. For more information, please visit the UK government website. 

May still allow for hiring bias

Hiring bias can still occur with open hiring, as not all candidates may be able to apply for a job as quickly as they would like to. This may be because they have other responsibilities, such as a young family, or as a carer. They may also be slower to complete applications due to mental or physical disabilities. Therefore, you may not attract as wide a talent pool using open hiring as you may intend to due to this knock-on effect of expecting candidates to apply immediately. 

Open hiring might be a good option if you’re looking to expand your talent pool, as well as get new employees through the door quickly. However, it comes with certain complications; you’ll still need to follow health and safety regulations when it comes to employing staff with a criminal background, or staff with disabilities. Considering open hiring can also give opportunities to candidates who have previously been out-of-work for a long period, giving them the opportunity to grow in a new role. 

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