We’re in a serious hiring slump. Nearly half of small business owners say they’re struggling to find qualified job applicants, and more than a third have been unable to fill recent openings.

So how can you deal with this extreme labor shortage? Try widening your applicant pool—by considering candidates you previously would have rejected.

Now, hear us out. We know many of the common hiring “deal-breakers” were established for a reason, but times—and the economy—have changed.

How is the job market different now than it was 10 years ago? Let us count the ways:

We’re living in a new world, so it’s time to say goodbye to old expectations and start adapting to a new normal.

Here are four situations that traditionally landed candidates in the “no” pile—and the interview questions that will help you determine if they’re a fit.

4 hiring red flags that aren’t red flags anymore.

When candidates have been laid off.

The 2008-2009 recession resulted in record amounts of job loss. In February 2009 alone, more than 326,000 workers were affected by mass layoffs—but that doesn’t mean there were over 326,000 problematic employees.

For three years, I ran layoffs for a Fortune 100 company. That meant I was involved in the layoffs of literally thousands of people. Almost all of those people were simply in the wrong job at the wrong time. We would have happily kept all on board if we could.

You should never hold a layoff against anyone. Being laid off is a flag against the fiscal health of their previous company, or sometimes the economy. It’s not a sure-fire indicator that a person is a bad candidate.

What to ask when you interview:

  • “Can you share a little bit about your company’s situation at the time of your separation?”

When candidates have big gaps in their work history.

There are 1.4 million Americans who are classified as long-term unemployed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means these workers have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more. This number is higher than we’ve seen during or after a recession for a couple reasons: namely cyclical and structural unemployment.

When you pair cyclical unemployment (resulting from an economic downturn) with structural unemployment (when workers’ skills no longer match employers’ needs, due to things like technology), you’re left with a large group of people who will have trouble gaining employment for a long time.

Just because someone has been out of the workforce for a while doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of success. They may simply need someone to help them transition into a new market.

Yes, there will be a bit of a ramp-up time, but to be honest, any new hire will have the same problem. Talk to them to understand if they’re worth the investment.

What to ask when you interview:

  • “What are your short- and long-term career goals?”

When candidates don’t have a bachelor’s degree.

I love education. What I don’t love is the idea that a college degree—or any degree—is valued more than a candidate’s full body of experience.

The number of workers with a degree is on the rise, but many are considering associate’s or other occupational degrees instead of going the traditional academic route. That doesn’t mean they aren’t as capable as workers with bachelor’s or master’s degrees. In fact, in some cases it might mean they have more practical skills.

Look beyond the degree to the whole breadth of a candidate’s experience. Study their career progression. Unless the job requires a degree for licensing purposes, experience often outranks term papers.

What to ask when you interview:

  • “What skills did you take away from your education?”
  • “How have you supplemented your growth in the past, and how would you seek to do so in the future?”

When candidates have a record of job hopping.

This is probably the closest to a red flag—do you really want to hire someone who has been in four different jobs over the past two years? Maybe not. But you might.

If the candidate explained the reasons for the job hopping in the cover letter, that can give you an idea if they’re worth pursuing. If not, have a chat. Here are some things you might find out:

  • They accepted a job offer based on the promise of leading a project or team, but the company changed its mind and moved them into an entirely different role.
  • A spouse got an unexpected promotion and transfer across the country, and they felt this was the best move for the family.
  • They joined a startup, which failed after six months. They joined another startup, which fell apart in a similar time frame.
  • They ended up with the manager from hell. (This one may be hard to suss out as people are loathe to badmouth former employers—but trust me, it happens all the time.)

What to ask when you interview:

  • “Why did you leave your previous position and why did you take the next one?”
  • “We are looking for someone who can make a commitment for two to three years. Are you willing to make that commitment?”

Remember, you want to hire the person who will be the best fit for your business—not necessarily the person with the shiniest resume. In fact, some businesses don’t even look at resumes at all.

So make sure you speak with any qualified candidate, regardless of these potential red flags. You can always do a thorough background and reference check before hiring. Who knows, you may just find a real gem.

Want to know what you should focus on while hiring? Check out the Google Doc that helps this company hire dream candidates in less than a week.

Suzanne Lucas Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate HR where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. Now she writes and speaks about human resources, business, and how to make your job and company the best it possibly can be.
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