Blue background with red blobs and one male and one female warehouse worker with title Hidden workers: a talent pool you're missing

Unveiling the Power of Hidden Workers: A Talent Pool You're Missing


In industries like hospitality, healthcare, retail, and manufacturing, securing top talent is the Holy Grail for employers. But what if we told you there's a vast, untapped reservoir of skilled individuals right under your nose?  They're called "hidden workers," and they possess the experience and drive to transform your organization. But traditional hiring practices often leave them overlooked. According to research conducted by Harvard Business School’s Managing the Future of Work, there are approximately 27 million hidden workers in the United States alone. 


Who Are Hidden Workers?

Hidden workers are skilled professionals who exist on the periphery of the job market, not due to lack of ability, but often because of outdated recruitment practices and systemic barriers. These individuals fall into various categories:

  • Long-term Unemployed: Those who have been out of work for extended periods.
  • Underemployed: Professionals working in positions far below their skill level.
  • Caregivers: Individuals who stepped back from their careers for family or personal reasons.
  • Veterans: Military personnel transitioning to civilian roles.
  • Individuals with Disabilities: Often underestimated for their unique talents and perspectives.
  • Justice-Impacted Individuals: Re-entering the workforce after incarceration.


Why Traditional Hiring Overlooks Hidden Talent

The workplace has undergone a digital transformation, but hiring practices haven't always kept pace. Outdated approaches and unconscious biases create roadblocks, leaving a wealth of untapped talent hidden in plain sight.

Here's where traditional hiring falls short:

  • Rigid Job Descriptions: Overly specific requirements in job postings deter qualified candidates who may have gained skills through non-traditional paths.
  • The "Gap" Stigma: Career breaks for caregiving, education, or personal reasons are often unfairly viewed as a negative.
  • Unconscious Bias: Age, gender, ethnicity, disability, and background can all play a role in biased hiring decisions.


The Hidden Worker Advantage: What They Bring to the Table

Tapping into this hidden talent pool offers significant advantages:

  • Diverse Perspectives: Hidden workers bring a wealth of unique experiences and viewpoints, sparking innovation and creativity.
  • High Motivation: Eager to prove themselves, they often demonstrate exceptional commitment and loyalty.
  • Broad Skill Sets: Non-traditional career paths cultivate versatile skills adaptable to various roles.
  • Resilience and Adaptability: Overcoming challenges makes them incredibly resilient and adaptable to change.


Strategies for Uncovering Hidden Talent

Ready to harness this untapped potential? Consider these strategies:

  • Skills-Based Job Descriptions: Emphasize core competencies rather than strict requirements to attract a wider pool of talent. Tools like RiseKit’s recommendation engine simplify skills-based matching by taking an employer’s job description and job seekers' skills to provide a curated list of recommended candidates.
  • Inclusive Hiring Practices: Train hiring managers to recognize and mitigate bias. Consider blind hiring techniques.
  • Returnship Programs: Create programs to support individuals re-entering the workforce after a career break.
  • Community Partnerships: Connect with organizations that specialize in placing hidden workers.
  • Act with Urgency: Top hidden talent is in high demand. Streamline your hiring process to secure these candidates quickly.



Hidden workers are a powerhouse of untapped potential, waiting to be unleashed. By embracing inclusive practices and recognizing the value they bring, employers can access a diverse and dynamic workforce that drives innovation and fuels success.


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