In today’s job market, finding the right talent for open roles can be daunting. With a scarcity of qualified candidates and increased business competition, it’s a widespread challenge. However, if we broaden our horizons, a wealth of untapped talent pools awaits. We can unlock hidden gems with the skills, experience and potential to drive organisational success.

Let’s explore new areas for talent acquisition and highlight nine untapped talent pools that recruiters can use in a competitive job market – along with their advantages and implementation strategies. In my years recruiting top talent, I’ve found that sometimes the best candidates are in these more alternative sources: 

1. Boomerang employees
2. Return-to-work programs
3. Remote workers
4. Individuals with disabilities
5. Individuals without university degrees

Where to discover your next candidate

1. Boomerang employees

Travis Perkins logoTravis Perkins’s culture is built around its five “cornerstones,” (values) promoting good behavior, performance and loyalty. Staff pride themselves on the way they treat others, shown by how retired employees are thought of as extended family, which strategically links the team’s objective with the “Upholding Family Values” cornerstone.

When GDPR required Travis Perkins rethink the way they stored personal information about its retirees, the organization quickly replicated its employee engagement platform into a smaller scale platform for its retired employees. Between frequent retiree-hosted events, peer-to-peer eCards, a broad array of discounts and a regularly updated blog, Travis Perkins has worked to keep all of its employees – past and present – engaged and involved in its success.

Boomerang employees are individuals who have previously worked for a company, left for a period of time, and then chosen to return. They offer several advantages as a talent pool.

First, their familiarity with the company’s culture, values and internal processes lets them quickly reintegrate. This reduces onboarding time, cost and resources. Second, boomerang employees often outperform their peers due to their prior knowledge and experience within the organisation. Their demonstrated loyalty and commitment contribute to increased productivity and performance. They also bring an expanded professional network, which can benefit business development opportunities.

To leverage this talent pool, HR departments can establish alumni programs, conduct thorough exit interviews and nurture ongoing relationships.

These programs help organizations ensure employees stay connected and that their feedback is considered. At Reward Gateway, I can think of several boomerang employees who have come back to us after exploring other opportunities or had a change in location, which shows the lasting power of company culture! 

2. Return-to-work programs

Return-to-work programs are designed to help individuals who have taken a career break, such as stay-at-home parents or those pursuing further education, to reenter the workforce. Return-to-work programs are designed to help individuals who have taken a career break, such as stay-at-home parents or those pursuing further education, to reenter the workforce. But they also offer unique advantages as an untapped talent pool.

These programs are designed to provide support, training and flexible work arrangements to ensure one can easily transition back into the workforce. Also, returning employees are usually eager to reignite their careers. These candidates often exhibit a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn and adapt, contributing to a positive and productive work environment. 

To leverage this talent pool, HR departments can actively participate in or partner with return-to-work programs, advertize opportunities through specialized platforms and provide resources for skill refreshment and career development. Those who want to return should get the necessary information and training to transition back to work. 

There are also various benefits that you can offer your employees to allow them the opportunity to take time off – such as increased parental (important for both mothers and fathers!) and family leave – or a sabbatical after a set duration of service (RGers can take up to 6 months for sabbatical after 5 years of service, for example).

While it seems counterintuitive to encourage your employees to leave work, these breaks can be pivotal to mental health climate and success in one’s personal life – and their professional lives by extension. Keep these employees engaged during their time away with informative communications that don’t demand immediate attention (or response) to make their return transition more efficient (and welcoming).

Flexible working helps employees save money and improve work-life balance3. Remote workers

Remote workers, also known as “virtual employees,” are those who work outside of a traditional office environment, whether that’s a home office, a cafe or a co-working space. This flexible work arrangement has become much more normalized in recent years with 34% of employees working from home some days in 2022 ( And, according to recent research, 98% of employees want to work remotely at least some of the time – which can save employers up to $11k per employee. Working from home offers unique advantages to both employees and employers. Working from home can offer a benefit to both employees and employers. 

Hiring remote workers expands the talent pool by breaking down geographical barriers. It’s possible to work for anyone, from anywhere.

This lets companies access a larger pool of qualified candidates with diverse skill sets and backgrounds. Traditionally, accessing this many potential candidates at a time was near impossible. Because of our flexibility in hiring remote workers for certain roles, I’ve been able to hire all across the United States to bring in different voices. 

Reward Gateway logoReward Gateway operates from four main offices and several satellite locations for our employees to get together more locally when they want time in the office. And, RG offers employees a home office stipend to help employees make their work space more comfortable.

While there are many obvious benefits to having people together in a physical location, the benefits of remote work are often a little more subtle. Businesses can save money by reducing their physical footprints and related expenses, and employees save money, time and energy by nixing the commute, cooking at home and establishing more economical childcare solutions that aren’t possible with traditional on-site work.

Remote workers are also known for their high levels of productivity and efficiency. And remote work arrangements help with flexibility and work-life balance, and this can contribute to employee satisfaction and retention.

To leverage this talent pool, HR departments can actively recruit remote workers through specialized job platforms and remote work communities. What’s more, it’s important to create remote work policies and provide equipped workspace with the necessary technology infrastructure to support the integration of remote workers in the organization. 

4. Individuals with disabilities 

Individuals with disabilities wait for an opportunity to show what they’re truly capable of. They possess valuable skills, determination and a unique ability to problem-solve. By creating an inclusive work environment, companies can go to the next level of positive workplace culture. 

Diversity iconRG pro tip: Establish a diversity, equity and inclusion working group at your organization to get people involved in fostering a better workplace environment. Reward Gateway’s internal DEI network contributes to making our world a better place to work by publishing blogs, hosting webinars and spreading awareness to the broader company on how to create the best work environment possible for everyone.

Inclusive hiring practices promote equality and cultivate a culture of diversity and acceptance within the workplace. This can enhance creativity, teamwork and employee morale – and accommodating the specific needs of individuals with disabilities can lead to improved accessibility for all employees and customers by revealing previously unseen deficiencies.

To tap into this talent pool, HR departments should actively promote inclusive hiring practices and create an accessible and supportive work environment. This may involve making reasonable accommodations, providing assistive technologies and offering necessary training for managers and colleagues. 

5. Individuals without university degrees

Consider relaxing your degree requirements (if your industry allows this) for job postings to open up consideration to people who’ve taken alternative career paths.While a college degree is an attractive asset for a job candidate, college isn’t the only place to learn new skills or subjects. The cost of university attendance has tripled over the past 20 years, with an average cost of almost $36,000 per year when averaging both state and private institutions together. This has made a college education increasingly inaccessible – especially to those in economically disadvantaged families and communities – which has had a significant impact on the available workforce.

There are dozens of reasons for why young adults are skipping college education, but what it means is that these individuals pick up their skills, experience and knowledge base on the job or on their own time. Consider relaxing your degree requirements (if your industry allows this) for job postings to open up consideration to people who’ve taken alternative career paths. They bring a perspective your organization may be lacking, as well as refined skills and specialized knowledge that shouldn’t be devalued for not originating in a classroom.

More untapped talent pools

Besides the five options mentioned above, here are some more potential talent pools to explore: 

  • Military veterans: Military veterans possess a strong skill set, including leadership, discipline, teamwork and problem-solving abilities. Their experience in high-pressure environments and adaptability make them excellent candidates for various roles.
  • Returning citizens or refugees: Individuals who have been formerly imprisoned  or have had to leave their country for a number of different barriers deserve a second chance. By providing opportunities for reintegration into society through employment, organizations can tap into a pool of motivated individuals who are looking forward to rebuilding and contributing positively to society. In the past, our UK office has partnered with foundations such as Breaking Barriers  and Working Chance to bring more awareness to employment programs and coaching for those trying to build new lives. 
  • Neurodivergent individuals: “Neurodivergent” is a relatively new, non-medical term that encompasses the vast experience of having a brain that works “differently” than the norm, whether that’s from a mental illness or other condition. Training your hiring team about the strengths that people who are neurodivergent can ensure you aren't excluding a candidate just because they aren't neurotypical.
  • Internship programs: University students are inundated with the theory that underpins their chosen industry, and many crave the opportunity for real-world job experience. Internships are an advantage that can’t be beaten for young professionals, and your organization could find its next top talent through these programs. And returnships – those former interns who have earned a position in your organization – sport a unique sense of loyalty and motivation to hit the ground running and succeed.

Once you look for untapped talent pools, hiring the right people becomes a lot easier and more effective at the same time. Hiring from untapped talent pools brings fresh perspectives, diverse skill sets and unique experiences. By embracing these talent pools, companies can nurture innovation, enhance diversity and create more inclusive work environments.

To take full advantage of these pockets of talent, the next step for you is to implement inclusive hiring practices that suit your company and industry the best. Then make the necessary arrangements to build exceptional teams that drive organizational success, noting that your perfect candidate might be somewhere you didn’t expect.

In case you can’t tell, I'm really proud of the culture we’ve created here at RG, but there’s always room for improvement. If you want to learn more about life here, check out our open jobs to see if there's a fit for you.

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Carla Sutherland

Carla Sutherland is an HR Business Partner at Reward Gateway and adores her two French bulldogs, Pickles and Pesto.

HR Business Partner

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