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Thinking Out of the Box: Why You Should Consider Non-traditional Candidates When Hiring
February 4, 2022
Non-traditional candidates

Although we are still early into 2022, the future of work is on the horizon. Employees are remaining remote when possible and labor shortages are placing the ball in the employees’ court as some companies scramble to reach an adequate number of team members. We thought the COVID-19 pandemic and the issues of 2020 had been overcome and that we were adjusted; unfortunately, we were wrong and the hurdles human resources professionals faced in 2021 proved that.

At the start of 2021, the complications that arose over the course of the year seemed like fleeting issues. Little did we know at the time, all of those changes would snowball to where we are heading now. Whether your team was impacted by The Great Resignation or labor issues as a whole, you may currently be in a place where talent acquisition is a vital part of your overall strategy.

Hiring Freeze

As previously mentioned, the future of work is heading our way. Whether this concept means the metaverse or something different, you may need to make some adjustments in how your team operates in order to keep up, specifically as it pertains to talent acquisition.

What makes a candidate non-traditional?

To begin, let’s define what we mean when we say “non-traditional candidate.” For the purposes of this article, we are referring to a job applicant who is not an obvious choice for any of the following reasons:

  • Professional history with job titles or industry experience unrelated to the role
  • Lack of a degree or an academic background suited for a different career path
  • Unanswered gaps in professional experience

The phrase “non-traditional” may be a bit worrisome for some human resources professionals and management teams. It carries the preconceived notion that this person is not innately a strong candidate or that hiring them may have a risk. However, many professionals had the same qualms about shifting to remote work at the start of the pandemic. As several studies found, this shift was not as harmful as previously thought. In fact, plenty of companies found remote work to be a benefit for their employees and their organization.

As we will cover, there are many potential benefits to bringing on a non-traditional candidate to your team.

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The benefits of hiring a non-traditional candidate

The potential risks of bringing on a non-traditional candidate are obvious, but the benefits exist as well.

Opens up opportunities for new ideas

When you bring on team members of different backgrounds, you allow for new ideas and skillsets to be brought in. For example, if you are hiring for a tech position and have a candidate with experience solely in marketing, you have the potential to bring on someone with great communication skills who is consistently looking for new ways to advance their product. They will be able to research and analyze what competitors are doing in order to build upon your company’s goals. They will also be able to convince clients or other partners of the benefits of your product or service.

They may be less familiar with the details behind the role but this knowledge can easily be acquired through training. As a resume writer, I have come across many clients with concerns about career transitions. While they are passionate about these roles, they fear their skill set will not be enough to land them the position. In these scenarios, our focus then becomes highlighting the client’s transferable skills. Oftentimes, these are skills that are more difficult to teach and come from experience.

If you provide non-traditional employees with an opportunity, they are willing to put in the extra work to perform at the same level as your other team members while contributing with their unique perspective and skill set.

Non-traditional candidates are motivated

Oftentimes for these candidates, they are fairly aware of the fact that they may not check all of your boxes when hiring. They know they are starting with a disadvantage, as shown in my previous example. With this fact in mind, non-traditional candidates are fueled by a unique level of motivation.

Whether the disadvantage comes from a lack of formal education or relevant experience, many of these candidates will be more than happy to prove to you and themselves that they deserve the chance they’ve been given. As a human resources professional, one of your many challenges may be ensuring your employees do remain motivated and are eager to arrive to work ready to perform. Bringing on a team member with that innate motivation can do wonders to fuel the rest of your team as well.

What characteristics to look for in a non-traditional candidate

labor shortage

Spotting a non-traditional candidate is the easy part, determining if they will be a good fit for your company’s needs is another issue. To help you determine if you should extend an offer, here are some characteristics we believe will make the difference:

  • They are transparent about their disadvantages. In interviews, we expect the candidate to brag about their accomplishments. It is a natural part of the interview process. However, I have found that employees who are humble and understand where they need to improve are more valuable. They realize there is work to be done and they are willing to do it. They are also willing to be honest and communicate with you, which is not always an easy task for some. It also provides you with an accurate picture of their starting point and where growth needs to happen.
  • They support your company’s mission. This factor is one that is important regardless of if the candidate is traditional or otherwise. The latest hiring trend is that many employees want to work for a company that holds similar values that they believe in. If the best candidate on your list is only enticed by the job title and dollar amount associated, they will likely have few qualms about leaving your company for another with a bigger paycheck. They also are likely to have the skillset and experience necessary to do so.
  • The transferable skills they possess hold great value. Not all skills can be easily taught. While a non-traditional candidate likely has the drive to learn the skills necessary for any job, it does help when the skills they bring to the table are going to help build upon the skills they still need. These skills will look different based on the role and industry, but seeking a non-traditional candidate with skills your current team lacks is a good place to start.

Non-traditional candidates can easily become wonderful employees that add to your team. While there may be a few setbacks or additional time may be required to train them, more often than not these employees grow to become some of the best on your staff.

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For many of us, I am sure we can remember a moment where all we needed was for someone to give us the opportunity to prove ourselves. Many of these non-traditional candidates are seeking the same opportunities. If you’ve taken the leap of fate and hired a non-traditional candidate, leave a comment below about how you were able to make the transition seamless for the employee and for your team.

For more information on talent acquisition and other human resources advice, continue to check in with BrandResumes’ HR Corner.

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By Emily Provost

Emily is BrandResumes' Content Specialist and is an Associate Resume Writer. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in Publishing Studies with double minors in Marketing and Journalism from Hofstra University. She has had editorial experience working as an editor for various publications from Hofstra and worked as a writing tutor for undergraduate students.

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