Our new virtual world has increased the need for multifaceted candidates who can quickly adapt to new environments and maneuver remote workplaces with strong communication and time management skills. Some of the top candidates who can overcome the challenges of remote work and thrive are self-starters who have taken less traditional paths to teach themselves new skills.
Employers must also realize that when sourcing and hiring candidates based on specific backgrounds, they continue to perpetuate pedigree bias, overlooking entire populations that have taken the path less traveled to learn the same skills. This is a tremendous missed opportunity for hiring managers and teams, especially amid the “Great Reshuffle” where high numbers of professionals are pivoting to new industries for better compensation and work-life balance.
For example, candidates are transitioning from high-burnout and lower-paying sectors (e.g. leisure and hospitality, arts and entertainment, and retail) in droves. To learn in-demand skills and make a successful career change in a hot job market, many are using nontraditional ways of learning, such as tech bootcamps, digital courses, and free online resources. Here’s how to find—and then interview—these overlooked candidates.
How to source qualified candidates who took a different path to acquire relevant skills
Revise your job description. When hiring based on skills, companies may need to revamp their sourcing methods to ensure that they get in front of workers who otherwise may not consider themselves a fit for a given role. As a first step, hiring teams should closely examine and potentially revise the copy of their job postings to hone in on relevant skills. Rather than emphasizing specific work experiences or educational requirements, such as degrees, they need to delineate which soft and hard skills are required to meet the responsibilities of the role.
Hire out of coding bootcamps or other nontraditional schools. Coding bootcamps have emerged over the last decade as a cost-efficient option for candidates to learn in-demand skills regardless of income level. With the average cost of a 15-week bootcamp equivalent to about one semester of private college (roughly $11,400), it’s no surprise many professionals have chosen this route to upskill faster and more efficiently.
As the ratio of minority graduates from bootcamps skews higher than their representation in the overall U.S. tech industry, hiring candidates from these programs can also open doors of opportunities for diverse talent and ultimately be a step toward a more inclusive tech industry.
Throw out traditional recruitment methods. Traditional methods don’t allow employers to find candidates outside of typical avenues, such as job boards. Hosting virtual events, running coding challenges, or partnering with bootcamps and more diverse schools are some ways to find highly qualified talent that may otherwise be overlooked due to their different—yet relevant—background. Amazon and Boeing are notable examples of companies that have been successful in sourcing talent with this approach.
How to interview overlooked candidates
Be transparent from the start. Candidates with less traditional backgrounds may not have a lot of experience with a formalized process. Providing details about the different steps of the interview process and sharing who is involved and the intentions of each can help the candidate better prepare and feel more informed.
Go into it blindly. Companies should implement a blind hiring process to remove all identifiable characteristics of the candidate including their name or physical attributes to ensure that the hiring manager does not impose similarity bias or only considers like-minded individuals with similar backgrounds. It’s important to standardize the interview process, include the same interviewers throughout the entire process, and propose the same questions for all candidates being interviewed for a role.
Ask interview questions that bring out candidates’ strengths. Interview questions should be developed and asked to surface unique and relevant information about candidates’ prior experiences and expertise so companies don’t overlook someone that might be a fit. Asking “What do you do to keep your skills up to date?” can gauge for proactive learners. Inquiring about candidates’ hobbies or other outside interests can also offer insight into any traits or skills candidates possess that are needed for the role.
Leverage standardized assessments. Hiring teams should take advantage of standardized assessments that mask candidates’ background information and ensure they hire based on skills rather than brand or college names on a résumé.
Provide flexibility for scheduling. When setting a time to schedule an interview, hiring teams need to be conscious that these candidates may not have as much flexibility to join during typical working hours, e.g. if they’re in a contractor role. Leveraging efficient scheduling platforms and tools, such as Calendly, can help to quickly accommodate schedules and confirm candidate availability and provide a more inclusive hiring experience.
Recruiting teams must source and bring on qualified talent who may have a hard time getting recognized despite their strong skillset. These candidates deserve spots on teams just like any other qualified candidate whether they attended a bootcamp, earned a four-year degree, or were completely self-taught. By putting more focus on skill-based hiring to find such overlooked—and often underestimated—candidates, companies can build a more equitable workplace, devoid of (pedigree) bias and full of skilled workers that are ready to make an impact.
Samantha Lawrence is the SVP of People Strategy at Hired. Prior to Hired, she led HR analytics, strategy, and IT at Penguin Random House.