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2 easy strategies to help you hire nontraditional candidates

The founder of Candidate.co believes that prioritizing prior experience above all else does a disservice to candidates as well as the employers who may miss out on quality talent.  

2 easy strategies to help you hire nontraditional candidates
[Photo: Jordan Lye/Getty Images]

Career journeys are rarely linear for anyone, particularly these days. How many of us are in the exact jobs we envisioned or fields we trained for? After COVID-19-driven rethinks, workers are increasingly trying their hands at something new after years in another field or industry.

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Employers can ensure they’re pacing appropriately with job seeker pivots to source quality talent by using skills-based hiring. This doesn’t focus on candidates’ direct prior experience, but instead on the transferable skills they may be able to offer in a new role.

The belief that skills can be taught but experience can’t can leave many newly curious candidates seeking a career pivot, or those highly qualified but lacking traditional backgrounds out of hiring pools. Prioritizing prior experience above all else does a disservice to candidates as well as the employers who may miss out on quality talent.

Look to referrals

How can employers support nontraditional candidates and benefit from their transferable skills? Look to referrals as a new candidate pipeline. Relying on the standard model of posting on a job board and waiting for applicants isn’t going to cut it anymore.

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Sourcing via referrals gives hiring managers a unique understanding of applicants’ capabilities that may otherwise fly under the radar when reviewing only a résumé. It’s also worth noting that 45% of hires sourced via referrals are likely to stay with a company for four-plus years compared to the average two years employees sourced from job boards retain their positions.

A bonus is that a referral-based approach to hiring can be an excellent way to diversify talent pools. Traditional hiring practices can exclude historically underrepresented groups by, for example, valuing certain degrees while failing to take into account the access and privilege necessary to gain them.

While job postings can certainly include specific requirements, a more holistic look at applicants can expand the talent pool by focusing on the qualities truly needed for success.

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Embrace rebellious change and thoughtful practice

Attracting and retaining talent means employers need to be in touch with their inner rebel and be unafraid to nix dated practices that no longer serve the workforce. That starts with driving the final stake through the long-waning Monday-through-Friday, 8 a.m.-to-5 p.m. workweek in favor of the flexibility and trust employees are seeking to balance work and their personal lives—especially given that 59% of candidates would choose an employer offering some sort of remote work over a mandatory in-office environment.

Elon Musk’s “show-up-or-ship-out” ultimatum aside, it’s time to ask yourself how far you can go in terms of outside-the-office options and work-home equilibrium. Once you’ve figured that out, be ready to double down on communicating on your flexibility up front, but also your values.

Job seekers want to know where potential employers stand not only in office environments but also on important issues. They want employer commitment to all aspects of the well-being of workers, their families, and their communities. Get vocal, speak up and out, and strive to ensure your practices match your policies.

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The bottom line? For employers looking to keep up amid the swift changes accompanying the Great Rehire, it’s time to rethink your practices. Take a skills-based approach to hiring and don’t be afraid to lean into referrals as a candidate-sourcing pipeline.

And above all, be thoughtful. View your current and future employees as whole individuals with a variety of priorities and purposes outside of work. Embrace rebellious change and don’t be afraid to take a minute to reboot your own practices.


Ryan Agresta is the founder and CEO of Candidate.co.

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