I’ve interviewed with the same media company three times over the past eight months, each time for the same product copywriter role. My experiences have all been similar: a talent agency will reach out to say I’m perfect for the role, would I like to be submitted? Sure. Then I’ll do a phone interview with the company’s internal HR team, followed by one with their hiring manager. These go well. Next I’m asked to do a “sample” writing test, which I’ll spend all day working on, for free, just to prove my worth. I’ll submit the test; they’re happy. Finally, I’m brought on campus for one last in-person interview. There, I’ll be told, generally within the first five minutes, that I just don’t have the product copy experience required for the position, but thanks for coming in.
Of course, I’ll be bent out of shape. If they felt this way all along, why put me through the ringer (again and again and again)? More importantly, why are they so determined to check off all the boxes, rather than trying to envision my long-term potential?
My point here isn’t to vent (although, I must say, it feels pretty good) but to suggest employers should start thinking outside the box when hiring. Why? Because you may find a diamond in the rough.
The goal for hiring managers, if they see the big picture, should be to groom talent so one day they’ll go on to do something important in a better position at the company. These are the candidates to target, empower and nurture.
Below, I’ve put together some things to look for when interviewing candidates who you not only want to meet expectations, but exceed them.
Diversity of Experiences Matter
Companies tend to have a narrow idea of what’s relevant experience. And because of that, the best candidates often don’t even get an interview because they don’t feature the right keywords in their resume. (Did you know that 70% of resumes get filtered out before a human ever sees them? Welcome to the machine, folks.)
When an applicant does get through the initial screening, their lack of experience in a particular subcategory can disqualify them. But why don’t we value successful track records in multiple roles, situations and industries? Doesn’t that speak more to how an employee will do once they’re up to speed? Many problem-solving strategies are unteachable, and you can focus on training the rest.
Seek Self Starters
It’s easy to be seduced by pedigree. Candidates who come from successful families and elite universities tend to be intelligent, sophisticated people. But affluence can lead to a sense of privilege and entitlement.
On the other hand, self-motivated employees tend to work harder and longer, because they’re on their own and they know nobody will bail them out if they fail. Also, self-starters who’ve run their own business often understand the complexities of projects from multiple vantage points. They know their boss’ pain, and they understand how their colleagues feel. That sort of dual perspective is an asset, not a liability.
Read Between the Lines
The type of college degree isn’t always the be-all, end-all. Freelancers with certificates in automotive technology can make great coders and programmers. Why? Because they like building things, and getting under the hood and solving problems. Many successful tech entrepreneurs have philosophy degrees. Why? Because they need to try new models and approaches. Candidates with English degrees are often good negotiators and psychiatrists, because they thrive at interpersonal communication.
My point? Learn to give candidates with diverse experiences a chance to thrive in new opportunities. See potential, not just skill sets. The best assets for your business may come from anywhere, and it’s in your best interest to take the time to think about this process holistically.
By Rob Simons