Recruiters have power. What if you used that power to help candidates who will do an awesome job—but don’t have the required education—get in the door?
Dear Hiring Managers:
You are in a difficult position—we get it.
You have a position that needs to be filled yesterday, and a horde of applicants who are basically indistinguishable from each other. So, understandably, anyone who doesn’t meet the ever-raising bar can be immediately discarded.
No degree? Toss ‘em.
No internships? Shred ‘em.
No relevant experience? Forget about it.
We get it. You’re a busy person. But you’re also a person with power—more power than most to change a situation which is squeezing recent grads and newer grads right out of the job market.
And it’s such a waste.
Lots of brilliant, talented, innovative, creative, diligent people lack one or more of the features mentioned above, and they are passed over again and again because they didn’t have the funds or interest to acquire them. Remember that higher education is a privilege not everyone has or is suited for.
And you, hiring manager, are in a position to change a bit of that, to help correct the imbalance, to level the playing field a little. The current system of education leading to debt, credential bloat, low wages, fear and insecurity doesn’t help anyone, especially not companies that need top people to stay innovative.
I ask you—no, I beseech you—to take a chance on someone without the credentials.
1. Experience comes in all shapes and sizes
The best doesn’t always come attached to a diploma.
Think about the job you need filled. Unless it’s a position upon which lives literally depend, advanced education might be a plus but isn’t going to make or break someone’s ability to do the job well.
The candidate will let you know they can do the job by customizing their resume for the position. You might notice insightful comments about your industry in their cover letter, the way they highlight their most relevant experience (even if it isn’t in your field) at the top of their resume and how they describe your position in their summary. All of those details will tell you exactly how the candidate intends to be useful to your organization.
2. Skills can be taught, but passion and talent can’t be
Someone can have every degree in the book and 10 years of experience, but if they’re just not interested, they will never be the great employee you need.
Remember that every task that needs to be done can be taught to anyone, but a talent for connecting with people, for example, or organizing information—those are inherent. Curt Coffman and Marcus Buckingham of the Gallup corporation wrote a great book about this topic called First, Break All the Rules; it will change your life.
Look for applicants who have done interesting things outside of your industry. Anything that indicates innovation, creativity, great people skills, organization and diligence is a great sign that the applicant will bring those same qualities to your organization.
3. You’re starting with a blank and eager slate
And there are no bad habits and unreasonable expectations to boot.
When someone comes to you without a lot of experience, they don’t have any bad habits to break, which can save tons of time and money. Plus, everyone knows, understands and accepts that an entry-level worker costs less than someone with years of experience.
You can use this to your advantage, all while helping a fresh face grow into an indispensable team member who will never forget that your company gave them a chance. They will know coming in that they can’t command top wages (until the status quo changes, anyway) and so may well be willing to look at alternative compensation or benefits. They’ll also work hard to gain the experience needed to be more valuable to your company.
Look for applicants who are upfront about their credentials or the lack thereof, especially if they provide compelling reasons why they aren’t necessary. It takes moxie to apply for a job when you don’t meet all of the stated criteria. When candidates make an effort to stand out and get your attention anyway, there is almost always a reason.
Of course, I’m not saying to swing entirely to the opposite side! There’s nothing wrong with having a good education, but it’s not necessarily an indication of anything other than having attended a college or university. Perfect fits for that job you need filled exist all across the education and experience spectrum, and a candidate who at first looks unqualified may have exactly the right mix of passion, talent and ability to get the job done.
I’m asking you to keep an open mind—even if it means a little more work sorting through resumes.
Megan Dougherty runs a blog all about money acquisition and wrangling for the young, creative and underemployed called Paying for Life. It’s still in pre-launch, but if you’ve got any little income gaps to fill, you can download her free list of 20 Ways to Make at Least $30 Tomorrow.