Why I Hired A _______: Recruiting Strategies to Tap Unique Backgrounds3 min read

August 3, 2018 Industry Insights

At Yello, our daily blog isn’t covered exclusively by talent acquisition professionals — it’s curated with the help of a comedian, a political scientist and an international journalist. Their resumes may not perfectly line up with their job descriptions, but their unique breadth of life and career experiences bring fresh perspectives to their line of work.

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Seeking out candidates with diverse backgrounds and life experiences is one of the best recruiting strategies to add variety and fresh sets of eyes to any team. Here’s a look at less-than-conventional candidates with unusual backgrounds that became industry leaders, and tips to adjust your recruiting strategy to find your company’s next one-of-a-kind employee:

Unconventional expertise

Ted Sarandos dropped out of college to work in a video store — and is now the Chief Content Officer at Netflix. Starting off as a high school job, Sarandos eventually became manager of eight different locations, learning how to manage employees, negotiate contracts and work with film distributors. More importantly, Sarandos spent up to nine hours a day watching his store’s entire inventory of films when it wasn’t busy, gaining an unprecedented amount of insight and knowledge into filmmaking trends and vast amounts of content. On paper, what may have seemed like a less-than-stellar resume — a college-dropout who watches movies at work all day — is exactly what led him to be plucked by CEO Reed Hastings to develop Netflix’s ever-expanding content library.

The lesson? Stop waiting for the picture-perfect candidate to come along. The lack of a college degree, a gap on a resume or work experience at less-than-glamorous companies could end up being a candidate’s best assets. Video stores may be on the way out, but candidates with unique backgrounds and skill sets could end up becoming your next “blockbuster” employee.

Transferable skills

Sash Sunkara might not have an MBA, but that didn’t stop her from being nominated for Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year. A student of engineering, her hands-on work experience eventually led her to become the co-founder and CEO of cloud software company Rackware. Taking full advantage of her engineering skills, Sunkara translated her logic and problem-solving abilities into other areas like sales and marketing.

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Incorporating diversity of thought into your recruiting strategy can help teams solve problems by looking at them through a different lens. An engineer’s approach to figuring out a task might be completely different than a master of business administration — and that’s exactly the point.

Incredible work ethic

Put yourself in the shoes of a candidate ready to come in for an interview. You’re excited to get the chance to meet with a new company, but you’re also juggling the day-to-day responsibilities of your life: a family, special events and occasions or even a job that limits your amount of free time. Even with your best intentions, there just might not be enough time in the day to schedule an interview that works best for your busy life.

When the phrase “fast fashion” comes to mind, you might not picture a barista, a gas station attendant or a janitor. But in the case of Forever 21, those three jobs are how co-founder and CEO Don Wo Chang got his start in America and ultimately saved money to open his first clothing store. Working hand-in-hand with his wife, Jin Sook, Chang juggled multiple jobs and worked tirelessly before ultimately launching his $4.4 billion company.

Recruiting strategies that overlook candidates with different kinds of real-world experience miss out on some of an employee’s most impressive traits: dedication and perseverance. An employee willing to work three jobs simultaneously understands the necessities of time management, has the ability to focus on multiple tasks and possesses a strong work ethic.

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