Why I Hired the Non-Traditional Candidate

As a career switcher, you face more hurdles in your job search than a candidate who has a “traditional” background (e.g., relevant industry and functional work experience).

In many cases, the “traditional” applicant:

  • Understands the industry “lingo” and acronyms
  • Knows the key players and how to partner with them
  • Recognizes what they’re signing up for
  • Can navigate the culture and anticipate the obstacles
  • Says all the right things in the interview
  • And, can hit the ground running without too much hand holding

So why would a Hiring Manager ever roll the dice on a career switcher?  Here’s why I did.

  1. She networked and was referred to me by someone I trust. (a.k.a, she came in already having a strong endorsement).
  2. She was able to clearly and concretely articulate how her skills and experience would lead to relevant results in the role. (a.k.a., she effectively re-branded her background)
  3. She demonstrated commitment to the career switch by participating in industry events and regularly posting content about the field on social media. (a.k.a, this change wasn’t a “whim”).
  4. She had been keeping up with the market in anticipation of the job change and brought practical fresh ideas and perspectives to the role. (a.k.a., she did her homework).
  5. Hercareer story” was genuine, logical and supported by actions (a.k.a, she had a clear plan for how this career would fit into her longer term goals).

In reality, not all career switchers will pan out and not all “traditional” candidates will be as strong as they appear in the interview.  But with hiring mistakes costing companies as much as 3x the new hire’s salary (plus numerous headaches), taking time to make a good choice is well worth the trouble.  Unfortunately, many hiring managers go with the “safe” choice, which is usually the traditional candidate.  Loss aversion (i.e., the tendency to more strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains) is a potent motivator, so the rationalization is that employing an average candidate for a few years outweighs the perceived risk in hiring a motivated career switcher.

Career switcher or not, the 5 attributes listed above are a solid checklist to consider when hiring any new employee.

And if you’re a career switcher, networking in, re-branding your skills, demonstrating commitment, doing your homework, and being able to logically support your career decision will significantly increase your chances of landing the new job.

Happy hunting!

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