Nontraditional Background: The New High-Potentials?

An up-and-coming conversation in today’s workplace is how to effectively hire talent with nontraditional backgrounds. In a recent article from Talent‘s Recruitment & Retention blog, author Deanna Hartley shares how hiring practices in today’s diverse workforce can benefit your organization.

Today’s rickety economy and work force have professionals from all fields switching from one job title to the next. Is it possible that a car manufacturing employee could proficiently work as a real estate agent as well? This entirely depends on the individual – however, talent managers must be open-minded about potential employees with diverse professional and educational backgrounds.

Hiring an employee for a public relations position who has a background in engineering is going to offer some very unique perspectives. Hiring employees with diverse backgrounds offers an open-minded, creative thinking strategy.

“You get multiple perspectives for problems or challenges and fresh perspectives in your day-to-day operations,” said Michael Anderson, senior research scientist at CPP. Bringing in someone new, even from a different areas within the organization, could help break down functional or departmental barriers.

There is always the concern of hiring an ‘outsider’  – Will they have the right skill sets? Do they have the right requisite skills, knowledge, and abilities to perform their jobs effectively? Simply speaking, it can be more difficult to get the hang of a job if the employee has never had any experience in the field.

“Whenever you bring somebody in from a different educational background or even a different industry, there’s a lot of ambiguity [and] uncertainty that comes with [it],” Anderson said. “With that comes increased complexity within the group – sometimes there can be a communication breakdown bringing somebody in.”

Another large concern regards consideration of a company’s culture. Some companies create probing questions for new hires that are designed to draw out desirable skills and leadership qualities for each open position within the organization. Another measure employers can take to determine whether an employee will understand the organization’s culture includes assessing the individual’s values alongside the organization’s values to see if the two will coexist. This can be accomplished with an extended job analysis or an organizational survey. Also providing potential employees with a realistic job preview is necessary to be sure that the employee will be comfortable.

Above and beyond all afore mentioned tactics, setting leadership and development training programs in place can help ensure that outsiders understand the organization’s goals and culture.

“There are different types of selection devices that are designed for weeding out the people who may have a lower propensity of success in an organization,” said Jeff Pon, principal at Booz Allen Hamilton. “Those instruments have to be non-racial or national-origin biased.”

When hiring outsiders, focus on the individual’s attributes and less on their backgrounds. As a talent manager, be sure to ascertain the importance of cultural fit within the organization. A key to most talent managers is that the prospective employee exhibits strong characteristics of ethics and integrity.  To read more about hiring employees with nontraditional backgrounds, click here for the full article.

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