When it comes to making their first hire, leaders often feel like making the safe choice: Choose the one with the degree and credentials. But this isn’t always the right way to go. Take, for instance, New York City-based Peggy Yu, COO of the entrepreneurial training program Startup Institute.
Years ago, having just joined a new company, Yu had to hire the first member on her team. She sought creative, persistent and smart candidates who would bring innovative ideas. But then HR started forwarding her candidates’ resumes.
“I wasn’t looking for words like ‘strategy,’ ‘partnerships’ or ‘business development,'” Yu said via email. Instead, she said, she looked for candidates who showed their personality and interest.
Eventually, she found people to interview. Most were from a traditional background. But there was one non-traditional contender who lacked a degree. “When I interviewed my non-traditional candidate, I knew my hunch had been correct,” Yu went on to say. “She was scrappy and had hustle.”
Yu decided to bet on that candidate and it paid off. The woman she chose became a key member of the team and helped the company develop a new line of business. As a result, Yu continues to look for employees from less conventional backgrounds.
And she’s not alone in discovering that hiring the “wrong” candidate is beneficial. However, to truly open the hiring doors for these job-seekers, it’s important to dispel the myths and unveil the facts surrounding them:
The myth: They’ll return to crime.
Many employers are hesitant to hire someone with a criminal record. They’re worried that the person will make the same mistakes, and that will hurt their organization.
This sentiment is so prevalent that company review site Glassdoor recently changed its policy. As of October 4, Glassdoor announced, it will no longer post job advertisements for companies that discriminate against people with criminal backgrounds.
Leaders at Glassdoor and its partner on this initiative, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, believe that denying these people employment increases their odds of returning to crime. Thus, employers are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, inadvertently contributing to the country’s mass-incarceration problem.
The reality: They increase diversity.
Unfortunately, people of color are more likely to be incarcerated. So, organizations unwilling to hire ex-cons will hurt their overall diversity opportunities.
“Employers who do not embrace fair-chance hiring practices are excluding nearly 70 million Americans from their applicant pool, many of whom have the requisite skills to be successful employees,” Washington, D.C.-based Dariely Rodriguez, director of the Economic Justice Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in an email.
People without degrees
The myth: They require too much training.
Many people believe that job-seekers without degrees need more training than it’s worth. While this might have been true 20 years ago, that excuse no longer holds up. Now, many organizations struggle to find the skills they need.
“The days of an unlimited stream of perfect candidates have ended and the companies that will win in the future will get very good at collecting talent, training and retaining,” Indianapolis-based Mike Seidle, co-founder of the location-based job board WorkHere, said via email.
In other words, all employees — with and without degrees — need constant training. It might even be better to hire and train someone from scratch than assume he or she learned the right skills in college.
The reality: They’re self-taught.
Some of the most in-demand skills are often self-taught. With coding, for instance, many of the young people who grew up with technology became interested in how it all works. They learned about coding by reading on the internet and doing. Often, this puts them at the forefront of new tech trends, ahead of those with degrees.
For example, Ted Kramer, chief of staff at San Francisco-based cyber-security company HackerOne, pointed out that self-taught employees are particularly valuable in his industry.
“Given the high demand and low availability of cybersecurity professionals at a time when attacks are increasing and causing more and more damage,” Kramer said in an email, “we can’t afford to overlook some of the most talented people out there.”
The reality: They’re just as talented.
Some people have to work years to develop a certain skill. For others, that skill may come naturally. So, if someone has already mastered a skill set, it may make little sense for him or her to invest in a college degree. What’s more, without the diploma, this person may still be a great employee.
Over the years, Carisa Miklusak, CEO of Cincinnati-based recruiting platform tilr, has hired many nontraditional employees. She said she personally decided on her company’s position against the normal college route, so she knows what these people can bring to the table.
“From the early 2000s until today, some of my best sales reps have had little-to-no college education,” she said in an email. “However, their skill sets and business acumen have been [similar to that] of those that attend Ivy league schools.”