No college, no work history, no problem. Sometimes the best candidate on paper is the worst candidate for the job.
There are millions of good reasons to hire people who have non-traditional work histories or no higher education credentials. For one, many of the hardest working people have been out of work for years handling important responsibilities such as taking care of their families or trying to start a business that just didn’t work out. Disruption may be great for economic efficiency, but it leaves many people in its wake who must seek out new ways to live.
Every company needs employees who are self-driven, self-taught go-getters. These are the ones everyone depends on because they know how to work hard, they are adept at re-skilling as needed and they never give up.
If you want to bring some of these work powerhouses on board, here are some thoughtful interview questions that can help you discover diamonds in the rough. You can expect to see more and more of these workers in the years ahead as automation and the volatile global economy transform the shape and character of the workforce.
1. Which Transferable Skills Do You Bring From Your Former Life?
The words “transferable skills” are music to the ears of non-traditional workers. When a hiring manager uses these words, it is a signal that the candidate can get to the meat of the interview without having to explain why stay-at-home-moms are experts at organization and full-time parenting duty is a master class in motivational management. People who have conquered challenging lives are often better prepared for the hard realities of the working world than college graduates sporting keyword-rich resumes.
2. What Have You Taught Yourself?
The ability to learn quickly and the associated skill of applying that knowledge effectively are two of the most critical factors for employee success in a rapidly changing world. Two decades ago, there were no SaaS experts. One decade ago, there were no mobile app developers. Five years ago, chatbot specialist was science fiction. What skills are going to be necessary tomorrow? It doesn’t matter if your employees are able and motivated to learn.
3. How Much Training Will You Need to Start Work Here?
There is really no way they can answer this completely until they start working, but the question is designed to see how they react to the idea of training. Like the above question, this is meant to solicit answers that determine the candidate’s flexibility as the definition of work changes. The ability to gain proficiency with minimal training will define the strongest candidates in the years ahead as automation and AI assume the most repetitive and easily defined tasks. Creativity, foresight, responsibility and adaptability are already the most sought-after skills of 21st-century workers.
4. Which of Your Accomplishments Have Given You the Most Satisfaction?
This is exactly the same question that hiring manager ask seasoned professionals, and the answer should only involve changing the nouns. Instead of “I managed a $2 million sales account,” they will say “I managed the grant committee for our neighborhood school.” Non-profit volunteer work and tasks related to entrepreneurship, even when they don’t work out as planned, count as extremely valuable professional experience. Don’t be surprised if the discussion turns to very personal issues involving family or the underprivileged. These reveal strong character traits that can help your company thrive in times of uncertainty.
5. What Will Make You Successful in Our Company?
No matter what they did in the past, the best candidates understand your company’s goals and your brand identity. Make sure they know what they will be expected to do and the right way to represent your company to everyone they know. Every employee should consider themselves a part of the customer experience.
6. What Other Types of Jobs or Companies Are You Looking at Right Now?
Maybe your company is the only one and the candidate wants to put all of their eggs into your basket. A more measured approach is to zero in on just a few companies (not a mass mailing) and then to advance with confidence in the direction of their dreams. These workers normally do their best only when their heart is in the job.
7. How Have You Gone About Correcting One of Your Biggest Mistakes?
Of course, that assumes that the candidate admits to making mistakes, but it is a red flag if they don’t. Even though this question is not directly about work, it will certainly matter to the people who have to work with the new hire if they make it. Collaboration and teamwork may take some practice for them, depending on their backgrounds. Make sure they own up to their mistakes and realistically approach correcting them.
The Rebirth of the Generalist
Just as entrepreneurs get used to doing a little bit of everything, non-traditional workers are more likely to jump in and handle problems instead of waiting for someone else to take responsibility. They are just as valuable as specialists and can do wonders for your customer experience. Don’t judge these books by their cover letters. The jobs of tomorrow are based on technologies that haven’t been invented yet, so these workers may be the only ones who can handle what’s coming next.