Hiring Unconventional Candidates - Don't Scrap the 'Scrapper'


By Kathleen Laney - January 19, 2016

It’s no secret employers tend to hire candidates who are currently employed with the right credentials and no history of job hopping. The reasoning behind hiring a candidate with this profile is simple.  Previous behavior and performance are good indications of their future behavior and performance.  But that’s not a foolproof strategy.  Hiring based solely on past performance in no way guarantees future success.

And as the job market tightens, many employers are facing increasing recruitment challenges.  Your first choice candidate may be receiving offers from multiple companies.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t get game-changing talent.  Obvious doesn’t equal best.  Take time to consider candidates you quickly rejected because their resumes don't show the perfect pedigree.

Regina Hartley, an HR executive and prominent TED speaker, suggests that candidates fall into two categories: ‘silver spoons’ and ‘scrappers.'

Silver spoons are those who have been given every opportunity to succeed. They come from stable homes, had access to great schools, and have connections with powerful people. Essentially, they were “destined for success.”

Scrappers, on the other hand, were not. They had to overcome adversity ranging from broken homes and poverty to learning disabilities. Their resumes don’t detail a past of fancy internships or elite schools. They may have a resume with less recognizable employers and less conventional positions.

But Hartley suggests that we don’t just scrap the Scrappers.  She argues that candidates who have experience overcoming adversity may have the tools and coping mechanisms to deal with challenges in both their personal AND professional lives. Scrappers tend to be more persistent and tenacious. When scrappers do fail, they look at ways to get different or better results going forward.

When considering scrappers, focus on their skill sets, work attitudeand their unique perspective. 

Look for candidates who have proactively learned new skills and best practices.  While lengthy tenures can indicate loyalty and competence, there are a few downsides to candidates who haven’t worked with a variety of employers. Professionals who have stayed with the same company can get comfortable and settle into a routine. They may not learn new technologies and skills at the same pace of those who have switched employers. Those who have switched jobs every 3 to 5 years have a more diverse and up to date skill set. They have had to learn new software and proprietary technology and can come up to speed faster.

With experience overcoming significant challenges, these candidates have learned tenacity. They may have failed at a job and come back with a success or walked away with lessons learned.

These candidates also can bring a new unique perspective.  Candidates with a broader background will offer fresh ideas or new processes. They have experience communicating and engaging with others inside and outside their immediate team. They also tend to have a greater understanding of the bigger picture.

So as an employer, take the time to at least consider Hartley’s question. “Who are you going to bet on: the Silver Spoon or the Scrapper?”

Go Back