Interviewer meeting a candidate-Hays careers advice

Six of the best risks you can take when hiring new talent

So you have a vacancy to fill, a shortlist of applicants who are mid-way through the interview process, and you want to get this right.  There is one candidate in particular who stands out and you have a gut feel swaying you towards them, but hiring them would be risky. Whether it’s a gap on their CV or the fact that they don’t have enough industry experience, something is stopping you from making that offer.

Being anything less than 100 percent sure about a candidate is a great cause for confusion in many hiring managers, and something I see time and time again. It is understandable that you would be risk averse when hiring for new talent. This is a big decision and one which you are accountable for. More so, you are investing your time and company budget into training and developing this person.

Nevertheless, some of the best recruits I’ve seen have been ones that don’t necessarily fit the mould or match the exact job specification. Of course, there are certain red flags that should be avoided at all costs, and this is something that I will elaborate upon in the second of this two-part series – “The worst risks you can take when hiring for new talent“.  However, I would firstly like to share some of the risks you should consider taking when hiring, and why more often than not, they will pay off.

They’ve had too many temp jobs

It can be off-putting when recruiting for a permanent role if a candidate has chosen to take on a lot of temporary or contract jobs as opposed to staying in one place for two or more years. You might react to this situation with questions like “can they not commit to one organisation for a long period of time? Do they get bored easily? What does this track record mean for our staff retention figures?”

Whilst these are valid questions, I have often seen the candidates with this kind of career history take on temporary work for solely positive reasons. Many of them simply wanted to upskill in as many areas as possible whilst adding a diverse range of experience to their CV. Moreover, often these candidates were early on in their careers and trying to get a feel for where their skills, ambitions and talents were best suited.

So why is a candidate like this worth the risk? Firstly, these candidates have chosen to meet their career motives through temp roles, as opposed to taking on lots of permanent ones, quitting after a short period and leaving their employers in the lurch. Therefore they are strategic and considerate of their employer.

Secondly, their range of experience won’t only provide you with diverse skills, but also an adaptability to new and unfamiliar environments- this will help them get to grips with the role quicker.  Lastly, after plenty of career-soul-searching through temp work, they are now looking to you for a permanent commitment, which speaks volumes about how much you appeal to them as an employer and how likely they are to stay and progress within the company.

In short, taking on a candidate with a lot of temporary experience can often guarantee a considerate, versatile and committed employee. I would call that a risk worth taking.

They have a lot of career gaps

In a similar vein to the above, career gaps can act as a warning sign for many hiring managers. You may wonder things like “what were they doing all this time? What if they were doing nothing? What does this say about their work ethic?”

Of course, if the candidate can’t justify these gaps, then perhaps you are right to have your reservations. However be sure to clarify this before making any rash decisions. Just because a candidate hasn’t explained on their CV how they spent these career breaks, doesn’t mean they weren’t being productive. Perhaps they were pursuing training or an academic course, maybe personal reasons such as parenthood or taking care of a loved one meant they couldn’t work.

In many cases, a CV gap can mean time spent travelling. So do you take a chance on a candidate who left their job to explore the world? Some hiring managers may view these individuals as reckless or irresponsible. On the contrary, travelling takes careful planning and budgeting, all are important traits in the world of work.

Moreover, I have found that the candidates who have travelled the world are often the inquisitive, self-confident, independent thinkers.  As our CEO Alistair Cox explains in one of his blogs, these are the soft traits every manager should be looking for. Individuals who possess these traits will show an eagerness to learn, an ability to build a rapport with anyone, whilst thinking outside the box. When you look at it this way, why wouldn’t you take a risk on a well-travelled candidate?

They don’t have any industry experience

You may have a candidate sat in front of you who has years of experience in an industry that could not be further apart from your own.  You may well be wondering whether they could adapt and immerse themselves in this new field, demonstrating the level of knowledge that your best performing “industry veterans” possess.

Yes, it will take them slightly longer to get to grips with the industry jargon, trends and processes. However, hiring an industry outsider can bring a new perspective to your business. This person isn’t bound by any of your industry’s unquestioned norms and routines, and will, therefore, approach tasks with a completely open and fresh mind.  In addition, this person is willing to switch it up and venture into unfamiliar territory, demonstrating the aforementioned soft trait of being inquisitive, which as we know, will benefit any business.

Therefore if the candidate expresses a willingness to work hard in order to get their industry knowledge up to speed, then I say you should take the risk for the sake of having a diverse range of experience and insight within your workforce.

They lack certain hard skills

We mentioned the value of soft traits earlier in this article. There will also be hard, or more technical skills that come from training and experience, which you believe are absolutely necessary to the role.  For example, if you were hiring a Spanish translator – this candidate would need the hard skill of being bilingual.

However, you may have a candidate who is lacking in a skill which comprises just one element of the role, such as being able to use PowerPoint.  Yet they have demonstrated the soft skill of being curious and a fast learner, so would potentially pick this up in a matter of days.

More so, aside from this skills gap, they are a very desirable candidate and one that you would otherwise hire in an instant. In these cases, ask yourself, do you have the time and resources to teach them, or are they willing to upskill themselves? If so, and the positives outweigh the negatives, then this risk is relatively small and worth taking.

They are too junior for the position

The position you are hiring for may seem slightly too senior for this otherwise stellar candidate. You may be concerned that they are too junior, aren’t ready for a step up, and would need babysitting.

However, if this candidate has faith in themselves that they can grow into the role and persevere with getting up to speed, then perhaps you should too. This candidate is obviously ambitious, confident and willing to develop. I would rather hire this type of candidate, than one who has been in a similarly senior position for a number of years, is stuck in their ways and happy to take on a lateral move as opposed to a new challenge.

If this strong yet slightly junior candidate shows an eagerness to move upwards and a willingness to put in the work that goes with it, then I say give them the chance.

They come from a much smaller/larger company

Are you concerned that this candidate is going to either be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond?  Let’s start with the former. So this candidate has come from a company much larger than your own, one which really stood out on their CV and one which has given them a wealth of experience and perhaps exposure to global markets. Your concern is that they will get bored working for a much smaller organisation like yours and possibly leave.

My advice here would be to find out why they are looking to make this change.  A lot of the time, these candidates will be making a smart and strategic move for the sake of their career progression. They hope that working for a smaller organisation will give them a chance to take on a role with greater autonomy, where the results of their hard work are more apparent and visible, with better exposure to senior decision makers.  Therefore this role will propel them into a more senior one, and quicker than it would at their current company. Can you offer them the career progression that they are hoping for?

On the other hand, you may be interviewing a candidate who comes from a smaller organisation, and you are concerned that they would be out of their depth working for a larger one. Again, what are their motives for moving? Perhaps they need a new challenge and are craving a fast-paced environment surrounded by plenty of inspirational people.

In both of these cases, the candidate wants the chance to work for a different sized company because they can clearly see how they will reap the benefits. These individuals will, therefore, be more driven, diligent and ultimately grateful for this opportunity.

In summary, when interviewing, it is essential that you change your approach to the usual warning signs, i.e. – career gaps, industry background, seniority, company size, or a lack of permanent work and hard skills. In keeping an open mind and finding out the reasons for these red flags, you may discover that these are actually just small factors which are outweighed by an ambition and emotional intelligence which sets them apart from the competition and deems them a risk worth taking.

Hopefully you found this blog valuable. Here are some other related blogs that you will also enjoy:


Share this blog:

Author

Christine Wright was appointed as Managing Director of Asia in April 2012, the latest function in her extensive 20-year career with Hays. She is responsible for the day to day operational management and growth of Hays in Japan, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and India.

Prior to her current role Christine was the Managing Director of Japan from late 2009 and under her management Hays Japan launched four new specialist businesses (Office Professionals, Supply Chain, Legal and Insurance), doubled its consultant headcount and added a third location in Shinjuku, to complement its offices in Tokyo’s Akasaka business district and central Osaka. Christine has also played key roles in the management of Hays’ business in Australia and in the United Kingdom.

She graduated from the University of Brighton, with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Statistics and Computing and has attended business programs at IMD, Ashridge and De Ruwenburg business schools.