Now let’s be honest. Just as we wouldn’t choose to take home the runt of the litter when choosing a dog, we also wouldn’t ordinarily choose the candidate that has been fired in the past, dropped out of school or been passed over for promotion. But this is just what Regina Hartley, VP Human Resources at UPS urged businesses to do in a TED talk I came across recently.
To say it was refreshing is an understatement. We live in such a pressurised world where we are constantly evaluated and judged on our and our children’s successes from grades at school, to how fast they learn to read, to sporting prowess on the playing fields and it continues through to GCSE and A-Level grades, the kind of University we go to and our successes in the milk round not to mention our ability to climb the ladder, win deals and build an enviable reputation. We are even judged on the quality of contacts we have and who has heard of us. It is stifling and exhausting and leaves me to wonder what happens to the ones that don’t shine at school, or in the workplace, or fail to climb the ladder at work? Should we just discard them and resign them to being persistent failures? Or should we give them a chance and try to unearth their hidden talents that perhaps have not yet surfaced. Should we in fact take a punt on the underdog?
For many businesses a CV is their first introduction to a candidate. But Hartley says: “A resume tells a story. And over the years, I’ve learned something about people whose experiences read like a patchwork quilt, that makes me stop and fully consider them before tossing their resumes away.” She adds, “A series of odd jobs may indicate inconsistency, lack of focus, unpredictability. Or it may signal a committed struggle against obstacles. At the very least, the Scrapper deserves an interview.”
Like the dyslexic child that has struggled with words but eventually learns to read, the candidate that has yet to find their calling has had experiences along the way that those that have taken the straight forward path from A-B have not had. This in itself offers businesses the chance to take on someone that can provide a different thought pattern to the mainstream, whose experience of grit, determination and having to pull themselves together after yet another failure or wrong turn in their career path has despite all of its hardship, deflation and lip biting anxiety given that person the ability to carry on, persist until they succeed and as Hartley says, ‘flourish in the darkest of spaces.’
“Take this resume. This guy’s parents give him up for adoption. He never finishes college. He job-hops quite a bit, goes on a sojourn to India for a year, and to top it off, he has dyslexia. Would you hire this guy? His name is Steve Jobs.” And the point that Hartley so illustratively makes is that those that have failed in the past don’t think they are who they are in spite of adversity, they know they are who they are because of adversity.
So be brave, choose the underestimated contender, lift up the stone and see what is lurking beneath, take a chance on a past failure because they will have more drive and passion to get it right than the candidate whose CV has always shone and who has never faced trauma, lack of hope or desperation. Experiences of hardship future-proof candidates for facing the obstacles that business will throw at them along the way, it will give them the experience to navigate difficult conversations, tricky deals and allow them to use their creativity to think up those ideas that could propel your business forward in a way that the A-grade candidate may, despite their prowess never be able to offer. Are you ready to take the chance?
By Annie Hayes, HR freelance writer and expert.
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