Why you should hire the unskilled, unemployed, uneducated candidate

Nervous job candidate waiting

Hiring managers have to narrow the choices down somehow, and one way they do that is by automatically rejecting certain candidates – the unemployed, those without a degree and those lacking all the required skills.

But in doing this, you might be overlooking a fantastic hire.

Here’s why you might want to take another look at these candidates.

The unskilled candidate: When faced with two candidates – one with the right skills and a not-so-great attitude, and one who is lacking some skills but has a great attitude – hire the one with the great attitude. This is a no brainer.

It’s been said many times and in many ways: you can teach skills but you cannot teach attitude. A candidate with a good attitude will soon learn the required skills, and will surpass those skills and learn even more, while the candidate with the attitude problem will always have an attitude problem.

The candidate without a degree: This depends on industry, of course. You perhaps don’t want a lawyer without a law degree or a surgeon without a medical degree. But there are many areas in which the piece of paper declaring that the candidate has been through a formal education process is superfluous.

While our latest research has found that most employers don’t actually care about education, there are still those who do. A lot of job postings in media or marketing, for example, stipulate that the candidate must have a related bachelor’s degree, but there’s actually nothing people in those jobs can’t learn from experience. Also, 73% of people in our latest report say their education is unrelated to their jobs.

It is true that a university or college education can be useful in indirect ways. University teaches people how to learn, and provides applicable knowledge. But there are many, many ways to educate oneself. Programmers, writers, marketers, designers, and human resources professionals are all commonly self-taught or educated in other fields.

You can learn everything you need to know about a lot of industries online or on the job. And schools, such as MIT, are now offering open courses.

Being self-taught indicates that a candidate is driven, innovative, and self-motivated – all great things. All other things being equal, don’t overlook someone for lack of education.

The unemployed candidate: It’s an unfortunate reality that many hiring managers don’t want to hire the unemployed. Several surveys have highlighted this fact, and one 2013 study showed that employers would call back someone with no relevant experience before they would call a skilled candidate who had been out of work for more than six months. The results implied that employers look first at the duration on unemployment and, if it is longer than six months, ditch the resume. This is just dumb.

First: It’s cruel to punish a candidate for being unemployed. As Suzanne Lucas recently observed in a very on-point op-ed, hiring managers are put off if they think candidates need the job, leaving the applicant “in the weird position of having to pretend that they are fabulously wealthy and just want to get a job to get them out of the house for a bit.”

It should be OK to need a job, since that’s actually the reality many, possibly most, jobseekers find themselves attempting to hide.

The longer one is without work, the longer one will find themselves without work. It’s a vicious cycle that employers perpetuate by refusing to give people a chance. You should give people a chance.

People may be out of work for any number of reasons that have no relation to their potential job performance – family obligations, special projects, illness, or maybe just the fact that nobody will hire them because they are out of work.

If altruism isn’t your thing, consider how grateful a new hire who has been out of work for a long time will be. That person will work harder and be more loyal than someone who didn’t really need the job. Take another look at the unemployed candidate. There’s a very good chance that person will turn out to be the best hire you ever make.

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