I recently caught a story by Software Advice, a company that helps software buyers find the right system for their needs, that discusses a hiring strategy they’ve named “finding diamonds in the rough.” This hiring strategy places an emphasis on a candidate’s natural talents more than their past work experience. In fact, their company has no problem hiring a barista, server or bartender — if they have the “it” factor. I decided to catch up with Bethany Perkins, HR manager at Software Advice, to hear more about this unique hiring method. Here is what she had to say:
Joey Price: Please tell our readers a bit about your HR background and what lead you to this organization.
Bethany Perkins: I didn’t have any HR experience before joining Software Advice. I myself was a “diamond in the rough.” Before joining the company, I was working as a bartender at Sandra Bullock’s Bess Bistro and running my own theatre production company. Since theatre doesn’t exactly pay the bills, I was working as a bartender to help keep the lights on. Eventually the schedule became unmanageable and I knew it was time to start looking for a job at a company with great benefits and good pay.
Since I was coming from the service industry, it took a little soul searching to figure what kind of “real job” I would both enjoy and be good at. I knew I was more than capable of performing in a variety of roles, but I didn’t feel like my resume helped tell my story.
I saw that Software Advice was hiring a Client Success Coordinator, and thought that, after working a few years as a bartender, I’d learned plenty about customer service.
I went through the interview process for the role, but they ended up hiring another candidate. Later that day, I got a personal call from our CEO, Don Fornes, who said they liked me and would try to find a place for me at the company. A few weeks later, I got another call saying they were looking for a new in-house recruiter. I’ve now been with the company two years, and have helped hire more than 50 employees.
JP: What’s the best way to describe the “IT” factor?
BP: The “IT” factor is a combination of specific personality traits and natural born talents that go beyond a paper resume and past work experience. To determine if someone has the “IT” factor we look to see if candidates are highly motivated and ready to prove their value, if they embrace competition rather than run from it, and if they take pride in a job well done. We also look to see if they are optimistic, positive, are they motivated by success, and whether they understand that success only comes from hard work. We love these qualities, because they can’t be taught. These types of natural qualities are what we call the “IT” factor.
JP: Do you have any advice for how small business owners can incorporate “IT” factor hiring into their overall evaluation?
BP: Any small business owner looking to adopt the “IT” factor into their hiring process needs to make sure that they ask the right questions before making a hire. Since you’re often looking past someone’s skills and previous work experience, you need to read between the lines.
Here at Software Advice our interviews are designed to help us identify the “IT” factor. Each candidate is first interviewed by the HR department, then by hiring managers and lastly by either our COO or CEO. Each group has to confirm that the candidate has the “IT” factor or we keep looking. Each interview is designed to help us identify the “IT” factor by asking for specific examples of when the candidate shown they have thick skin, are well organized or are creative problem solvers. How each candidate handles the pressure of our rigorous hiring process, and how they answer our pointed questions, helps us measure their potential.
JP: What have been your biggest obstacles in transitioning candidates who have talent but lack experience?
BP: We’ve put a lot of effort into honing our training processes for new employees, which helps a lot. What’s really important in this type of hiring is that their talent is matched by their drive. If they’re incredibly motivated to succeed, they will be able to transition to a new career much more easily than a talented person who lacks motivation.
JP: Do you think current Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) weed out candidates with the “IT” factor? Why or why not?
BP: I look at every single application that comes through our system. I don’t rely on our ATS’s search function to find talent, I look for it myself. It’s more time consuming, but also more effective. I see applications from candidates who aren’t right for the role they applied for, but might be right for something else in the future. I’m able to flag their application appropriately which makes it easier to find them again when an appropriate role comes along.
This approach works well for our small company, and I understand that it might be impossible for a large company to commit to looking at every application that comes through. If you can’t look at every application, try taking a unique approach to searching your ATS. For instance, if you’re hiring for a customer service role, try looking for people who have Starbucks on their resume because they have a really great customer service training program. For sales roles you might try searching for people who played college sports.
Our “finding diamonds in the rough” hiring strategy has taught me that great talent is everywhere – you just have to know how to find it. By looking for the right personalities and characteristics, regardless of a candidate’s past work experience, you can find great hires for your company.
Does your company have a unique hiring or HR strategy that you’d like to share? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you think hiring for the “IT” Factor is a great way to find talent? Let us know in the comments section!