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When to Take a Chance on an Applicant


When to Take a Chance

Every hiring manager receives applications from people who are clearly unqualified for the job. Sometimes, however, a candidate with no direct or seemingly-relevant experience applies for a position and, for some reason or another, captures their attention.

Often the manager believes the promising applicant could be an exceptional employee, but that hiring the applicant poses a big risk. Having never done the specific tasks of the position, the applicant may not actually be able to do the job. They’ve never been tested, so there’s little evidence one way or the other. They could be great. They could be terrible. And there’s only one way to find out.

In such cases, the safer bet would be to hire one of the experienced candidates. If you’re up for a high-risk, high-reward approach, however, the bigger gamble may be the better bet. If you’re open to hiring inexperienced applicants, here are a few signs of potential future excellence:

Cultural fit: If the applicant shares your company values and believes in its mission, they’re more likely to go the extra mile for the success of your organization.

Eagerness and ability to learn: Years of training often can’t compete with on-the-job experience. Unfortunately, inexperienced applicants usually have neither. What they might have is an eagerness and a proven ability to learn new skills and job duties. If you suspect this is the case with an applicant, ask about situations in which they had to master something new and rose to the occasion.

Translatable skills: As a lot of jobs have become more specialized, a lot of job applicants have gained a very specific skill set. If you’re hiring for a job that requires specific technical skills, you may have a hard time finding applicants with those exact skills. The better candidates may be those without the exact skills you need, but whose skills could, with a little training, be applied to the position. For example, the most promising applicant for a technical writer position at a security software company may be the one who’s never written about security technology, but has an excellent writing voice and has shown a mastery of other technical subjects.

No bad habits to unlearn: Experienced candidates sometimes come with bad habits. They’ve been doing the work you need for a long time, and they may be used to doing their work in a way that’s inefficient or doesn’t mesh with your workplace environment. If you’re concerned about a candidate’s set ways, you may have more luck with a candidate whose habits you’ll be in a position to help form.

You certainly don’t want to create a business culture that doesn’t value experience, but experience isn’t everything, and it isn’t always the most important quality of a job candidate. Sometimes, the candidate most likely to shine is new to the field or type of position. And, sometimes, it may be worth taking a chance on their potential.

“In such cases, the safer bet would be to hire one of the experienced candidates. If you’re up for a high-risk, high-reward approach, however, the bigger gamble may be the better bet.”