Talent Makers success stories: Why nontraditional candidate pools lead to great hires

Portrait of a happy man in office 1

5 mins, 33 secs read time

It’s easy to assume that a candidate’s past experience will be a good indicator of their success in a future role. But this type of thinking can be limiting, especially when you’re trying to build a more inclusive hiring process. If you only consider candidates who come from the same type of background, like tech and software as a service (SaaS) companies, you’re likely overlooking a lot of promising candidates – and you might end up with a team that’s not as diverse as you’d like.

When growing the Greenhouse Customer Success team, Talent Acquisition Program Manager Generi Talens partnered with Customer Success Senior Managers Kevin Do and Karlan Baumann to look beyond traditional backgrounds and prioritize inclusivity. Here are some of the best tactics and takeaways they shared.

Greenhouse: Why is it important to consider nontraditional candidates?

Generi: From a talent acquisition perspective, if you consider profiles that are different from what used to be considered the “ideal candidate profile,” you open the door to different perspectives and skill sets that can be really beneficial to the role. If you stick to certain parameters all the time, you can end up with people who tend to think the same, have the same experiences, at the same companies, and so on.

Karlan: If we were to have a narrow scope of the type of candidates we will consider – like only candidates who come from a tech background – we’d be running the risk of the core of our employee base becoming an echo chamber of ideas. The whole idea of prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is that we have a range of ideas and perspectives that help us to produce a better end product. We’d be putting ourselves at a disadvantage from the beginning if we were limiting ourselves to the same candidate pools.

Kevin: I remember when someone took a chance to interview me for a consulting role back in college – it changed the trajectory of my life. I was coming from a pre-med background and most companies rejected me before I could even get a recruiter screen. I know there are many folks out there who, when an opportunity arises, can more than rise to the occasion. Folks from nontraditional backgrounds bring the heart, the dreamer-energy and the drive to pierce a different industry, and I believe that those qualities really set them apart to level-up an organization’s culture. I also believe that this intentionality can create a ripple effect, as those who get hired do the same for others because of their own personal experience.

What steps have you taken to welcome more candidates from nontraditional backgrounds?

Generi: The role kickoff process at Greenhouse really emphasizes collaboration between the TA person and the hiring manager. To open up the candidate pool a bit more, I consider the attributes we’re looking for. I try to focus on the skills that someone needs to have in this role, not what the hiring manager would like someone to have. It’s helpful to make the distinction between skills that are necessary, nice to have, and things that the hiring manager is good at coaching on. On the Customer Success team, we started off being really specific about wanting tech or SaaS experience. But over time, we’ve evolved to being open to a wider variety of industries, as long as the candidates have experience interfacing with customers or working with external stakeholders.

Karlan: For hiring Customer Success managers, we’ve made a few changes to create a more inclusive hiring process. We worked closely with the TA team to take a DE&I-focused lens to our interview process. This collaboration helped us think through the diversity of experience we wanted to hire for. As a result, we changed some of our role requirements. We started focusing more on communication skills and interest in the role. One of the big steps we took was removing jargon from our interview kits to be more welcoming to candidates from non-tech backgrounds. We realized some of the wording in our interview questions and take-home assessments might be confusing to candidates who hadn’t worked in SaaS or tech. Updating the language of the interview questions had the additional benefit of helping interviewers understand how to change their own language when talking about the role and encouraged them to evaluate candidates without overemphasizing technical skills. We also stopped asking candidates to prepare slide decks from scratch and instead provided them with a Greenhouse template – our CSMs are never expected to create their own decks, so it’s not a critical skill for the role.

What kind of results have you seen since making these changes?

Karlan: I’ve been hearing from other hiring managers on the Customer Success team about the impacts of these changes. For example, we recently hired a candidate who came from a teaching background. As a result, she brings a very process-oriented approach to her customer work as a CSM, and she understands the value of delivering and reiterating information through multiple channels. We hired another candidate who came from a sales background. She's big on drilling down into the ”why this matters” with customers. Regularly asking why customers should care about X, Y and Z based on their specific challenge allows her to be much more persuasive.

What are some of your key takeaways from this experience?

Generi: You can build a really inclusive scorecard, but you also have to make sure you’re really transparent with interviewers, too. It’s important to communicate what the hiring manager is open to and remind interviewers that you’re not looking for SaaS experience or prior CSM roles. That helps them fill out their scorecards more accurately. And you can also avoid situations like interviewers negatively assessing candidates just because they weren’t familiar with specific terminology. Make sure you have some training that goes along with the interview scorecard and interview plan so people are aligned with how they’re going to assess attributes they haven’t assessed before.

Karlan: Recruiting is just the very beginning. After that, there’s so much work to do in terms of creating a strong onboarding experience for these folks. And while a new hire with a nontraditional background is likely to have a steeper learning curve compared with someone who’s had a CS role before, we hired them because we can benefit from their experiences and perspectives.

Looking for even more tips and tactics to take your inclusive hiring skills to the next level? Learn more about how to be a Talent Maker here.

Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno

is a freelance writer and former Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse. Melissa previously built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Ready to become great at hiring?

Request a demo today