5 Steps to Hiring a Candidate Without Relevant Experience

Hiring someone without relevant experience can be a gamble. Here's how to make it pay off.
October 26, 2012

There are many reasons why you should consider candidates without relevant job experience. Maybe you’re looking for a fresh perspective on the work’s typical challenges. Maybe the way your company operates is unique enough that bringing someone in from typical channels means they’d have to unlearn so much that you’re better off working with a clean slate. Maybe the pool of candidates you have just aren't cutting it.

Hiring someone without relevant experience can be a gamble. However, there are a few steps you can take to make sure your gamble pays off, and that candidate is a winner.

1. Establish exactly what they will need to do. Independent of filling the position, reassessing exactly what the job’s responsibilities are from the perspective of an outsider can itself be a valuable exercise. Once you’re forced to toss the shorthand of the job title out and establish exactly what this person will need to do for you, you’ll have a much easier time assessing whether the candidate has the raw material to build on.

2. Identify experiences or challenges that test the same skill sets. This one takes some creativity, but it entails connecting what makes a person good at each aspect of the position with other activities that demand the same qualities. Maybe the guy you’re considering has never sold ads, but at his last job he convinced officer managers to buy their printer paper from him.

3. Get creative researching their background. At Thrillist our editors have daily deadlines, so one thing I look for is someone who played sports in school—if you find someone who was an excellent college athlete, you’ve probably got a person who functions under pressure, knows it’s up to them to deliver no matter what, and who understands that no one’s going to bail them out.

4. Design evaluations to fill in those blanks. Want to know how your candidate manages his time? Give him a timed evaluation with many questions, the second of which he can only answer with information he’ll get by calling a colleague’s number you give him. See how long it takes him to reach out and ask that your colleague not call back until right before the time is up. Did the candidate call immediately? Did they get through all the others? Also, consider never calling them back to see how the candidate manages pressure—there’s no test quite like an impossible test.

5. Use scare tactics. The final step is to impress on this candidate how difficult changing gears is going to be, how lost they will feel and how readily you will fire them if they can't do the job during a pre-defined trial period. It’s only after some serious scare tactics that you’ll know whether they possess the most important character that they’ll work out: courage.

How do you evaluate a job candidate. Tell us in the comments below.