4 Ways to Win a Job Placement with an Unconventional Job Candidate

It’s no challenge to place a “great candidate” – you know the type: the right education, the right career history, cookie cutter objective, perfect fit. But what about a “great candidate” who doesn’t tick the conventional boxes but you know could deliver on the job?

The biggest leap story we heard was from a nationwide recruiter who said one of her most satisfying placements was rebranding a vicar as a sales executive. He successfully made the transition and was able to use his transferable skills in a completely different environment – perhaps an extreme example of flexibility and adaption to change. We’d love to hear your stories of similar…so jot down your comments in the box below.

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But to return to the question that increasingly arises for recruiters of what to do with people who are a ‘round’ candidate for a ‘square’ position. Naturally this places recruiters in a dilemma. Recruiters want to make the placement and win the fee, so they have a natural incentive to place the best fit conventional candidate. But often there are stronger candidates, with a more unconventional background who represent a potential boon to the client if they can be “sold” in the right way. And there are recruiters who identify with the human aspect of the story – faced with a candidate who wants a chance to shine in a different setting – recruiters want to facilitate the candidate achieving that goal.

So if you’re presented with a great candidate who doesn’t fit the standard mould, what’s the best way to proceed?

1. Communication with the candidate

We always recommend open lines of communication with the candidate. By having the discussion with them of the discrepancies between their own profile and standard candidates for the jobs they want to go for, you can perhaps stumble upon ways to close the gap.

2. Recommendations for the candidate

Candidates may be unaware of skills training opportunities that would bridge their knowledge gap. The candidate may indulge in extra curricular activities, such as volunteering with a charity, that they can use to demonstrate skills or experience that is missing from their career history and thus provide stronger evidence of suitability for a role. They may decide to address their unorthodox route head on with an explanatory line in their Personal Statement on their CV or in their covering letter.

3. Communication with the client

Often clients haven’t taken the time to prioritise their real needs in a role and have generated a standard person specification. The recruiter is well positioned to provide an opportunity for the client to assess whether they would prefer to hire on attitude or on skill. Presenting a client who is motivated, driven and teachable might be a better fit for customer service role than a candidate who has the experience but lacks the motivation to achieve.

4. Think creatively

You, as the matchmaker between vacancies and individuals really hold the key here. By thinking creatively, consultants can prompt innovative hiring. The better the consultant knows the company and the culture, the more opportunity they have to think big and think how candidates skills could contribute to company growth and success. This can really embed your relationship with the client, they’ll be impressed at your understanding of their business needs.

Why is this situation arising with increasing frequency? Well, the economic picture is probably one of the major contributors. With people having been laid off or facing redundancy they are open to a broader range of jobs than previously. Sometimes people are ready for a change of direction. The portfolio career is a phrase that has crept in to the recruiters dictionary. We know that a job for life is an increasing rarity, but now people move sectors and industries more and more frequently so these situations are becoming more common place. Good candidates present opportunities for consultants – learn how to cash in.


Categories: Articles for Recruiters, Recruitment Strategy


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6 Comments on “4 Ways to Win a Job Placement with an Unconventional Job Candidate”

  1. Greg Sage
    July 8, 2010 at 6:46 am #

    Great article. We once managed to secure a placement for a former primary school teacher with 16 years experience into an office admin position. It turned out that she was very successful, and 8 years later, is currently on the board. The organisational and diplomacy skills she acquired as a teacher were able to be very successfully transferred.

    Greg Sage
    Perth, Australia

    • July 9, 2010 at 5:54 am #

      Thanks for the comment, Greg. A wonderful example of creative thinking.

  2. Pinky
    July 9, 2010 at 5:19 am #

    We tried a similar approach a few years back, and failed. We were trying to – as your picture shows – put square blocks in round holes, and you know, it doesn’t work!!!

    Granted, one can be succesful every now and then, but let’s be real – that time spent trying to push a candidate in a creative direction is better spent trying to find something the client is more accustomed to.

    Why are we trying to reinvent the wheel???

    • July 9, 2010 at 6:00 am #

      No one said it would be easy, Pinky. It takes some personal care and creative thinking on the recruiter’s part. Are we so pressed for time that we can’t afford to invest in these two fundementals?

      You mention that you tried this “a few years back” – you have to agree that today job seekers are far more open to changing their career paths, and employers are starting to recognise the potential of thinking outside the box when it comes to candidates.

  3. Antony in EU
    July 9, 2010 at 11:02 am #

    Very helpful…It never really occurred to me to be honest….I realise I’ve always had a pretty one dimensional view of candidate potential…

  4. Camille Lubecka
    July 12, 2010 at 5:38 am #

    Thank you for posting this excellent article, Adam.

    I’m an unconventional job candidate myself… So I’m the ultimate challenge for a recruiter who knows what I’m hoping to accomplish in my job search – another job in the pharmaceutical industry. Having been away from that industry for 3.5 years and counting, it would take a leap of faith for a pharmaceutical company to believe I still have the knowledge and therefore the capability to work in the industry.

    There are some excellent recruiters out there who believe in me and my abilities to work in the pharmaceutical industry. They work really hard trying to convince pharmaceutical companies that I’m worth the leap of faith because of my previous responsibilities and work tasks along with my sincerity and dedication to the pharmaceutical industry.

    Perhaps it will take me another five years to find the job I really want. Why five years? Because I need to finish my university degree in my own time, and I recognise that it will realistically take that amount of time. That degree will validate all my previously acquired clinical research skills.

    In the meantime, I’ll more than likely have to work outside the pharmaceutical industry. There isn’t much else I can do since I need to finance my studies myself.

    I’ll have to be pushed into a suitable ‘box’ for five years until I can break free and do what really motivates me.

    My honesty is probably talking me out of many jobs right now, but I still believe honesty is best in the long term.

    Perhaps there are related industries to the pharmaceutical which I’ve not discovered/thought about that would give me the chance to use my skills from the pharmaceutical industry. I’d be delighted to know about those opportunities.

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