How to Properly Vet Applicants Who Have Gig Experience

When recruiters and hiring managers review a candidate's work history, they can typically get a pretty good idea of what the applicant is capable of just by analyzing their previous jobs.

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However, with nearly 16 percent of the U.S. workforce currently employed in the series of remote, freelance, temporary, and contract positions that collectively comprise "the gig economy," many resumes are starting to get a little fuzzier.

Sometimes gig work is incredibly specific. Sometimes it's really vague. Even if a candidate puts a list of clients on their resume, it's still difficult for hiring managers to figure out exactly what kind of work the candidate has done.

In these situations, instead of looking for job titles and length of time at previous employers, hiring managers and recruiters need to look a little deeper to get a sense of who the candidate is and what their skills are.

"Look beyond attributes like education and communication skills, and drill deeper to uncover attributes that indicate performance: judgment, autonomy, and cultural fit," says Don Charlton, founder and chief product officer at Jazz, a recruiting software firm.

Because these attributes can be difficult to assess on any resume or cover letter – especially for candidates who have engaged in a lot of contingent work – Charlton recommends that recruiters and hiring managers "look for patterns on paper that match the job description for the position [they're] hiring for and [the] company's culture."

Charlton also says that recruiters and hiring managers can use the interview process to determine candidate fit – as long as they ask the right questions.

"Before the interview begins, look at your current top performers to understand what other performance attributes drive your company's culture and be sure to interview for those attributes," Charlton says. "Drill deeper to uncover the performance indicators –judgement, autonomy, fit – and aptitude for creativity, integrity, and innovation."

Make Use of Technology to Screen Gig Workers Further

New technologies have been paving the way forward for recruiters and hiring managers for many years, but they are particularly important when it comes to assessing gig workers.

"Recruiters should become familiar with assessing candidates' online footprints," Charlton says. "Do they have an online brand? Does their LinkedIn profile offer more context to the skills they list on their resume? Do they contribute valuable or interesting ideas to conversations on Twitter or other platforms?"

Charlton also says that recruiters and hiring managers shouldn't be afraid to make use of "a throwback" tactic: the personality test. He notes that 71 percent of HR professionals in a SHRM survey said that personality tests can be helpful in predicting work performance and fit. There's no reason to believe they won't work just as well with gig workers.

Offer the Right Benefits to Keep Former Gig Workers on Board

Once candidates are in the door, companies must take steps to make sure they don't bounce out in a year or two. After all, gig workers aren't used to long-term commitments.

"While the gig economy has provided many companies with great talent, it has also inspired a trend of short-term thinking among the modern talent pool," Charlton says. He points to a recent Deloitte survey which found that nearly 50 percent of millennials plan on leaving their jobs within the next two years.

"When your new hire comes in the door with this mindset, competitive benefits, flexible work policies, and mentorship programs can help retain [them]," Charlton says. "Well-designed mentorship programs are particularly effective in retaining younger talent. Another Deloitte survey found that three in five millennials benefited from having someone to turn to for advice and to help them develop skills and advance their careers."

Getting in the Door: How to Impress an Interviewer as a Gig Worker

For gig workers who are trying to land a nine-to-fiver, getting face to face with an interviewer is one of the most important steps. A history full of one-off jobs can be less than impressive on paper.

"Work history and experience are important, but [they're] only a starting point for a conversation between a candidate and hiring manager – the appetizer, so to speak," Charlton says. "Competitive candidates should dive into the main course with what they can bring to the company in the future. A conversation that consistently falls back on previous experience – contingent or otherwise – won't impress or inspire hiring managers. Spend more time talking about what you can bring to a working relationship and your vision for contributing to the company and having an immediate impact. And for dessert, seek to reinforce any personal connection with the hiring manager. Perhaps you're both Steelers fans or you have a mutual friend that connected the two of you."

With so many employers turning to gig workers to complete tasks and so many workers gaining experience through those gigs, traditional hiring methods won't be enough to make smart decisions. Be careful not to dismiss applicants without proper vetting, or you may be inadvertently turning away what could have been a valuable contributor to your workforce.