Tips for Hiring Outside the Box

When a customer calls in search of support, the voice on the other end isn’t coming from a call center or company headquarters, but rather a living room in anywhere U.S.A., where a mother or father is home taking care of his or her children. co-founder and COO Dan Veltri has hired 17 stay-at-home parents to provide customer support for his company, which allows people to create Web sites for their small businesses.

“I noticed that there were all sorts of qualified stay-at-home moms who are highly-skilled and come from great backgrounds,” said Veltri, “and they work from home out of convenience.”

Veltri is one of a few entrepreneurs who approached hiring from outside the box, giving individuals with offbeat or non-industry related work experience a chance at employment.

While hiring outside the box does require a change in the approach to the hiring process, it can help entrepreneurs bring qualified candidates with a different perspective into their organization.

“This is about an attitude change, said Abhi Narvekar, co-founder of The FerVID Group, a recruitment agency specializing in the oil and gas sector. “Lots of candidates have expertise and know a process in and out because they have applied it in another industry.”

Before even reviewing resumes, Lois Melbourne, CEO of Aquire, recommended entrepreneurs look at what aspects of an open position lend themselves to transferable skills.

“We encourage managers to access what skills they have available to teach and what level of tolerance they have to teach them,” said Melbourne.

Elle Kaplan employed that technique when she recruited for her firm, Lexion Capital Management, where she has hired people who don’t have college degrees.  “We have a lot of operational roles in my firm and there is no reason that I can’t give someone a chance who seems really smart and tenacious,” said the company founder and CEO. “A much bigger predictor of success is not a degree, but willingness to learn and can do attitude.”

The interview gives business owners an opportunity to see how a candidate can apply past skills to a new position.

“We always emphasize being able to assess candidates’ willingness to adapt.  Even if they don’t have experience in a particular industry, are they able to apply their industry experience in a way that will solve the problem,” said Suki Shah, co-founder and CEO of video-based social recruiting platform

Shah also recommended group interviewing for small team environments.

“When employees are part of the process they feel a sense of ownership and they can help make the transition a lot easier for the new employee who they have hired,” he said.

Bringing on a new employee with an unconventional background can be unnerving to current employees. Narvekar, of The FerVID Group, recommended the new employee be assigned a “buddy” or mentor.

“Present the new hire in a way as ‘this person compliments our team, but he or she will need help to understand our products and process for getting the work done,’’’ said Narvekar.