Finding Talent Among Candidates with Non-Linear Career Paths

Non -linear

The Challenge of Finding Talent Among Candidates with Non-Linear Career Paths

Moving from passive evaluations to dynamic, interactive assessments with HRMC Acclaim. 



For most of the twentieth century, an employee could work in the same industry throughout their entire adult life.  Today, millennials (employees up to the age of 35) expect a winding, unpredictable progression of jobs in a variety of separate fields and vocations. Employees over the age of 40 may expect more stable, linear careers, but their paths are far less predictable than they were just 20 years ago. As Wharton professor Peter Capelli has observed, "What we see now are more 'herky-jerky' careers. People stay in jobs during the recession a little longer than usual, and then when they move, they don't necessarily move in predictable ways. They might leapfrog over others who have spent considerable time on the executive track; or people could be brought in from the outside and put ahead of lifers whose own career track then becomes more questionable, perhaps causing them to move as well."



When employees were on more traditional career paths, a recruiter could glance at a resume and readily determine how that candidate's experience aligns with the position.  Typically, the candidate came from the same or a closely related industry (i.e., advertising and publishing, manufacturing and construction, etc.), and held a position with a clearly defined set of skills that roughly paralleled those required for the available job.  Linear progression up the corporate ladder or ever increasingly important assignments was relied upon as a sign of successful professional ability-generated growth. Today, people move in and out of jobs in completely unrelated industries, which makes it harder for the recruiter to match work experience(s), let alone performance and motivational factors, to the available position.

Take, for instance, a high school English teacher looking to leave the classroom and look for a sales or marketing position in the private sector. A recruiter inundated with resumes is likely to skip over the teacher, as will any applicant tracking system that "parses" resumes -- notwithstanding that the skills honed over years of classroom instruction may very well make the English teacher a highly successful salesperson or marketer with good listening and presentation skills. This is just one of many examples of highly skilled, temperamentally well-suited candidates who are routinely overlooked because their "narrative" doesn't line up. Could this be an explanation of why the U.S. already has hundreds of thousands of unfilled job openings for which recruiters cannot find "qualified" (by traditional definitions) applicants for those jobs?

Resumes have always been unreliable "marketing documents" that often hide more than they reveal; they are even more unreliable today and going forward, as it's very difficult to glean capabilities and fitness from the seemingly random job histories of forthcoming candidates. The question then becomes: how do recruiters extrapolate capabilities, even attitudes, from job candidates with non-linear career narratives? This paper discusses alternate approaches, technologies, and assessments, which, taken together, can help recruiters find all-too-often overlooked talent in today's increasingly fluid workforce. 


The Shortcomings of Traditional Approaches


Funnel2Conventional solutions have certainly made it easier to sort through candidates by using "filtering" technology as a screening tool. However, filters have proven to be inefficient and ineffective since many qualified candidates are "screened out" when resume key word searches and parsing don't turn up any matches, or the wrong matches, to the job description. Conceptual matching and intelligent searching, has taken resume parsing to another level-however, this methodology also has some significant drawbacks and inherent problems. In short, intelligent searching matches conceptual and contextual information from a candidate's source document (i.e., a resume or application) to another document (i.e., a requisition or job description). The result is a list indicating which candidates present the closest match by percentage.

The first drawback is that the results are based on the accuracy and content (or lack thereof of an important key word) of the candidate's source document-i.e., resumes, which are subjective and prone to misrepresentation. Second, a hiring manager will still need to review the results to determine whether there really are any matches. Third, when it comes to assessing work styles, character, culture-fit, and dependability, hiring managers are more likely to rely on human interaction (i.e., a face‐to‐face meeting) and intuition.

Another shortcoming inherent in most conventional assessment models is their overly narrow focus on the required skills forminimalperformance on the job. This may attract people who, on the surface, would appear to be good candidates and well‐suited to the position. But how many "hires" who appear well-suited don't pan out owing to a variety of "cultural" and work style issues-perhaps they're temperamentally ill‐equipped to handle a more "entrepreneurial" environment or they find a more formal corporate structure constraining?

These drawbacks are further compounded when confronted with applicants with non-linear job histories. To elaborate on the scenario presented in the introduction, imagine the following: a position for a regional sales representative is open. Candidate A holds a marketing degree and lists several sales positions in his employment history. Candidate B holds an English degree and has spent his career in education, first as a teacher and later as an administrator. Candidate B will likely be screened out as an unqualified applicant because he doesn't meet any overt requirements for the job. However, if Candidate B were allowed to proceed to a simulated assessment, the employer would discover that he has excellent negotiation, listening, and people skills, which he honed from hands-on and managerial experience.

Variations on this scenario are repeated time and time again -- the lawyer who spent time at his firm training clients and colleagues who now wants to become a corporate trainer, or the bank teller looking for a support position in a software company....there are countless numbers of seemingly unqualified candidates who may possess the skills, behaviors, and culture fit to succeed in the job and, equally important, within the organization, who are automatically disqualified. According to Cappelli, "It used to be that there were certain things about being in an oil company, or being in a manufacturing company, that shaped who got into those jobs, who stayed, who got promoted and so forth. I think that is less important now. Companies are a little more open to hiring people from outside their industry." Of course candidates coming from other fields would stand little chance of making it to the next stage if they came through a conventional screening system.

Most talent acquisition/screening technologies remain backward-looking, are based on past performance -- and an intuitive leap into an unknown future. Dr. John Sullivan put it best in an article he posted at"If you're not getting exception­al hires, it may be because your tra­di­tion­al inter­view process...dwell(s)  on the past (resumes)... a supe­ri­or alter­na­tive is to ask them to solve real prob­lems...(and) allow a top can­di­date to show off their capa­bil­i­ties, ideas, and inno­va­tion."   Or, per the mantra of Dr. Wendell Williams, Managing Director of,"Know is good, show is better."


The Acclaim Solution


What if, instead of relying on conventional assessments that screen out candidates by simply matching their self-reported skills to those listed in the job description, you could

 whisk any person interested in employment with your company through a complete, unattended interview with job-specific direct questioning, assessments, and simulations? What if this vetting process looked at the whole person, not just their education and prior work history, and you could screen in candidates by looking at multiple data points that addressed/interpreted an applicant's experience, skill set, and behavioral characteristics...all matched against objectively determined indicators of top performance within your organization?  This would surely give organizations a far better ability to find great hires among the rising tide of applicants with "non-linear" job histories. 

HRMC Acclaim is a talent acquisition platform that engages candidates in revealing, real-time interactions which address attitudes, competencies, and skills, indicating whether a candidate can do the job and how well that person will perform within a particular environment (i.e., culture fit). Resumes, standard applicant tracking tools (ATS), even candidates in for an initial interview, are designed/programmed to provide and capture data. HRMC Acclaim is a fully automated assessment platform that actively -- and reliably -interpretsdata during the actual candidate engagement.  

Acclaim has conducted over 43 million unattended "conversations" where, like any natural interaction, no two exchanges are exactly the same. Each candidate is engaged, dynamically challenged, rigorously assessed and rank-ordered individuals, not carefully arranged words on a piece of paper or online form. The objective is to facilitate more in-depth, meaningful and revealing candidate interactions while at the same time reducing staff workload - systemically delivering top candidates at the point where your expertise is most valuable:  when it's time to make the final hiring decision.

HRMC's candidate assessments are based on its Human Resource Testing Library (HRTL), a proprietary line of behavioral and skills based assessments designed to meet the needs of most industry-specific jobs. The platform includes job-specific simulations allowing candidates to demonstrate their ability to perform functions and make decisions pertinent to the position. Using Acclaim-powered assessments, organizations can:   

  • standardize best hiring practices.
  • source better candidates.
  • deliver your company's unique employment branding message.
  • give candidates a real-time test drive of the specific job he/she is applying for.
  • move from "passive" evaluations (resume parsing) into dynamic, real-time assessments that give candidates the opportunity to "demonstrate" their skills and "fit."
  • improve "quality of hires" by improving the quality of your hiring processes.
  • improve "quality of movement," whereby management is better able to match talented employees with more challenging opportunities within the organization.



The work of staffing specialists has traditionally centered on a process of screening out applicants by focusing on what they ostensibly can't do or what skills they don't possess (or didn't enumerate in their resume) in order to get the pile of resumes down to a manageable number for manual decisioning and processing. As previously discussed, these determinations are inherently "skewed" as they're based on a superficial scan of keywords found in the applicant's job history -- which itself may or may not be accurate or complete. Moreover, such a system has minimal ability to flag false negatives, where someone who would otherwise have been a success on the job is summarily rejected. The weeding out process results in a candidate pool of those who "might" be successful; a system based on screening in and identifying candidates who can demonstrate relevant skills and the right temperament in a real-time engagement has proven to be more predictive of job performance and success in your particular work environment. 

Considering the increasing number of candidates with non-linear career "narratives", a top performer can fall between the cracks using conventional screening methodologies.  Conventional approaches too often reward the candidate who looks better "on paper."  Providing candidates with an interactive experience (i.e., via Acclaim) gives them the ability to demonstrate their readiness and potential to succeed, and gives employers a complete, 360-degree candidate snapshot that reflects their experience, skill set, and behavioral characteristics, solid indicators of potential performance and success within the organization.


About HRMC, Inc.

Human Resource Management Center, Inc. (HRMC) is a pioneering candidate acquisition solutions provider. Our flagship solution, HRMC AcclaimSM, engages candidates in automated, single-session interviews that pre-qualify and rank-order applicants using assessment tools based on validated job analyses. The system then measures the success of the selection to improve retention and further refine the selection process. Whether accessed over the Web or the phone-or a combination-users are led through an interactive experience that approximates true human interaction, resulting in "stickier," more effective interviews and employee surveys, as well as more satisfying candidate experiences. Acclaim can be deployed as a complete, standalone talent acquisition solution or extend the functionality of an installed applicant tracking system (ATS). HRMC is headquartered in Tampa, Florida, and is privately held.