Hiring career changers

Since the outbreak of the pandemic more than two and a half years ago, people have been quitting their jobs at a never before seen rate. Last year, more than 47 million people left their employers in order to pursue something new. Many of these seekers are looking for a career change. At Hannon Hill, we have been fortunate to be able to hire several of them, and they’ve already made a huge positive impact. As we’ve said before, “you can teach someone how to do something, but you can’t teach them how to be”. If you come across someone with a great attitude, strong work ethic, and some of the other traits that you deem important, consider giving them a chance, even if they don’t have some of the role specific experience that you were looking for. Here are some thoughts to consider in order to make sure that you’re setting those new hires up for success.

Don’t rush the hiring process

Hiring a new team member is a monumental decision, not just because the wrong fit can damage your company culture and lower morale, but also because the individual trusts you with their career and their livelihood. You want to be sure that the candidate really wants the job, that they have a realistic picture of what’s expected and what joining the company will be like, that they have the aptitude to excel, and that they are an exceptional fit. Most of the time, it’s impossible to make this determination after just one interview. Don’t rush into a hire just to fill the position or for fear of missing out on a candidate. 

Be sure that you’re equipped to train them

Every new employee deserves a top notch onboarding experience, but it’s even more crucial for career changers. No matter how self-starting someone is, they will need proper training. If their manager and their team members don’t have the time to invest in thorough knowledge transfer, you’re likely not setting yourself or the career changer up for success. In addition to providing on the job training, make resources like online courses and books available, and, whenever possible, help them find a mentor.

Note that the training also needs to cover how your organization works. Sometimes, it’s not just a new skill set and job that the new employee is learning, but a whole new environment and organizational structure. You can’t expect acclimation to happen overnight, and you need to ease them into this new way of working. One of our most recent hires is a former teacher who had not worked in the corporate world. Imagine what a big change this was for her! (BTW, she is doing great!)

Plan to fill knowledge gaps

Don’t rely on the new person to figure out what they need to learn and how they’ll acquire the necessary knowledge and skills. Collaborate with them to clearly identify how and when the knowledge gaps will be filled, and set benchmarks so you both can see if things are moving in the right direction. Encourage complete honesty. What do they feel confident or excited about? What is causing apprehension? Where do they think they can make a big impact? What is their preferred method of learning? Also note that honesty goes both ways. Be realistic about expectations, professional development and potential career trajectories. Don’t overpromise. 

Provide immersive onboarding

One aspect of learning how your company works involves learning the inner workings of each department. That’s where an immersive onboarding experience is quite valuable. Schedule time for the new hire to shadow team members in other departments and to have Q&A sessions. Some learning can be done by osmosis, by listening to calls with customers and prospects or overhearing conversations between co-workers. Of course, this is much harder to do in a remote only environment. You should also consider some scheduled cross-departmental learning and “getting to know each other”s. 

Be open to new perspectives, and encourage input

By bringing someone from a different background into your organization, you are giving yourself an excellent opportunity to listen to fresh perspectives. Encourage your new hires to share their first and second impressions, as well as any new ideas they may have. Just because you’re new doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t speak up. Some of the best innovations and ideas come from looking outside your industry. 

Ditch the acronyms

Be mindful of the fact that not everyone knows what an SOW, RFP, or PO is, let alone know the specific technical terminology that you use in your products. Get into the habit of speaking in terms that everyone can understand, as it will make your company more inclusive to your team members, customers, and prospects. Also: if you must make inside jokes, explain them to the new hires.

Check in regularly

Quality onboarding does not happen in a week. Check in with your new hires regularly, especially when they’re career changers. What’s been going well? Do they feel that you’ve held up your end of the bargain? Note that those check ins don’t always have to be scheduled. Sometimes a simple “how are things going?” when stopping at their desk can be just as effective. 

Not all positions lend themselves to hiring career changers with little or no experience in the field, but please don’t discount someone who is looking to make a change if they are great cultural fits, have a strong drive, and the right aptitude and soft skills. You could be missing out on gems. That said, not every company is prepared for those types of hires. That’s why transparency on both sides is so crucial.

What about you? What are your thoughts on hiring career changers?

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