We recently caught an article by Austin Merritt, COO at Software Advice, a company that helps buyers find the right software, that shares their unique hiring strategy of finding “diamonds in the rough.” The strategy focuses more on candidates’ raw talents rather than their relevant experience. In fact, some of the top employees were previously bartenders, servers or baristas. We decided to catch up with their HR Manager, Bethany Perkins, who herself went from pouring shots to calling them.
1. Since you transitioned from being a “diamond in the rough” to an HR manager, do you think this has influenced how you evaluate potential candidates?
Absolutely. Before I worked at Software Advice, I was working as a bartender running my own theatre company — two jobs that didn’t exactly pay the bills. Most nights I was working past 2 a.m. This eventually became too hard to manage, and I knew it was time to find a “real job.”
Since my background is in the customer-service industry, I understand what skills and personality types are necessary to be successful in that world. I know that working in a restaurant is a real job with real challenges and people can either be really good or really bad at it. People who are great bartenders and servers tend to have the drive to be great at other things too. Often they just didn’t know how to leverage their experience into a career in business. Candidates from service backgrounds also tend to be really hard workers who genuinely want to succeed in their new jobs. They don’t come to the office with a sense of entitlement. Instead, they work their hardest to prove that they deserved the job and sincerely value the opportunity to conquer a new challenge. We love people who are hungry and motivated, and I search for them everyday.
2. How do you identify the “it” factor in potential hires? Are there specific techniques you use?
Software Advice is not an easy place to get hired. We’re pretty picky. I screen nearly 500 resumes each month. I look for those that have a history of hard work and achievement and has demonstrated passion in some area of their life. This doesn’t always have to come from a previous job. So we tend to look beyond the resume. A candidate may look good on paper, but if they don’t match up with our core values, we sometimes have to let them go. We have a very rigorous interview process to help us thoroughly screen everyone before we offer them a position. Each candidate is first screened by the HR department, then by the hiring managers and lastly they meet with our COO or CEO. If each group doesn’t see the “it” factor, we keep looking.
During our interviews we look at how people talk about their past achievements and employments. Are they proud of their history? Do they get satisfaction from a job well done? We also take into consideration their attitude and if they are optimistic and positive. We look for people who are hungry, motivated and ready to prove themselves — natural qualities that can’t be taught.
3. Are there positions where the “diamond in the rough” hiring technique does not work?
Yes. We have positions at our company that require some level of past experience. Positions like our Media Relations Coordinator and Content Savant require at least a little bit of relevant past experience. We do not typically hire “diamonds in the rough” for these positions, although we have made small exceptions in the past. If you can show us you have the ability and the drive to do the job, and impress the pants off of us throughout the interview process, chances are good we’ll give you a shot.
Every department at Software Advice has as least one diamond in the rough. Our business development, HR, sales and advertising departments all have past baristas, bartenders and servers. We find that natural talent is just as important as previous experience — if you have the core competencies, we can always teach the hard skills.
4. How have these “diamonds in the rough” performed?
Many have been with the company for several years and are continuing to grow their career with us. Just by taking a look around the office, it is hard to deny that our unique hiring strategy has yielded some awesome hires — people who every day contribute to our company’s success. When we get a hire really, really right, you can see that person’s impact on the company and the culture almost immediately.