Career Insight

How to Tap into Non-Traditional Talent Pools

How to Tap into Non-Traditional Talent Pools

For the last few decades, a four-year college degree has been a standard requirement for candidates seeking most white collar employment opportunities. But, now more than ever, employers are becoming open to job candidates who may not fit this traditional mold. Companies like IBM, Tesla, and a handful of other tech organizations have been trailblazers – opening up their job applications to a talent pool of candidates who may not possess bachelor’s degrees, but who do possess the skills to get the job done. 

There’s so much to be appreciated in these candidates who may have gained experience in other ways or who may be looking to bring their passions and curiosity to a new industry. So if you’re looking to reach untapped talent and find candidates who add to your organization by going a little bit against the grain, read on to learn more about how to tap into non-traditional talent pools. 

Here’s what we’ll discuss: 

  • What is a non-traditional candidate? 

  • Why should I consider non-traditional talent? 

  • How can I tap into new talent pools? 

What is a non-traditional candidate? 

Many of us have been taught that success requires a person to go to college, graduate with a couple internships under their belt, and work their way up to the top in a single industry — from entry-level roles all the way to senior management or the C-suite. Let’s call this the career ladder. Job requirements, educators, parents, and society at-large have long believed in and reinforced this model to create career and financial success. And, while this way of doing things has proven to be effective for many people, there isn’t just one pathway to success. Here’s where a new kind of candidate comes in. 

Non-traditional candidates are people who may not meet traditional job requirements when it comes to education and experience. Additionally, atypical candidates may have backgrounds in other fields, be career changers, or are returning to the workforce after some time away. They may also be self-taught, having picked up job skills through work experience or independent study. 

Many companies still require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree (and in some fields, a master’s degree) in order to be considered for roles. But, tech companies have really pushed against this barrier by creating more access to roles based on skills rather than whether a candidate holds a certain degree. In short, requiring a degree severely limits the type of experience and the talent pool, and these limits might not be the best for a company’s health.

Why should I consider alternative talent pools? 

Let’s consider software engineering. Some Software Engineers take a traditional path and obtain degrees in computer science while others may have degrees in another subject and later decide to pursue software engineering. A third group of engineers may teach themselves to code or attend a tech and coding school or bootcamp. 

All of these groups have the potential to bring a diverse set of life experiences and skills to the table. For this reason, whether they’re actively searching or are passive candidates, they’re worth considering for positions they may not check all the traditional boxes for. Some candidates may have practical, hands-on experience in the field even if they lack a four-year degree. 

Additionally, with industries like tech seeing a talent shortage, it’s essential to consider candidates who have the skills but might be missing the typical computer science education requirements. There’s no one-size-fits-all for education and experience, so why should there be a one-size-fits-all in your hiring decisions?

How do I find non-traditional talent? 

Recruiters can find different kinds of talent by opening appropriate roles to candidates of all educational backgrounds. They can also connect with new types of educational institutions (think certificate programs and bootcamps) and create returnship training programs at their companies. 

Reevaluate job requirements & the hiring process

While some roles require a specific educational background in order for talent to effectively do the job, the skills required by many roles can be learned in multiple ways. Traditional degrees are no longer the only legitimate educational credentials on the market. Employers can begin to find new talent by evaluating their hiring process and typical requirements for each role. After all, change starts at home. If you’d like to position yourself in word and deed as a forward-thinking organization, you can make it known publicly to those in your industry that you’re dropping non-essential hiring requirements, like a bachelor’s degree for a UX Designer. An announcement like that is also likely to attract some great non-traditional job candidates as well.

Connect with alternative education programs 

At Kenzie Academy, many of our students come from varied educational and professional backgrounds. They bring a wealth of life experience to our programs and every group of students is stronger for sharing those experiences and perspectives from past jobs, challenges, and successes with each other. Kenzie students expand their mindset and perspective along with their skills in tech. We’re also fighting against the talent gap by training our students in essential soft skills. They graduate well-equipped to succeed in and advance through their software engineering and UX design roles. 

To us, this speaks to the incredible value that can be found in skills-based training combined with a self-starting attitude. Our Placement Team partners with employers to craft the most relevant curriculum possible and to provide a direct talent pipeline from Kenzie to the workforce. Our Employer Partners get a first look at our newest graduates each quarter, and we work closely to connect them with any graduates we think would be a good match. 

All of that to say, connecting with alternative education programs can be a valuable resource for recruiters on the hunt for new talent who may not fit the mold. 

Start a returnship program at your company

Returnship programs are similar to internships in that they help people gain experience in a field that’s new to them. But, instead of catering towards college students and recent grads who are just getting a handle on things, returnships are built for people returning to work after some time away. 

Employees can leave the workforce for a variety of reasons from retiring to military service to parenting and caretaking. Whatever the reason, a returnship can help these job seekers ramp back up into the working world and they often lead to a full-time job. In addition to benefiting employees, returnship training programs provide a direct pipeline of passionate candidates for employers to get to know before making them full-time team members. Launching a return-to-work program at your organization can make recruiting easier and provide a new method for connecting with different kinds of candidates. 

Ready to find your next new hire? Become a Kenzie Academy Employer Partner today and gain access to a unique and uniquely qualified candidate pool. 


Ready to jumpstart your career as a Coder? Learn more about our Software Engineering program, or check out our free beginner’s coding program Kenzie Free.

Alexa Goins

Alexa Goins

Alexa Goins is the Content Marketer at Kenzie Academy. Before she joined the field of higher education marketing, she worked as a journalist and taught English in the South of France. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading non-fiction works, doing embodiment yoga, or planning her next trip to Paris. You can find more of her work at www.alexagoins.com.

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  • Date
    April 26, 2021
  • Posted In
    Career Insight
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