How to Tear the Paper Ceiling and Widen Your Talent Pool

Your recruiting process centers around one critical task: finding the best person for the job. You likely have a preconceived notion of who fits that bill and what it takes to succeed in the role—a college degree, x years of industry-related experience, and so on.

According to a study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, nearly 72% of all jobs in the US will require higher education by 2031. Coupled with the fact that less than 40% of workers in the US have a bachelor’s degree or higher, your potential candidate base quickly shrinks when you set strict educational requirements for open positions. On top of that, you may be closing yourself off to candidates who may not have a traditional work background.

Typically, someone is considered a non-traditional employee if they don’t have a bachelor’s degree (also known as a STAR—more on that later), have a unique work history, or aren’t a native English speaker. These employees often have skills that can’t be learned in a classroom and contribute a unique perspective to the workplace, making them candidates you shouldn’t exclude. In fact, we believe that you should actively target them in your recruiting process.

With BambooHR’s robust Applicant Tracking System (ATS), you can build hiring practices directly into your recruiting process and connect with fantastic, diverse candidates you might not have otherwise considered.

What Does the STAR Acronym Mean?

The STAR acronym stands for Skilled Through Alternative Routes (rather than a bachelor’s degree). STARs account for over 70 million workers in the US, making up more than half of the country’s workforce. And even though they may have comparable skills to an employee with a degree, the wage gap between STARs and college graduates is 38%.

The skills STARs bring to the table cannot be overlooked. Many have gained invaluable experience through routes like:

Other non-traditional employees may also face a perceived lack of experience due to:

The career barriers for those with non-traditional work backgrounds are extensive—so much so that they have been coined “the paper ceiling.”

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How Employers Are Tearing the Paper Ceiling and Hiring Non-Traditional Employees

Employers are beginning to recognize the value that STARs and other non-traditional employees bring to the table. On top of adjusting job requirements accordingly, many are creating programs specifically designed to target non-traditional workers and those without college degrees. This movement is known as “tearing the paper ceiling.”

Repowered, an industry leader in electronics recycling and refurbishing, has built its business model around providing opportunities to those facing employment barriers—specifically those who have been incarcerated. According to Dara Strickland, HR Generalist at Repowered, their support goes far beyond the hiring process.

“Unless it's absolutely necessary for us to know—like if they've got certain restrictions or hours that they can and can't work because they're in transitional housing—I take a pretty hard line in our HR department of not storing background info in their HR file," Strickland says. "I don't want former charges to ever impact decisions we make. Having an HRIS where we can easily customize the information we do and don’t need is important.”

Other companies are focusing on hiring STARs through practices like:

Why You Should Recruit Workers Who Are Skilled Through Alternative Routes and Other Non-Traditional Workers

Hiring candidates with diverse backgrounds and experience strengthens your team with folks who can help your company be more resilient, creative, and agile. Consider this list of reasons to hire STARs and other non-traditional employees as you recruit for open positions:

You’ll Widen Your Talent Pool

As mentioned, over 70 million workers in the US alone are STARs. That’s a massive (potentially outstanding) pool of candidates you could be sourcing from. Plus, an estimated 19 million Americans have felony convictions; that’s a potentially huge labor force that employers just aren’t considering.

You’ll Gain Diverse Perspectives

Employees with a non-traditional background bring different ideas and perspectives to the table, which helps drive team innovation. For example, Wegmans began offering cauliflower rice in 2014 when an employee trying to find low-carb dietary alternatives for her husband’s Type 2 diabetes pitched the idea.

You’ll Encounter New Ways to Solve Problems

Many non-traditional employees learned their skills on the job, online, or somewhere other than a four-year university. And alternative education often fosters creative problem-solving skills.

You’ll Benefit from Soft Skills That Don’t Fit on a Resume

A candidate with a gap in their resume or an alternative education may still possess plenty of soft skills needed for the job.

For example, while people with a nursing, teaching, or food service background may not have a degree in the field you’re targeting, they may have developed excellent communication, organization, teamwork, and leadership skills in their previous jobs.

You’ll Provide Economic Opportunity

Last but certainly not least, hiring STARs and non-traditional workers allows you to provide opportunities for those who might have been overlooked in the past. Seize the chance to lift your community up in a way that benefits your entire organization—a win-win!

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How to Find STARs and Tear the Paper Ceiling

When companies adapt their one-size-fits-all hiring practices to a more targeted, skills-based approach, they clear a path to the untapped and oft-forgotten labor pool of non-traditional workers.

Here are a few suggestions for broadening your scope to find and hire non-traditional employees.

Clarify Your Employer Brand

Your company may need to adopt new values to attract new employees. A complete rewrite may not be necessary, but evaluating and being open to updating your company’s identity and being clear that non-traditional employees are welcome may help candidates feel more comfortable applying.

Promote Inclusivity

It isn’t always apparent to a potential employee what your company culture will be like, especially if they’re coming from a different industry. So clearly define your organization’s values in job descriptions, on the company website, etc., to make people feel welcome—regardless of their background. It’s another way proactively crafting your employee experience pays off.

Create Fewer Barriers

Non-traditional employees are sometimes unintentionally excluded because employers don’t know where to find them. Just like people with criminal histories and people without degrees, each type of non-traditional worker has a variety of barriers preventing them from matching an employer’s profile of a “viable” candidate. Create job postings with diversity recruiting tactics in mind to reduce the obstacles a non-traditional candidate might face throughout the application process.

Recruit with Fresh Eyes

Sourcing and hiring non-traditional employees may force your people team and management to think differently about sourcing candidates, but the rewards can be well worth the effort.

For many companies, having a hiring strategy that includes non-traditional workers could double as a recovery plan during periods of high turnover. It also provides opportunities for some who desperately need it and can expand your organization’s problem-solving capabilities with fresh perspectives.

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