Help Candidates To Stand Out And Escape The ‘Experience Paradox’

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Time for a radical career change

My name is Tyler, and earlier this year, I did something that some might call irresponsible. At the age of 30, I decided to change the trajectory of my career completely. In 2009 I graduated from college in pre-med and then decided to pursue a career in the mental health field. I held several positions in and out of the field. And after the overwhelming state of affairs in the last year, I had a realization. I wanted something different.

I live in Austin, Texas, lovingly referred to as “Silicon Hills” for the cluster of tech companies that have either migrated or opened here in the last decade. After several lengthy conversations with friends, family, and coworkers, I decided to break into tech sales.

Having made my decision, I updated my resume, practiced interview questions, and began applying for every single job I came across. I quickly realized that my lack of direct experience was working against me. Time after time, I received the dreaded email, telling me that “while we appreciate your interest and your resume is impressive, we’ve decided to go with a candidate who has more direct experience in the role.”

Background is in the eye of the beholder

“But,” I thought, “I DO have experience!” 

I do not regret the last ten years of my life. I’ve worked in schools, hospitals, in-patient treatment centers, and physical therapy centers. I’ve traveled. I’ve been on medical mission trips in Asia and South America. I’ve lived and experienced the world in a way that I am extremely proud of and grateful for. Yet, I kept getting the feedback that I don’t have the background to perform a sales role.

Here’s the thing — I understand that for many skilled roles, it is a risk to give the position to an individual who has not previously performed in that role. However, I know that despite not having done any cold prospecting or tech sales pitches, my work and life experiences have formed me into the kind of person who is CAPABLE of learning to do those things. 

I also have many of the “soft skills” that are sought after in this position. I’ve had to “sell” the idea of wellness to every single patient or client I’ve ever encountered. I’ve had to begin jobs feeling completely unprepared and just figure it out as I go. I’ve taught classes, done hours and hours of tedious paperwork, and cultivated relationships based on trust and shared values.

On top of that, I did have direct sales experience! I was a pedicab (aka rickshaw) driver in New Orleans for almost three years. It was a competitive environment in which I was simultaneously marketing, selling, and performing the service. To be told that my experiences “didn’t count” was frustrating, and at times patronizing.

The ‘Experience Paradox’

Fast forward a few months into my job search. I had just received a particularly painful rejection after a 5-week long interview process. I was sure I had the job, and yet once again, I had been passed over for another candidate with more experience. I began to ask myself, “Am I making the right decision?” More than once, I had pondered, “How can I realistically gain experience if I need the experience to get a position in the first place?”

My recruiter (and guardian angel) forwarded me some information on a company called Vervoe. The more I read up on them, the more excited I became. I wasn’t sure what an “AI-powered skill testing platform” was, but when I saw “we’re on a mission to make hiring about merit, not background” I knew this was MY job. 

After months of being told that I just wasn’t quite enough, the idea of working for a company whose entire mission is to provide chances for folks like me sounded too good to be true.

Getting-a-job paradox
Getting-A-Job Paradox

No resume, just skills

I immediately responded to my recruiter, telling her to send them my resume. She told me they didn’t want my resume. They wanted me to take a “skill assessment.” Alright, I thought, I can do that. I took the assessment, expecting to manually type in the information already on my resume or fill out a psychological profile. I even researched how to skew the results so that the data would show I have the “personality” of a salesman. Instead, I was given actual sales-related situations and asked how I would respond. I completed the assessment, not knowing what to expect.

Help candidates to stand out and escape the ‘experience paradox’ 1
Example of my answers

I received an email the next day asking for an in-person interview and was informed I had the job two days after that!

On a mission hiring to make hiring about merit

I’m now in my second week working for Vervoe, and the outpouring of excitement and passion from my new work family has been surreal. Everybody here has experienced some version of what I’ve gone through. Many have experienced it from the opposite perspective, sifting through hundreds of CVs and resumes, filtering out bad fits based on a sheet of text, and slogging through dozens of interviews in order to find the “perfect fit.”

Here at Vervoe, we make hiring about merit. Nothing else matters. Not the blank spots in your resume. Not the college you attended. Not the references on your resume (everybody already knows you just wrote down your friends anyway.)

I am not my work history. I am a person with gifts and weaknesses, successes and failures. Most importantly, however, I am a person with value. At Vervoe, we are here to showcase each and every person’s inherent value and help employers recognize and utilize that value. If that sounds like something you can get behind, you’re in the right place.

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