Anytime that you launch a search for an open position in your organization, you might find yourself inundated with applications. And while it can be easy to cull down a list of applicants based on a quick scan of their resume, doing so doesn’t always work in your favor. The fact is that if you’re automatically knocking out candidates who don’t have an Ivy League education or who lack a certain pedigree, you’re inevitably going to miss out on some of the best hires you could make.
Vice President of Global Talent Management at UPS, Regina Hartley, says that provided the candidates are all qualified for the job, the best hires are usually what she refers to as the scrappers rather than silver spoons.
Scrappers versus silver spoons
The difference between scrappers and silver spoons is simple. Silver spoons are people who have clearly benefited from great advantages in life and, as a result, are practically destined for success. They’ve typically gone to the best schools, have climbed the ranks at leading brands, and generally look great on paper. Scrappers, on the other hand, are those who’ve had to overcome considerable odds to get to the same point in their careers. As a result, their resumes look quite different.
Although it can be easy to view candidates whose experiences read like a patchwork quilt of odd jobs as inconsistent, unpredictable, and lacking focus, that’s not necessarily the case. Seen another way, that same resume can also show someone committed to overcoming obstacles and who has managed to succeed in spite of them.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with being or hiring a silver spoon. Getting into and graduating from an elite university takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice. The point that Hartley makes is simply that if a person’s whole life has been engineered for success, how will he or she handle difficult assignments or the kinds of hardships that could arise in any role? She also notes that silver spoons may feel that certain tasks are beneath them, such as temporarily working in your call center so that they can better understand customer concerns.
Scrappers can do extraordinary things
When you look at some of the world’s most successful people, many have experienced hardships in their lives, including poverty, abandonment, the death of a parent early in life, and learning disabilities to name just a few. Conventional thinking has always been that trauma leads to distress and dysfunctionality. But in practice, the exact opposite can happen. People who have experienced the worst things in life can achieve incredible things – a phenomenon that scientists refer to as post-traumatic growth.
Underscoring the point, around one third of the most successful entrepreneurs in the US reportedly have dyslexia. Rather than considering this a hindrance, they see it as an advantage because it has made them better listeners who pay greater attention to detail. They aren’t who they are in spite of adversity, they’re who they are because of it.
How scrappers succeed in the workplace
Scrappers are propelled by the belief that the only person you have full control over is yourself. When things don’t go to plan, they don’t blame others, they ask themselves what they could have done differently. They also tend to have a sense of purpose that prevents them from giving up, and spurs them forward. And they know that humor can help get you through tough times and that laughter can help you change your perspective.
In a more practical sense, companies that are committed to diversity and inclusive practices and who hire more scrappers tend to significantly outperform their competitors.
Give scrappers a chance
While you might be drawn to a silver spoon’s resume, don’t be blinded by their obvious success. Sometimes candidates may not have the exact background you think you want, but can wind up being your best employees. Scrappers, in particular, are motivated, passionate, and committed. They know that it takes hard work and determination to succeed and typically bring that to any role they’re given.
Editor’s note: This post is adapted from Regina Hartley’s Ted Talk.