Every so often, you run across a talk with a message that personally resonates.
Such is the case with a recent presentation delivered by UPS Director of Human Resources for IT Service Delivery Regina Hartley, who gave a talk at the firm’s first-ever TED@UPS Talks event (titled Longitudes) on why job candidates who often don’t look good on paper may be precisely the kinds of folks you might want to be hiring. Or at the very least, people you might want to take a closer look at . (TED@UPS Talks took place on Sept. 2 at UPS’ corporate headquarters in Atlanta.)
Hartley’s talk, titled “Why I Hire People Others Ignore,” explored the merits of hiring “scrappers” over “silver spoons”—people who had to “fight tremendous odds” to get to where they are versus those who “clearly had advantages” and were “destined for success.”
Hartley, who has worked for UPS for about 25 years, pointed out she doesn’t hold anything against the silver-spoon candidates. “Getting into and graduating from an elite university takes hard work and sacrifice,” she said. “But if your whole life has been engineered toward success, how will you handle the tough times?”
In contrast, she said, scrappers succeed, despite the fact that their lives seem “engineered toward failures.”
“The conventional thinking has been that trauma leads to distress—and there’s been a lot of focus on the resulting dysfunction,” Hartley said. “But during many studies of dysfunction, data began to reveal an unexpected insight: that even the worst circumstances can result in growth and transformation … .”
In non-scientific terms, she explained, “we just say, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ Whatever you call it, its discovery has opened the door to entirely new areas of psychological study.”
Hartley also noted that “scrappers have a sense of purpose that prevents them from giving up on themselves. They adopt a ‘what’s the worse-thing-that-can-happen-to-me’ attitude.”
They also understand that “humor gets you through the tough times” and that “people who overcome adversity don’t do it alone.”
For these and other reasons, Hartley said, employers would be well served to “bet on scrappers.”
I spoke to Hartley earlier today and asked what led her to develop this talk for the UPS event. “For years,” she said, “it’s been brewing inside me.
“As an HR professional and an observer of leadership in general, I noticed that so many people [who] I read about and met, especially at UPS, seemed to come from these disadvantaged backgrounds—and it always intrigued me. I wondered, what was it about the mix of adversity … determination … opportunity that led to success?”
(If you view the video of the talk, you’ll also notice Hartley has some personal stories to share.)
Often, she said, hiring managers are seeking that perfect resume—“that flawless, no-gaps-in-employment [history with] no known failures. Because of that, they’re overlooking some very talented people, be they an external hire or someone internal.”
Hartley, who wanted to make sure no one interpreted her message to mean that UPS only hired scrappers, said her talk definitely resonated with those attending, including members of UPS’ leadership team, some of whom approached her afterward and identified themselves as scrappers.
If you haven’t done so yet, check out Hartley’s talk (embedded above). It’s only 13 minutes—and well worth watching.
But even if you don’t take the time to watch, as you begin to rev up your hiring engines in the first quarter of next year, you still may want to put aside some time to reconsider what constitutes an ideal candidate these days—and what doesn’t. As Hartley suggests, it may not be as cut-and-dried as some folks think.Twitter It!