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Great Candidates May Not Always Have the Best Resumes: ‘Featured’ TED Talker Regina Hartley

UPS Information Services Human Resources Director Regina Hartley is a self-described “scrapper.” In her recently featured Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) talk: “Why the best hire might not have the best resume,” she details how her personal experiences helped shape her human resources career.

The TED talk was the featured “Talk of the Day,” from Nov. 24 to Nov. 29. Hartley took time for a Q&A with Progressive Human Resource Management and discussed her life, career and experience presenting.

PHRM: For those who haven't seen your talk, could you briefly describe the essence of your presentation?

Hartley: The talk describes how people who have fought their way through adversity—“scrappers” as I have dubbed them-- exhibit qualities of resilience and grit that can truly benefit organizations. The talk asks hiring managers and recruiters to strongly consider candidates who may not look good on paper, yet are very qualified, and at least give them a chance to tell their story in an interview. All they need is an opportunity. Hiring managers often look for the “perfect” resume – elite university education, great internships, and high GPA.

Sometimes they discard the resumes of people who are equally qualified, but whose paths were non-traditional and spotty. And yet these people, who have overcome difficult circumstances, often bring a sense of passion and purpose to business situations that lead to success. History is filled with examples of people who failed numerous times, or who rose from humble beginnings to lead global organizations.

PHRM: How would you describe the experience of presenting at the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) Conference. Do you present in front of large audiences often?

Hartley: Speaking at the TED conference was truly an honor, and although I often give presentations to large groups, this was very different. What makes a TED talk so compelling is the story-telling style in which the talks are constructed, which presented me a new challenge. This is not your typical PowerPoint, bulleted slide format.

This format requires the unfolding of an idea that you want to spread and share in a persuasive way. Another core difference between delivering a TED talk and a typical “speech” is that no Teleprompters are used, which preserves authenticity and adds a conversational quality to the talks.

PHRM: You said personal and professional experiences helped shape your hiring practices. At what point in your journey did you start to suspect there might be a benefit to hiring non-traditional applicants?

Harley: The idea behind this talk has been brewing within me for years. Growing up as I did, facing many personal challenges, I initially viewed success as belonging to people whose lives were less eventful. But over time, I began to see that many great leaders, whether in business, community or politics, came from disadvantaged backgrounds and thrived in leadership roles.

I began to see this strong connection between adversity, determination, opportunity and success. And when talking with candidates, I often found that people learned more from their failures or struggles, which provided them focus and determination.

PHRM: What can those who have been handed the "silver spoon" do to prepare for real-world challenges they may lack practice in handling?

Hartley: Let me explain that the term ‘silver spoon’ was intended to be metaphorical; I have met many hybrids, the “silver scrappers,” who may have fought their way into ivy institutions after overcoming obstacles. But along the way, I have also encountered people whose drive for perfection leads them to avoid risks to keep their spotless records unblemished.

In contrast, when you ask someone who has experienced failure or experienced post-traumatic growth by overcoming an adverse situation, they will describe to you how NOT to repeat that experience. Sometimes we learn more from what is broken than situations that run smoothly. So for the silver spoon to grow, I recommend taking a risk and stepping out of one’s comfort zone. Trying something new, even if it may lead to failure, is a good way to prepare for the uncertainty of business situations.

PHRM: Do you expect companies to move away from traditional applicants? What does the future of HR hiring hold for the "silver spoons" and the "scrappers?"

Hartley: The talent supply is becoming increasingly limited as future generations are less populated and boomer generations enter retirement. If the measures of a quality candidate are limited by chasing perceived perfection, you will overlook talented people who can achieve great success, if only given the opportunity.

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