Companies that only fixate on internships and other professional experiences as sole indicators of relevant experience are missing out on candidates who can bring unique perspectives, skill sets and lived experiences to the firm. While internships offer valuable insights, they should not overshadow other noteworthy aspects contributing to a candidate’s full potential. Through the below review of what a “traditional” resume might offer from top to bottom, read beyond the section titles and learn what “Reimagined Relevant Experience” can, and should, be.
Academics (beyond degrees)
Instead of focusing solely on degrees, look deeper into a candidate’s full academic experience. Some schools may not offer specific degrees (did you know less than 20 percent of HBCUs even have a formal “finance” degree?). Eliminating a candidate because their degree doesn’t exactly match the job function can create a homogenous hiring pool and significantly reduce the likelihood of varied skill sets and perspectives on a team. Instead, evaluating the coursework, projects, and research endeavors a candidate has completed provides a glimpse into their dedication and ability to excel in diverse academic environments. Recognizing these non-degree pursuits can also open doors for candidates who have taken a different path to achieve the same desired hard skills and qualifications.
Similarly to non-degree academic experiences, non-traditional learning experiences such as online courses, certifications and boot camps can show a candidate’s demonstrated commitment to a particular skill. By acknowledging and valuing these experiences on resumes, we can uncover hidden talents and demonstrate a candidate’s adaptability in rapidly evolving industries. These alternative paths often require self-motivation to complete training modules alongside other commitments, such as coursework, current roles or part-time jobs. This is the very same reason major companies are reconsidering requiring a bachelor’s degree at all; skill-based hiring assessments that confirm requisite abilities.
Part-time jobs and service work
Part-time jobs and service work offer invaluable insights into a candidate’s work ethic, adaptability, and ability to navigate fast-paced environments. These experiences should be seen as indicators of dedication and potential, not placeholders on a resume. Whether it involves balancing work and studies or actively engaging in community service, they showcase a candidate’s commitment to personal growth and contribution to society. The harsh truth is that many undergraduate candidates may need a supplemental source of income alongside a traditional academic path; these students exude grit and should not be viewed as individuals who “lost out” on an opportunity for a traditional internship opportunity. Understanding this impact on a CV is a critical step for any firm toward creating more equitable pathways for those from varied socioeconomic classes within the organization.
Leadership & student organizations
Active involvement in student organizations and holding leadership roles speaks volumes about a candidate’s ability to collaborate, lead, and inspire others. Participation in experiential scholarship programs demonstrates resilience and the capacity to overcome challenges. These experiences contribute to a well-rounded profile that extends beyond traditional internships. Leadership can manifest in various forms, such as leading a team project, organizing events, or initiating social change. These experiences are also largely unpaid and on a student’s own time, reinforcing the commitment required on top of other academic, professional, and personal pursuits.
Visibility into the person, culture and values
To truly embrace diversity, we must value the diversity of lived experiences. Candidates who have overcome adversity bring unique perspectives to the table. Factors such as being a first-generation college graduate, an immigrant, or coming from a lower socioeconomic background are as critical to a candidate’s professional development as any formal experience. Even being a student-athlete can be considered a unique lived experience—ask any D3 athlete how challenging it can be to manage 5 am practices and weekend away games on top of a regular course load. By considering these factors alongside traditional indicators, we gain a more comprehensive understanding of a candidate’s abilities, perspectives, and potential contributions.
Hiring “beyond the internship”
By expanding the definition of relevant experience, we create opportunities for individuals who may have been overlooked based on conventional criteria and by other firms to join your team. We should embrace an approach that appreciates academic achievements, non-traditional experiences, part-time jobs, leadership roles, and the unique value of diverse lived experiences. Together, we can create a future where organizations thrive through the power of diverse perspectives and experiences. By reimagining what we consider valuable on a resume, we can uncover the hidden talent that will help companies grow.
Byron Slosar is the founder and CEO of HelloHive.