Hidden Talent: Finding Potential in Non-Traditional Resumes

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The experience of job hunting varies significantly depending on your background. A doctor and a graphic designer will have vastly different opportunities, desires, and long-term goals.  

For “traditional” job titles, the first thing employers look for is qualification in the form of a degree. While I’m a proponent of hiring valuable rather than educated individuals, this isn’t applicable to medical experts, lawyers, and other specific professions.

However, when hiring remotely for digital roles such as software developers, writers, designers, or sales representatives, asking for a degree shouldn’t even be on the table.

This is especially true for creative fields where a person who never had any education can come up with a design that even a person with decades of experience couldn’t think of. 

Both individuals and employees have started to notice how skills often beat education, and the number of people without a degree is becoming more present in the remote work landscape.

This article should help you understand the value that you get from workers with unconventional experiences and education. 

The Value of Non-traditional Experiences

During your childhood, you probably gained some unique life and work experiences. Maybe you’ve grown up helping out on your grandparent’s farm or you’ve spent the last year doing an Au Pair. 

Maybe, you started taking classes for musical instruments or improving your golf game. These unique skills would contribute to what an individual brings to the table when they decide it’s time to get their first real job.

All these non-traditional skills that don’t exactly qualify as work are still easily recognizable in the market if they are presented accordingly. Here are a couple of important ways of checking these experiences among your candidates: 

  • Ask for recommendations from their mentors,
  • Take a look at the skills included on their LinkedIn profile,
  • Read their resume between the lines, and check their organizational and communication skills.
working at the coffee shop experience

Let’s say you want to hire a graphic designer and you received applications from the candidates listed below:

  • Candidate A, who has a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design with a 3.8 GPA;
  • Candidate B has no college degree, but he used to work for a design agency for 2 years;
  • Candidate C has a University degree, but she used to work part-time during her studies (5 years);
  • Candidate D is 40 years old and works in a restaurant. Last year he enrolled in a course for graphic design and he built his portfolio. 

At first, you would probably consider Candidate A as the best fit. Yet, in some ways, each of these candidates has a skillset that can be applied to the role.

Candidate B has a good amount of experience while candidates C and D have shown that they are determined, disciplined, and great at their personal time management.

Of course, in this hypothetical scenario, the best candidate would be the one who successfully completes your test tasks and whose skills directly apply to your company’s culture and requirements.

Gap Years

A gap year is when you take a year off, usually between high school graduation and college. So instead of starting college, as soon as you finish high school, you would enroll in college the year after. 

This concept is meant to give students a break after their school. During this time, students can engage in a variety of developmental and educational activities, such as traveling, volunteering, or taking courses.

Some people take a couple of months off, others turn their gap year into gap years. 

Students may take courses to improve academic skills in areas such as math or language studies, while others may learn a trade, pursue art, or participate in sports.

Volunteering vs. Internships

Volunteer work is also a popular choice, as it allows students to give back to their communities and gain valuable experience.

Gap years can often be used to get new experiences, meet people, and cultures, learn skills, and improve their knowledge. For instance, an Au Pair gives you an opportunity to spend summer elsewhere and meet a new culture.

Students will receive significant advantages by spending their gap year in an Au Pair or teaching program.

Internships are resume boosters and tend to open doors down the line. They are great at helping you develop new skills and building a professional network. Internships are the perfect combination of work and enjoyment.

Volunteer programs are perhaps one of the most common things to do in a gap year. Research suggests that students who take a gap year tend to perform better academically than those who do not.


Freelancing is a form of self-employment. Freelancers lend their skills and talents to several clients on a flexible basis. They aren’t employed by a company or committed to a single customer. Freelancers have the freedom to choose their projects and clients. 

Individuals who do freelance work tend to have a high level of skills and knowledge in areas such as designers, writers, programmers, translators, project managers, and so on. However, there is another group of self-employed professionals that also gets classed as ‘gig workers’ or ‘contractors.’ 

Self-employed handymen, cleaners, and construction workers would fall into this category. The most distinct difference between freelancers and gig workers is that the former tend to rely on the internet to deliver their work.

A freelancing career is one of the most wanted and rewarding nowadays. It gives individuals the ability to try out new skills and expand knowledge in different areas. Freelancing means you can take on a variety of projects from different clients.

They can use remote work platforms, or cold pitching to find their clients, which again, helps them develop. 

freelancer working technological jobs

Every project brings something new to the table and allows individuals to expand their skill set. 

Freelancing involves continual learning and development. It can also provide more opportunities for growth as freelancers often tackle a wider variety of project types.

So even though a candidate doesn’t have a single full-time arrangement on their resume, they might have done more work than someone who worked for a single agency for a decade. 

The experience that freelancers have is often more diverse, and the nature of their work helps them learn soft skills as well. Freelancers get valuable insights about market trends, client expectations, and effective business strategies. 

Unusual Job Titles

Most job titles are quite straightforward, and we all have a pretty good idea of what a banker or a sales executive does, but strange job titles are becoming more and more common.

Employees and recruitment agents increasingly look to make their job adverts and personal brands stand out in the digital marketplace.

For example, the job title Sandwich Artist may help with branding and selling the product. This title implies that this is someone who prepares delicious food quickly. These titles are especially common in remote jobs as usually more innovative and cool companies offer them. 

Yet at the same time, this title emphasizes that this role requires more than simply preparing food. A sandwich artist, compared to a “cook” is someone creative and cool. 

Companies are switching traditional job titles for more unique ones, such as Analytics Guru, Marketing Master, SEO Wizard, and Rockstar Designer.

You will have more success finding candidates when the job title is descriptive and matches what potential candidates are searching for. 

Candidates With Non-traditional Resumes Can Skyrocket Your Company

Rather than looking at a candidate’s education or work experience, companies are looking for individuals who took a non-traditional path to their current position. This includes those who have taken a gap year, pursued a non-traditional career, or have a unique skill set. 

Non-traditional candidates bring a fresh perspective and diverse experiences to the workplace. This can lead to new ideas and innovative approaches to problem-solving, which ultimately benefits the company as a whole.

They also tend to be highly motivated and adaptable, having navigated a non-linear path to their current position. 

This makes them valuable assets in today’s rapidly changing business landscape. Pursuing non-traditional candidates can help companies build a more welcoming and supportive environment for other employees as well.

However, it’s important for employers to approach the pursuit of non-traditional candidates with sensitivity and openness. Expect that some of these candidates might have a slower output in the beginning.

Eventually, with their unique experience paired with training, they can become some of the most important individuals on your team.

Picture of Veljko Petrović
Veljko Petrović

Veljko is not only a brilliant content writer and an SEO specialist but also the youngest member of our team. He experienced the ups and downs of the blockchain industry while working as a crypto marketing specialist for [REDACTED]. While writing is both his job and his passion, he also enjoys reading and playing video games.


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