An Unlikely Place to Find the ‘Perfect’ Employee

How do you define a good hire? Is it someone who is smart? Loyal? Proactive? Willing to learn? When companies look in nontraditional places for entry-level talent, they often find young adults who fulfill all those criteria, but whom they never would have seen if they focused only on education credentials. That is the story of what happened when Marathon Consulting (Marathon) took a chance and hired Eric St. Jean.

Eric is a Project Engineer at Marathon, a leading managed services provider in the Greater New York area. Eric also happens to be the reigning champion of the Marathon Fantasy Football league, but that’s just one of many talents Eric brings to Marathon.

As a Project Engineer, Eric does everything from disaster recovery projects to hosted Exchange migrations. He is a member of “the firemen” team—the first to respond when a tech issue occurs. He is also studying for and has earned multiple credentials, including his A+ and Network+ certifications. While Eric is a hardworking, important member of his team, the truth of the matter is that Eric probably wouldn’t be where he is today if Marathon wasn’t willing to hire young adults who lack traditional education credentials and work experience.

Although Eric was always interested in IT, he had yet to find his way into the industry. After being a manager at Starbucks for five years, Eric was ready for the next challenge and left to participate in NPower’s Technology Service Corps program. Along with taking classes in the rigorous IT program, he worked overnight for the Executive Transportation Group, which provides black car services in the NY tristate area. The only IT experience Eric could speak to was that he was the “go-to” guy in his family when the PC broke.

However, being part of NPower’s Technology Service Corps was enough for Brian Kingsley, Director of Technical Services at Marathon, to know he wanted to interview Eric. And as Eric says, the rest is history.

In New York City, NPower’s Technology Service Corps serves young adults ages 18 through 25 who are eager to learn and pursue a career in technology. Each participant must have a high school diploma or equivalent, be legally eligible to work in the United States, and be able to demonstrate a clear need for services.

Kingsley speaks enthusiastically about Eric and remembers that although his resume lacked the traditional “2+ years of experience,” Eric has made up for it with an impressive work ethic and commitment to expanding his skillset. More than 80% of NPower Technology Service Corps alumni are employed or pursuing higher education within one year of graduation.

However, the story doesn’t stop there. Based on his own success, Eric soon encouraged Kingsley to consider hiring two long-time friends and fellow NPower Technology Corps graduates, Matthew Thomas and Alex Welch. All three young men had grown up together, attending the same junior high, playing video games, and working at Starbucks. The group was often referred to as “The Three Musketeers” and shared a similar dream of launching a career in New York’s thriving IT community.

Kingsley did not need much convincing: “Not only were Alex and Matthew NPower grads, all three of them have been friends since junior high school. This made me comfortable Alex and Matt would also fit in Marathon’s culture.”

Kingsley was immediately rewarded by his decision and adds, “They all had more certifications, experience, and knowledge on their first day than a lot of other candidates who did not go through NPower’s Technology Service Corps program. They are great employees, more than I was looking for with their level of dedication and willingness to try anything.”

In addition to the level of expertise Matt and Alex brought, Eric’s referral of his friends helped reduce the cost, time, and effort that Marathon spends filling open positions. Even with their jobs at Marathon, the hard-working “Three Musketeers” continue to study and are always on the lookout for more opportunities for education and training.

So what does a “nontraditional background” really tell you about an individual? If Eric, Matt and Alex have proven one thing, it’s that it doesn’t indicate that a young adult isn’t smart, driven, or willing to learn. And if you ask Kingsley, he will tell you that his employees who have come to Marathon through a non-traditional route are consistently loyal and determined to be an asset to the company. So, keep your eyes open for the next Eric, Matt or Alex in your company’s future. Maybe someone with a “nontraditional background” is actually exactly what your company is looking for.

The GradsofLifeVoice Forbes team provides thought leadership, research and expert commentary on innovative talent pipelines and related issues such as the skills gap, income inequality, workforce diversity, and the business case for employment pathways. We seek to change employers’ perceptions of young adults with atypical resumes from social liabilities to economic assets. This Post was originally featured here.

Hiring & Retention Practices, Management & Leadership, Workforce Development,
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