A female recruiter interviewing a male candidate who's a career changer.

Your Guide to Recruiting ‘Career Changers’

Picture this: You’re a recruiter running an initial screen, starting with a pile of artificial intelligence-approved resumes. You subsequently go through the options presented, finally identifying a candidate who you think could nail the job.

The problem? She’s a career changer.

Your candidate has moved from industry to industry, changing roles and even departments along the way. Her pedigree is by no means orthodox, so how can you accurately decipher whether she’s a fit for the job? Evaluating career changers takes a different approach.

Why Passion Matters

Whether you’re a recruiter or the hiring manager, you’ll want to know whether your candidate is in it for the long run. You need to ensure they’ll stay on their newfound career path and not just return the old one. Why? We all know mis-hires are expensive—you’ll spend $4,129 and around 42 days to fill a position if the person decides to leave.

Because of the unique dynamics at play with career changers, you can’t just focus on experience. You’ll need to pay particular attention to passion.

First, check the candidate’s resume objective section and make sure it pops with drive and is stuffed with transferable experience. Are they using words that invoke passion for your specific industry, company, or their new field?  


Results-oriented customer service specialist, seeking to leverage interpersonal skills at Acme as a sales representative. Highly experienced in client-facing situations. Have increased customer retention by 34 percent and raised customer experience survey ratings by 61 percent.

The above example expresses a specific interest in your company. In addition, it lists skills that are clearly transferrable from career to career. Customer service and sales both require interpersonal skills, so the gulf between the two isn’t as vast as it might be with other professions.

Next up, you’ll want to scan the resume for any additional experience relevant to your industry. This will help you make sure the candidate has a taste of what it’s like working in your industry. That experience might come from any listed internships, freelance projects, side gigs, or certifications.

Read the Cover Letter

There’s been a lot of talk about whether cover letters (or even resumes) matter these days. Why? Only about 26 percent of your fellow recruiters read cover letters and consider them important in their decision to hire. But while reading these might be optional for most hires, doing so is a must for career changers.

Why? A cover letter gives you insight into the candidate’s motive for changing careers and whether or not they would be a perfect fit for the role. Those details don’t necessarily fit neatly into the rigid structure of most resumes—and waiting until later stages for that explanation could risk wasting your interviewers’ time. So as a recruiter, you need to read cover letters to get a 360-degree view and determine if career changers are a good fit before scheduling that first phone interview.

Evaluating career changers is one of the most difficult, nuanced challenges of recruiting. While it may seem like you can never know if one will turn out to be a rock star, using the above tips increases your chances of top talent from an unconventional background.

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