To Raise Social Mobility, Recruit For Attitude

  revature |

Bob Gasser, Chief Revenue Officer at Revature

James Mattis, the four-star general and former U.S. secretary of defense, once counseled leaders of all kinds to “Recruit for attitude and train for skill.”

Unfortunately, too many employers still hire entry-level staff based not on attitude or character but on educational brand names. In other words, if you didn’t go to a top-50 university, forget it. I know organizations whose recruitment software is programmed to give non-preferential treatment to applicants who attended schools that are not targeted for hiring, meaning that no (human) hiring manager will ever see their CVs.

I understand why companies might act this way. Like most of us, they are comfortable with what they know; and what they know is Stanford, Cambridge, and so on. Anything else they tend to view as a risk. But this approach is bad for diversity—including when it comes to socioeconomic background. Moreover, it excludes from consideration a massive pool of talented potential workers. In the long run, therefore, it’s a lose-lose proposition.

In my role at Revature, I’ve seen what’s possible when we look beyond this limited model of recruitment. For our tech training programs, we actively recruit from universities whose grads tend to be more diverse across race, gender, and yes, socioeconomic background. After intensive training, we place our associates on contracts with our blue-chip clients. We assuage any perceived risk on the client’s part by supporting both the professionals and their managers throughout the placement, making sure they have what they need and providing any supplementary training they may require.

This model works: in 85% of cases, Revature training leads to a permanent job offer.

Why has this approach proven successful? Because, returning to General Mattis’s advice, it helps us recruit for attitude. From the very beginning, there is an element of self-selection built into the process, because the Revature path—intensive training, followed by equally intense work at the cutting edge of tech—is not for the faint of heart. Some 40% of our trainees are first-generation university graduates, many of whom had to work full-time while studying for their degree. Having been passed over by firms looking for brand-name credentials, many have come directly from jobs in grocery stores, retailers, or restaurant chains. They must have been tempted to give up countless times, but they persevered and remained highly motivated to get trained and placed in software engineering roles.

Our programs, in other words, tend to attract resilient, self-starting problem-solvers who have proved that they have the right attitude. The result for our clients is improved diversity, greater social mobility, and a workforce that is more engaged and more loyal. After four years, 89% of our trainees are still with their employer—a retention rate unheard-of using the same old flawed model of recruiting from only a small slice of universities.

Best of all, this approach changes lives. Imagine coming from a family where nobody else had ever attended university and walking into a software engineering role at a world class financial institution; or going from bagging groceries to bagging a SalesForce software-development role. The impact is transformational. And it is all possible because we recruit for attitude.

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