If you want to hire someone out of the ordinary, look for someone out of the ordinary. Sounds trite, but in a world of ever more structured demands being put on applicants for jobs, it seems that the out of the ordinary is more and more unusual.

Some of the most effective people I come across have come from unusual backgrounds for the work they do. They may have had previous careers, or a career break to bring up a family or recover from an illness. Perhaps they went back to school, or retrained for a new role later in life.

Of course, I’m not talking about jobs for which you need specific qualifications or expertise. Those boxes absolutely must be ticked. But though I hear people trumpeting the value of transferable skills and alternative experience, I seldom see them thinking about their hiring decisions in that way. They usually have a fairly fixed idea of what they are looking for and readily discount candidates who don’t fit the mould.

Partly this is caused by sheer number of applicants – you have to be able to decide a short list somehow. And partly it is caused by the sheer plethora of qualifications out there – it can be hard to tell one from another in some cases. And lastly, in some cases it is caused by fixed ideas, time pressure and the desire to get someone who is a ‘safe bet’.

But it is worth thinking about your hiring decisions in the wider context of your business. By increasing the diversity of your organisation you can benefit from different viewpoints which often lead to different (and potentially better) solutions. With the current emphasis on equal opportunities and the aging workforce, there is more legal and societal pressure than ever before to consider all candidates on their merits, and to look at what they can bring to a role rather than whether they fit pre-selected criteria.

I’m not saying don’t look for great academics, or don’t have basics on which you insist, like decent grammar, spelling and numeracy. But if you open your mind to some more unlikely candidates, you may find you’ve got so much more than your boxes ticked.

‘This information is believed to be correct as of the date published. It is not a substitute for legal advice and no liability attaches to its use. Specific and personal legal advice should be taken on any individual matter’.