As a recruiter, I've always favored candidates who displayed something called "distance traveled".
Distance traveled describes a candidate who had to earn their success. They had to overcome obstacles, play the underdog and fight through difficult times inside or outside of work.
Some things that I might look for in a candidate include:
- Having a work history that begins at age 14 or sooner.
- Working two jobs to put themselves through college.
- Completing 2 or 3 real internships that they got on their own -- with no connections.
- Someone who served in the military.
- Single moms and dads.
- Immigrants or children of immigrants.
I also like recruiters and salespeople who have worked for unknown brands. There's nothing harder than cold-calling a prospect and having to repeat the name of your company because the person has never heard of you.
While distance traveled isn't a replacement for a structured interview process, it serves as a good pre-qualifier or a great tiebreaker. It’s something that shows a history of work ethic. It tells you that when things get tough, this person isn’t going to quit because they know what a headwind feels like and they have the grit to power through it.
When I’m hiring, I want to know that the person who's joining my team knows what it’s like to face a major challenge and that they have achieved something on their own.
Everyone's distance traveled will be different. But if you look for this characteristic and begin to ask questions that flush it out, you'll quickly see who traveled the distance on their own and who simply hailed an Uber.