Push to go off on a Tangent in hiring

University dropout Isaac Mung is among the unconventional hires at Dymon Asia Capital. He was approached by the firm after a Straits Times article highlighting his determination to improve his family's financial situation, and is one of Dymon's best
University dropout Isaac Mung is among the unconventional hires at Dymon Asia Capital. He was approached by the firm after a Straits Times article highlighting his determination to improve his family's financial situation, and is one of Dymon's best research analysts now.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

New initiative hopes to get firms to rethink yardsticks, give passionate individuals a shot

Only got a Primary School Leaving Examination certificate, but possess grit and resilience? You may be hired for your dream job, if a new initiative launched last month takes off.

Tangent, an initiative of philanthropic organisation The Majurity Trust, hopes to get firms to hire staff who may not possess the relevant experience or qualifications, but have the attributes to do well.

This is regardless of whether they have attended Ivy League universities or chalked up years of experience, according to its executive director Martin Tan.

"The goal is to push the conversation about rethinking hiring - that age, gender, experience, education should no longer matter," he added. "We have a very small population, and we really can't afford to have talent that goes unnoticed."

Instead of presenting their resumes for consideration, Tangent suggests potential employees first take a 90-minute assessment - testing for traits that a firm's top performers commonly display, such as humility and creativity.

Most firms rely mainly on conventional hiring yardsticks such as education, experience or age.

However, conventional benchmarks often come with unconscious biases, said Mr Tan. He believes that such indicators shut out many people with other qualities who may be more suitable for a job.

"The problem is that if we keep doing that, a lot of good talent out there tend to be stuck in the resume pile because they don't fit into the conventional mould of what success looks like," he added.

For a start, a Tangent pilot programme will see investment firm Dymon Asia Capital recruit a small group of associates this year.

Candidates will sit an analytics-based test, which adds a science to the hiring process. Scores will be used to see if the applicant is a suitable fit. The pool of candidates will then be narrowed via methods like video introductions.

The one-year apprenticeship programme will see about eight to 10 new hires learning from the company's mentors and experiencing its different areas of business.

Ms Sharmin Foo, an associate director at Dymon Asia, said the firm hopes to attract more diverse talent by removing hiring conventions.

Dymon Asia has been adding unconventional hires to its talent pool in the past few years. Among those who have benefited is university drop-out Isaac Mung, who joined in March last year.

The 23-year-old was pursuing an engineering degree at Nanyang Technological University before he was approached by the firm in 2016, after a Straits Times article highlighting his determination to improve his family's financial situation. He read up on the basics of investing, after his family savings ran low following his father's death.

Mr Mung has since worked hard to become one of the firm's best research analysts, despite entering it with little experience.

Mr Mung believes the Tangent initiative will give passionate individuals who may not have the necessary paper qualifications a shot at "pursuing what they love".

Tangent hopes to get more companies on board.

However, observers interviewed believe it will take years for firms to rethink their hiring practices and that for fields like engineering, qualifications still matter.

Many technology firms have adopted unusual hiring methods, including using computer games to find suitable candidates.

Mr Adrian Tan, co-founder of Career Hero, a career guidance firm, explained that in certain industries, performance is "much more important than your resume".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2018, with the headline 'Push to go off on a Tangent in hiring'. Print Edition | Subscribe