Embrace Nontraditional Candidates and Double Your Talent Pool


companies are adapting to a new wave of technical talent flooding the market

When I began working at Hackbright Academy - the first coding school for women in the US - half the battle was explaining to employers the concept of a bootcamp. Understandably, hiring managers were skeptical: How could someone be a software engineer after just a few months of training?

Fast forward a few years later and we've seen graduates of bootcamps not only work at top companies as software engineers, but they're now engineering managers and directors. Their grit, loyalty and resourcefulness make them huge assets to any team. 

Now growing companies with major technical hiring needs especially those innovative with their diversity and inclusion efforts, are expanding their hiring processes to include new wave of "nontraditional" candidates. Read below to see what qualifies someone as a nontraditional candidate, the advantages of this talent pool for your diversity efforts and how tech giants like Facebook, Airbnb and Twilio have  developed programs to keep this funnel of technical talent coming. 

What is a nontraditional candidate? What are the advantages of this type of hire?

This term is typically used in recruiting and diversity to categorize someone that didn't get their technical training in a traditional way. They may or may not have a degree in Computer Science. Instead, these candidates have utilized alternative programs like bootcamps and robust online resources to learn the skills they need to make them relevant for the job. Often times, these folks have had a few years of professional experience and have the drive and passion to transition into a technical career. So why open up your hiring process for this group?

1. It will nearly double your candidate pool

Let's face it: Traditional methods of technical training can't keep up with companies' hiring needs. According to Data USA, there is an average of 35,000 CS graduates per year. In 2017, coding bootcamps were expected to graduate 23,000 developers

That means if your company finds an effective way to incorporate bootcamp grads into its hiring pool, it will have almost double the candidates to choose from. 

2.  The funnel of nontraditional candidates is much more diverse

If your company is only looking at CS graduates, then it is systematically at a disadvantage. The same study found the following breakdown of CS graduates in the U.S.: 

  • 19% - Women

  • 13% - Hispanic

  • 5% - Black

For perspective,  36% of bootcampers are women.   Because of the cost-effectiveness of nontraditional pathways to tech including community colleges, bootcamps and online resources, there is much less uniformity in terms of ethnicity, socioeconomic backgrounds and gender.

How are companies accommodating for this wave of talent?

Many companies have simply expanded their hiring pool to include nontraditional candidates, giving them a chance to compete in their hiring process.

Companies have also set up training programs to (a) give nontraditional candidates more technical experience in a professional setting (b) to solidify internal stakeholder buy-in for this new group. Though not guaranteed, trainees are often offered full-time positions after completion of these programs.

To name just a few, here are some examples of training programs offered by high profile tech companies: 

Airbnb Connect | 6 MONTHS


Launched in 2016, Airbnb Connect offers a six month paid program for two tracks: Engineering and Data Science. For its engineering program, associates receive a combination of hands-on product experience along with a computer science curriculum in a closely-mentored environment. The Engineering Connect program is open to  people with 2+ years of work experience who have completed a bootcamp or similar training course in computer science.  The goal is to increase recruitment of underrepresented groups in tech. 

Facebook's Rotational Engineering Program | 12 MONTHS


This year-long initiative has been designed to give those with promising technical skills a little more experience and mentorship to receive a full-time role within Facebook. The program begins with a 4-week training period, then participants are embedded on two different engineering teams. By the end of the 12 months, participants are given an offer for a full-time engineering role assuming their technical growth has now made them eligible.

Twilio's Engineering Apprenticeship Program | 6 MONTHS

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Twilio's Engineering Apprenticeship Program called Hatch is a 6-month apprenticeship program for people with non-traditional technical backgrounds and belonging to underrepresented groups in tech. Program participants build solutions for Twilio.org nonprofits, work with Twilio's product engineering team, learn the company's best practices in terms of software development and receive 1:1 mentorship.

ModelExpand helps companies connect with and retain candidates from diverse backgrounds. Drop us a note at contact@modelexpand.com to collaborate.