There can be a protean quality to great talent, a capacity for shape-shifting that enables them to succeed in a wide variety of functions within a broad range of industries.

But the virtues you need – in both hard skills and “soft” temperaments – are often camouflaged within the rhetoric of specific roles and verticals buried within the resume’s customary list of achievements. Even when applicants are not obvious fits for the roles you posted, they may have the skills and talent you need – all the virtues you would like to see in a candidate, if you were able to read between the lines to surface the underlying skills.

“Ideally,” says Kristen Fitzpatrick, Managing Director, HBS Career & Professional Development, “applicants would articulate their accomplishments by broader functional skills, rather than within the vernacular of their current industries. They should make it easy to read so that anyone can understand what they did. But they often don’t.”

Jonathan Tamblyn, the head of talent at L2, a consumer products digital marketing firm, sees the challenge through the lens of cutting-edge companies that have special or unusual demands. “Because our business focus on digital consumer interactions is fairly unique, we need to attract people from different backgrounds,” he says. “We’re always trying to build a bridge between a candidate’s background and what they might be able to do here.”

Fitzpatrick and Tamblyn generally seek different skill sets: Fitzpatrick looks for evidence of management ability and leadership potential, while Tamblyn probes for hard analytical skills. Yet both scrutinize resumes with the equivalent of “x-ray specs,” hoping to find hidden qualities that could be meaningful for their respective institutions. Here’s what they suggest:

Prime the pump

Tamblyn recognizes that the traditional resume structure can obscure the very skills he seeks. To set the stage, he builds a request for core skills in the job description itself. “We ask for qualities that are universal across job functions,” he says. Depending on the role, he may ask for someone who is a “good storyteller,” or has previous experience collaborating with others, leading or participating in entrepreneurial efforts, or possessed of a “growth mindset” appropriate for the evolving needs of a start-up.

Define your expectations: expert practitioner or emerging leader?

Fitzpatrick begins by adjusting her own mindset to one of two possibilities: the search for an individual contributor with certain kinds of expertise, or the quest for managers capable of exercising leadership.For the individual experts, Fitzpatrick looks first for the expected: experience in project development and analytical and/or creative problem solving. But then she probes deeper. “What have they been involved in outside their official roles?” she asks. Have they helped recruit other employees? Are they involved in community outreach? “I’m looking for things that stretched them beyond their job descriptions, signs of someone who doesn’t need to be told what to do, but can see what needs to be done and do it.”

When she’s recruiting for managers, Fitzpatrick looks for what she calls, “the softer skills that are tricky to quantify on a resume. We need to ‘pressure test’ the resume bullets to see what’s really useful to us.” She wants to see evidence of team leadership: “What did they likely need to do to rally a team around ‘x’ initiative?” Whereas individual experts should demonstrate core skills, managers should communicate core attitudes, such as a customer service orientation. Again, Fitzpatrick likes people to stretch. “I prefer to focus on the accomplishments that seem harder than others. Was this just business as usual, or did the applicant really have to try hard?”

Dig for evidence of the right mindset

Because L2 offers uncommon job roles, Tamblyn cannot rely on one-to-one correspondences between previous jobs and the position at hand, but has to rely on clues for the “right mindset.” For Tamblyn, that means rigorous analytical skills, a data driven approach to problem solving, and a capacity to adapt to rapid growth and change.

“Consultants, lawyers, researchers – these are previous roles that are attractive to us because they require logical reasoning,” Tamblyn says. Beyond the titles, he looks for projects that “demonstrate an ability to apply a step-by-step method to problem solving. Have they ever created a new product, innovation, or piece of intellectual property?”

Start-ups, in particular, will look for candidates with backgrounds in fast-growing or rapidly changing environments. “We like to see something tough, perhaps someone who has been through medical school or served in the military – something inherently challenging that requires people to adapt to changing circumstances fast,” says Tamblyn.

“In an age when there’s no shortage of rich data to tap into, we want candidates to be data driven.” Here, Tamblyn says, the way people articulate their experience provides a valuable clue. “Do they use data or metrics in their own bullet points? If someone doesn’t apply a single, quantitative metric, they’re probably not data driven.”

Consider the whole resume, not just the employment history

The “experience” portion of the resume will naturally attract the most attention, but both Fitzpatrick and Tamblyn agree that our attention should not be limited to it. “I especially appreciate time-intensive extracurricular activities,” says Fitzpatrick. “That tells me that they may be able to handle more than the average bear. I look for busy people.”

Another example: a history of managing volunteers. “Volunteers are generally not as motivated as those of us with formal responsibilities,” Fitzpatrick says. “If you can effectively lead volunteers, you can lead anyone.”

Tamblyn assesses the entire resume for evidence of “design thinking, the ability to integrate multiple perspectives toward one outcome. It’s difficult to see on a resume, but I look for projects – on the job or outside of it – that show a candidate’s ability to work on cross-disciplinary teams that require collaboration among people with different points of view.”

The challenge is difficult, but rewarding

Tamblyn acknowledges that “resumes may not be a perfect representation of what people have done,” but believes there’s merit to examining a candidate’s record more closely. “You don’t just want to know if this person has a particular skill you need, but if they have skills similar enough to be valuable.” Within the resumes of recent graduates, for example, he looks for classes that demonstrate analytical rigor, such as in finance, strategy, and operations.

Searching beyond job titles for hidden virtues may have unexpected rewards for the hiring organization as well. “Sometimes you deliberately want to hire someone who doesn’t perfectly fit the job description,” Fitzpatrick says. “It’s a good way to bring in fresh skills and perspectives.”