Hiring the right employee depends on a plethora of factors. We tend to have our tick list of things to look for when hiring employees. High on the list is usually relevant industry experience. Whilst undoubtedly this is essential for some roles, we’d argue at times that this can become restrictive, and in fact mean you miss out on the dynamic talent which will contribute highly to your business success. It’s not your usual approach to hiring the right employee, so why does it work?
Have a browse through any vacancy listings, and one word in particular will stand out: experience. The youngest recruits bemoan how to get it, and every career-driven individual is focused on obtaining it. Experience is often the gold standard we use to judge applicants on. This makes sense in many respects – it’s a crude measure of attainment. It gives us some reassurance that your new recruit will know what they are doing from day one.
However, being a crude measure of potential success it also shuts the door on potential. Here we’re not talking about the potential someone will show if only they could get experience. No, we’re talking about potential to add value from day one precisely because their experience isn’t from within the same niche. So how is this possible?
Experience when viewed as simply one, crude, measure of attainment leaves us asking how we can better gauge value in a potential employee. Talent on the other hand looks at proven skills at such a detailed level that you can see how skills are transferable. It views recruitment not just as a matching exercise between job description and CV, but also as an opportunity to drive the business forward by finding the right person.
Whilst this may mean there is overlap between someone’s experience and their proven skills, they don’t absolutely have to go hand in hand. In fact, with skills that are transferable, you may indeed get greater value drawing on experience gained elsewhere. The business acumen that different environments nurture can prove invaluable to driving change and success. Removing the introspective look that many higher levels of an industry suffer from can be a stepping-stone to stimulate growth.
Furthermore, as you get higher up in the organisational chart, your pool of available candidates also shrinks. By insisting on industry experience, you’re often making the pool impossibly small to a degree where your future is stunted. By focusing instead on skills, and importantly, transferable skills, you bring your attention back to talent alone.
For us this means that yes, industry experience is sometimes important…but not necessarily. Uncovering if it is important for your particular vacancy requires an in-depth understanding of the vacant role, the organisation, and your aims for the future. This will determine just how important experience is versus an individual with demonstrated skills. When we focus on the skills, we can then draw up a more accurate profile of what an ideal candidate might look like.
Instead of homing in on relevant experience alone, we would advocate placing a priority on these transferable skills:
Hiring the right employee should never be a tick box exercise. Even if relevant industry experience is important to you, you need to know why. Be sure of your criteria and look beyond the standard when considering things to look for when hiring employees.