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Hiring Advice Attracting candidates Why it's a good idea to hire from outside your industry
Why it's a good idea to hire from outside your industry

Why it's a good idea to hire from outside your industry

Hiring can be challenging, especially for hirers who are a stickler for previous experience.

But while this belief makes sense at first glance, it can prove counterproductive, especially if you're struggling to fill an opening. Expanding your search to candidates with proven skills in a related industry can help you fill a vacancy. But beyond that, it can also introduce new skills and perspectives to your workplace and boost your chances of finding a good cultural fit.

You can train technical proficiencies, but here’s why looking at transferable skills rather than focusing on industry experience can be an effective hiring strategy.

Spotting 'soft' and transferable skills

People are receptive to switching industries: take advantage of the 31% of Malaysian workers willing to try different careers and open to reskilling for new roles, according to Jobstreet by SEEK's Future of Recruitment Report.

Hiring from outside your industry is all about spotting transferable skills, which usually take the form of soft skills. Whether you're a doctor trying to diagnose a case or a chef during a dinner rush, these attributes allow you to overcome challenges and work well with others.

Some soft skills that transcend fields are communication, adaptability, the capacity to prioritise tasks and manage time, a strong work ethic, teamwork, and problem-solving.

Take a candidate with experience in hospitality or retail looking to move into a corporate environment, for example. Skills like communicating with people from all walks of life, seamlessly transitioning from working independently to working in a team, and fixing customer problems are “100% transferable.”

Soft skills can be so powerful that they even trump experience. Remember Andy Sachs from The Devil Wears Prada? Miranda Priestly chooses her over candidates with a fashion obsession and experience in the industry because the budding journalist is smart, learns fast, and works hard. Anne Hathaway's character hardly needed a Fashion degree to hunt down an unpublished Harry Potter manuscript.

If you look at a candidate's growth – how they communicate within their team, their strong work ethic, and their adaptability – and how they fit from a cultural standpoint, you might realise they fit the role better than the one with a glossier resume.

New perspectives

One of the most compelling benefits of hiring from outside your industry is the opportunity to introduce new perspectives to your workplace.

As well as another skillset, people can bring new ideas about how to do things differently based on their previous experience. They can also introduce contacts and potential new clients to your company.

And while someone from outside your industry will experience many things as new, that newness can be a real positive. For one, they can prompt innovation in the workplace.

Imagine a retail company looking to boost its customer experience. They hire someone from the hospitality industry who suggests a customer loyalty program, copying successful models from their previous role in a hotel. The program includes personalised customer interactions, special discounts, and exclusive offers. These new efforts boost customer satisfaction, improve retention rates, and generate higher profits.

Revamped enthusiasm

Someone who has worked in the same industry for a while can become a bit blasé. However, a rookie from another industry typically demonstrates a greater enthusiasm to learn and develop. You can see that person's potential sometimes better than someone doing the same job for several years.

There's also a benefit in hiring somebody who already possesses difficult-to-train transferrable capabilities and then moulding the rest of their skillset into what your company needs exactly.

Paying close attention to applications

Searching for transferable skills takes some attention. Instead of relying on automated application tracking systems, go through resumés manually.

Perusing resumés closely rather than relying on automation can tell you which candidates are ideal for a job. You’ll be able to see transferable skills that automation may not have picked up. At the interview stage, taking the time to go through the job description and the candidate’s experience in detail helps extract the soft skills relevant to the job.

Use the SAO (situation, action, outcome) approach. Put candidates in situations that you know they’ll be in as part of the role they're applying for. Ask them to talk about a very similar situation, provide an action they performed, and discuss the outcome so you can see how their skills may transfer.

It may seem daunting or even counterintuitive to consider hiring staff from another industry. But prioritising transferable skills can help you find the right person for the job – and sooner. With a little training on how your organisation works, your new hire will be up to speed in no time.

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