What makes you right for your job? Take a moment to think about it. Is it your experience or is it the skills you possess? The chances are it’s a combination of both. So why is so much emphasis still placed on having sectoral experience when recruiting? More importantly, what are companies missing by NOT considering candidates from alternate organisations? In seeking to answer these questions we spoke to Valerie Round, a leading freelance HR consultant and Tariq Ahmed, HR Director at London Business School (LBS) about the benefits of thinking more broadly when recruiting.
“When recruiting, I personally remain open to sector and focus more on what the individual can bring in terms of motivation, engagement and influencing skills, communication, team work and self-belief” Valerie said. One of the statements in any brief given to an executive search consultant or in-house recruiter should be ‘challenge the status-quo’. By interviewing candidates from outside the sector, there is a unique opportunity to meet individuals who view organisational challenges through a different lens.
As headhunters we consider how a candidate’s core transferable skills such as; team work, communication, creativity and influence could benefit our client. Having moved from a global financial services firm to join London Business School in 2015 Tariq believes that a key part of shifting perceived requirements is through finding amazing candidates that would not normally have been considered and backing them to be successful in your organisation. “So much of what we look for is about attitude as that is such a key starting point”.
So, what are the benefits of recruiting people with no prior experience of your sector? Tariq: “A key benefit would be diversity, in particular diversity of experience and thinking. This can help in terms of adding a different flavour to any discussion and of course builds on all the great research around high performing teams and the fact they are needed to leverage diversity”. Valerie added that “innovation and speed to market are often differentiators against competition and for this reason a diverse mix of thinking harnessed from different sectors can be a further enabler to fostering innovation and dynamism”.
Whilst there is a perception of linear thinking when recruiting (particularly in the public sector), are hiring managers and appointment committees thinking broadly enough when looking at people from outside their sector to encourage diverse and transferable careers? Tariq and Valerie are both seeing a shift, in some sectors and functions at least. Sectors such as legal, financial service and consultancy are still very reluctant to recruit from outside their sectors. Whilst in support functions such as finance, HR or procurement, where there is a more natural transfer of skills, sector experience is less influential. Tariq’s experience since joining LBS would suggest that the different approaches across sectors seem to be aligning; “If you are robust in your briefing when taking a role on to recruit for, you can really explore what success looks like in the role, going way beyond a line item on a job description.”
Collectively we are seeing that employers are becoming more open to the transferability of skills and the benefits someone from outside their sector could offer in terms of creating a diverse and flexible workforce. Some roles will always require sector specific knowledge and experience, however our consultants work in partnership with clients to test the boundaries where possible and offer candidates with alternative experience to challenge status quo. Call it thinking outside the box, or simply re-imagining the box, either way this is the creative value of choosing the right search partner.
Gin Bhandal recruits senior management and leadership positions in the Higher Education sector at Berwick Partners.