Sometimes it can seem like a no-brainer to hire a candidate who already works in your industry, who has worked for one of your competitors, and already has the knowledge to ‘hit the ground running’. But when you look at the bigger picture, you end up having to consider challenges such as diversity and innovation. Logically, if you continue to hire people who have the same experience and the same background, do you expect different results?

Any new hire can ‘flop’, whether they possess the previous experience or not. Something that is becoming increasingly important over time is fit – workplace culture has a bigger impact on performance than any skill set. After all, if a “rockstar industry expert” joins your organisation, but they don’t fit in with the team or the environment, they’re much more likely to leave. Whereas someone who has less experience but integrates into your team really well, will be more eager to learn and make an impact.

We’re not saying that there would never be a good fit with new employees with industry experience – but it’s important to look past hard skills and understand the real impact that a person could have in your organisation based on their soft skills and motivations, not where they’ve worked previously.

If we try to replace an employee with another person with the same skill set and knowledge, there will be very little new value brought to the organisation. But, if we hire someone who possesses the soft skills required to exceed, they’ll have a new perspective on the role. They’ll think differently to industry standards, and this is when we get the best innovative ideas.

Why should we hire outside our industry?

Well, first of all, people are generally creatures of habit. If you hire someone that has done a similar job in the past, the chances are they’re going to want to continue doing it the way they always have (with the exception of a few small changes). This isn’t the candidate’s fault, because breaking the ‘norm’ isn’t always easy! If you want to make serious changes in your organisation and re-think the ordinary, a new employee with a totally different mindset can do exactly that. Given how quickly markets change, being fixed to one way of working can be really damaging, so diversifying our workforce with varying skills and mindsets can help us avoid falling behind.

Industry newbies often apply what they’ve learned in other industries to the new one that they’re working in. They aren’t constrained to the best practices that everyone else is already so familiar with, so they’ll have a fresh take on the practices within the organisation. Offering this unique perspective is something that organisations can take advantage of, so we need to ensure we’re open to the new ideas.

When you open up the requirements for your role, you’re also widening your talent pool. We hear a lot about the skills shortage in recruitment these days, and the simplest answer would be to be a lot less specific about the skills you require. Many skills are transferrable, and soft skills are applicable to a large number of different roles, so find candidates who would be a good fit in your organisation and invest in training and development.

Opening up the requirements for your role will also help you to speed up the hiring process. When you’re being very specific about role requirements, it’s probably going to take you a lot longer to find a candidate that matches the conditions and therefore it will take longer to fill the position. But widening the brief means that you’ll have access to more qualified candidates, and your search won’t take as long.

What to look for instead

LinkedIn’s global talent trends report showed that 89% of new hires that didn’t work out, typically didn’t because they lacked the correct soft skills for the role. Soft skills in the workplace are important because they allow us to work well with others and enable us to function and thrive within an organisation. Hard skills can always be taught and trained, but our soft skills generally don’t change because they reflect who we are as a person. There are the hard skills that are transferrable across different industries as some roles can be very similar regardless of the organisation or industry, such as HR. But, as an example, sales professionals often make good recruiters (and vice versa) due to a lot of the soft skills being the same, such as building relationships, communication, and confidence.

Sure, when you hire a candidate with no industry experience, it may take them slightly longer to adjust to the new environment. They’ll need a little bit more time to truly understand the industry, but that is no reflection on performance and the impact that they can make when they settle in. As they’re learning the ins and outs of their new industry, they’ll be applying their existing knowledge and looking at things in a whole different light.

Some of the most commonly sought out soft skills include:

  • Analytical skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Leadership abilities
  • Creativity
  • Teamwork
  • Willingness to learn and develop
  • Planning and organisation
  • Resilience

Looking at that list, it’s clear to see how these traits can make for a successful employee. Job roles and the required skills are always changing, thanks to things like advances in technology, so it’s important to consider these as important, if not more important, than industry experience.

Challenging the norm

Bringing in candidates with varying skills sets and experience opens your organisation to a much more diverse way of thinking – and it’s no secret that the most diverse organisations are often the most successful ones. Diversity doesn’t just have to be things like gender and religion, as it also applies to things like personal life experiences and personality.

Hiring candidates from different industries may feel like a risk, but it’s one that can have tremendous benefits when done right!