How to Successfully Recruit Candidates from Other Industries

November 11, 2020
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Author: Glenn Hunter

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, talent acquisition professionals have been receiving more applications from job candidates looking to pivot to roles in industries that are new to them. But just because these candidates don’t have experience in the new industry doesn’t mean they’re not qualified.

Recruiting candidates from other industries can lead to expanding the talent pool of qualified candidates.

Some applicants may have useful technical skills – special certifications or computer skills, for example – while many others may have desired soft skills that are applicable to the role. So, how exactly are talent acquisition pros supposed to evaluate the qualifications of these candidates?

Assess How Transferable Skills Can Be Applied to the Role

One of the first steps for anyone involved in the recruiting process is to evaluate how a candidate’s existing skills can be useful in the role. Commonly referred to as transferable skills, these are traits or abilities that are valuable in multiple industries or jobs. Among the most sought-after transferable skills are multitasking, decision-making, problem-solving, communication, teamwork, creativity, integrity, professionalism, management, initiative and empathy.

While these transferable skills are highly desirable, they’re not ones that are easily taught. Certain fields, particularly those that interface regularly with the public, rely heavily on many of these skills. So recruiters or hiring managers in cities largely dependent on tourism or hospitality may be able to tap into this local talent pool.

Keep these things in mind when screening candidates from outside industries for their transferable skills:

  • Determine whether their experience can be practically applied to the available position. If an open role at a software company requires working under pressure or strong project management experience, then someone who has managed events and personnel for a hotel or event management company may be able to assume the role successfully, assuming they can learn the necessary technical skills. Retail workers might be adaptable to a variety of industries, as they often possess lots of patience and good communications skills.

  • Assess whether their current industry is similar to the new industry. Candidates who have worked in similar industries may adapt more quickly. For instance, someone who has worked in a highly regulated industry may be able to transition swiftly to another industry that deals with a lot of regulation. On the other hand, most oil-rig workers probably would not transition well to a creative field like advertising or public relations.

Focusing on Necessary Skills

For talent acquisition pros, the key to success in these pivots is to first prioritize the skills their organization will absolutely need for roles going forward, and then to select those candidates whose skills and abilities match those needs. When it comes to evaluating a flood of applicants who’ve never worked in the industry, focus on skills rather than specific programs or industry knowledge.

Here are two ways to understand whether a candidate’s skills will transfer well to the role:

  • Review their accomplishments. Their resume should give you insight into their capabilities and their dedication to their own professional development and dedication to previous employers. You’ll also gain insight into how much they’ve grown in their careers and what they still want to achieve.

  • Test through role-playing or behavioral questions. Role-playing or asking questions to see how candidates respond to certain situations can give you deeper insight into a candidate’s personality, problem-solving skills, and how they may act on the job.

If you’re not sure whether a job’s listed skills line up with the job or whether a candidate’s skills are a good match, using a software tool like LaborIQ® by ThinkWhy can help. The software includes hard and soft skills for more than 20,000 job titles across all U.S. markets and also allows users to refine parameters to better reflect a role’s level of experience and education. This can be especially useful when considering salary expectations of qualified candidates who come from outside industries.

Recruiting from Outside Industries

Hiring candidates based on skills will help expand the talent pool of qualified candidates.

Displaced workers have often shifted into new industries during times of economic stress. According to surveys of such shifts from 2010 to 2020 reported by the Harvard Business Review, a substantial number of employees in the hospitality and food services sector jumped into management, sales, office and administrative services, and marketing, advertising and PR roles. Workers in the retail and customer service sector found new employment in sales, management, and office and administrative services. And employees in transportation and warehousing transitioned into the likes of management, business analysis/operations, retail/customer service and human resources.

Other studies have shown assembly-line manufacturing workers moving successfully into jobs in construction, engineering, energy, technology, health care, and finance and insurance.

Often, organizations may need to be open to longer-than-typical training periods when hiring employees from other industries. But hiring such workers will be worth the time and effort. In the end, organizations will be able to broaden their talent pools, tap into more diverse candidates and capitalize on the new energy and fresh perspectives these employees bring.

Labor IQ by ThinkWhy continuously monitors and forecasts labor data at all levels, measuring impact to cities, industries, occupations and business across the U.S.