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“You don’t have Retail experience” How important is it to have relevant industry experience?

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Conventional wisdom states that previous experience always trumps skills alone and therefore as hiring managers do we often fall into the trap of assuming that those without the sector experience do not have the correct skills to tackle a given role. But is this an out-dated stance to take? Shouldn’t businesses today be equipping themselves with talented individuals who can bring a range of potentially valuable skill sets to the table, regardless of their industry background? And could these transferable skills actually be worth more in the long run?


The modern world of commerce is more competitive than ever and employers need to extract the maximum value they can from every employee. You can take the simple analogy of a sports team, each individual playing to their strengths and working for the greater good, however not one individual is necessarily identical nor do they have the same experience. However, in the professional world we generally cast our mold and then try to find a match. This point touches on an earlier blog on succession planning.


It identifies the best hiring managers as those that recognise requirements in their team and can hire skillsets that will better the team and allow the business to move forward. Often moving forward in this market is about being innovative, so why aren’t we innovative in our hiring? This refers both to profiles considered and process of hiring in order to acquire the best talent.


The knock-on effect of hiring talent with eclectic skill sets is an agile, dynamic workforce that can often react to changes in its marketplace without further hiring. It’s a more fluid setup that instantly makes a business more competitive.


These outsiders to your industry can also have more to offer purely because they’ve come from another sector – a fresh pair of eyes to spot dead wood or golden opportunities; a new work ethic or new processes and ideas that improve productivity. If the individual is a senior hire, then their career accomplishments to date, regardless of industry sector, shouldn’t be ignored. Why wouldn’t you at least want to interview a successful, experienced candidate, regardless of which industry they’re moving from?


It’s at this stage that a trusted recruitment firm can play an important role. At The Consultancy Group, each of us is an industry Finance and Accounting specialist who very much focuses on working closely with our candidates. This means understanding not only their skill sets, but also their long-term career aspirations. If we have a candidate who we know has the transferable as well as additional skills, but they are working in another sector, we will gauge whether the fit is a good one, both culturally in the new industry and firm, as well as professionally for the candidate, before making any recommendation. This process opens up a seam of untapped talent from other areas for the client and new opportunities for the candidate - as well as challenging those perceptions and conventional wisdom about relevant industry experience.


If you’re a candidate looking to move sectors to further your career or a client who recognises genuine talent regardless of industry, then contact us today