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How important is industry specific experience when recruiting into finance?

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Industry experience became a useful buzzword term in the days before a candidate-driven market, when employers had so many applicants they had to narrow down their long list somehow. When opportunities are thin on the ground, good candidates are plentiful and so a lack of industry experience is an easy eliminator for a hiring manager. In a candidate-driven market however, where employers may not find exactly what they are looking for so easily, is relevant industry experience as important or do employers look further down a candidate’s CV?

While it’s still true of course that with two identical candidates in front of an employer, the one with previous experience of a similar role in finance in the same industry sector would most likely receive an offer first, transferable skills now play a major role in securing a new position. Aside from the power shifting to candidates, the current Generation Z workforce is also much more likely than previous demographic groups to move sectors during their professional careers, meaning transferable skills are certainly more important to them.

The attributes that employers will look for beyond relevant industry experience can be grouped into two sets of skills: soft and technical. Soft skills that hiring managers value include:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Excellent communication
  • A positive, engaging attitude
  • A bright display of confidence and intelligence

Technical experience that can be gained in a number of sectors might include:

  • I.T. and technology focused experience
  • Management experience
  • Analytical ability
  • Proven problem solving skills
  • Commercial acumen
  • Established networks

While someone with previous experience in a sector may be able to hit the ground running and transition more smoothly, understanding the role of finance to that industry already, there is also an argument that welcoming someone from outside the industry has different advantages. New ideas and innovative methods from another sector could have a longer-term impact than someone swapping like for like. A candidate facing a new challenge, changing industries, is often keener to make an impression and develop their skills in a new direction.

As a candidate looking to move to a finance role in a different sector, it’s vital that you tailor your CV to show how your strengths would translate into another industry. And as an employer, it’s worth looking beyond the experience section of a CV to uncover talented individuals who can make a difference.