Hire Talent and Expertise, Teach Industry

If you peruse job sites and postings what you will find is that almost every non-entry level position requires previous experience in the industry where the hiring company falls. The thinking goes that if the hiring organization doesn’t have to dedicate extensive training to the industry they will both speed the onboarding transition and save money in the process. The truth is they are likely correct in their assumption. Although each company has unique operational protocol not having to introduce new jargon, technical information or new product categories does allow for a more efficient training process. In addition, if you are able to find a productive individual with expertise in their new role (defined as one with 10,000 hours of job related experience) then all the better.

It is quite shortsighted however, to make this hiring decision — especially for a key position in your firm — without expanding your search to folks outside your industry with job function related expertise. You see, different industries tend to do well at cultivating careers for certain types of roles. For this argument let’s assume the available position is a management role. You can make the educated assumption that most industry specific candidates will have started their career in an entry level role in the same industry. For example, accounting professionals who end up managing accountants possess the ability to analyze situations from a data standpoint and make optimal decisions while generally limiting risk but are not great communicators. Legal professionals tend to be good negotiators but have trouble staying organized. Construction professionals are good at delegating tasks and multitasking but may lack bedside manner. The trend here is that the managers and the individual contributors tend to have similar strengths and weaknesses.

If you look at this debate from the job function perspective however, you can beg the question what if you can find a candidate who strengthen the areas in which the team is weak. Let’s use an example of an available position at a legal firm and the candidate is former sales executive from the financial services industry who has spent several years managing employees in various capacities at multiple firms with a track record of success. Should this individual be disqualified from consideration for not having spent three years as a paralegal? What exactly does operational management have to do with legal services anyway?

The truth is that this candidate could even be more qualified for the role. You might be asking how that is possible. The experience managing multiple teams in different industries can bring you a fresh perspective and challenge the status quo. While this individual is getting up to speed on the industry (which will undoubtedly take time) they will be adding net present value with the expertise they bring to the table and their ability to improve the operational success of the company from day one on the job.