“Industry Experience Required” Is a Mindset We Need to Get Out Of

“Industry experience required. Industry experience preferred.”

When I see these type of requirements listed in a job ad, they cause my eyes to glaze over.

I have had friends call and ask, “do you think I should apply if it says this?” My response is that clicking submit only takes a few seconds.

But maybe, there is a SMART recruiter out there who will ignore that ridiculous screening requirement and will instead look for talented people from other industries.

A sign that you just don’t get the “talent thing”

In searching for talent, we all have our own view on how to evaluate. What I may see you may not see, and vice versa. And, I believe in the concept of leaving no stone unturned in the constant search for talented people.

However, when we put restrictions on who we are interested in, or will only look at someone who is or has been in a certain industry, we are showing just how we really do not get the talent thing.

Every time you allow your company to throw up that talent filter, you are saying that you are not innovative and that you simply do not want new ideas.

What data have you used to make the assumption that if you were in a certain industry you would be successful in this job? Can you prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the only people who will be successful in this role are people coming from there? If you have that metric and it works for you, so be it.

However, smart companies today should look for transferable skills and not get too concerned about the industry experience. That is so Recruiting 1.0.

Innovation comes from a new mindset

My background is publishing, media and the entertainment business. Today, my industry is military aircraft maintenance.

Now, tell me the connection between these industries. In the end, it is still HR and my skills are transferable. In fact, my successes in the U.S. were easily rolled over to the new culture.

My views on HR are probably 180 degrees different from the HR professional here in this country (Saudi Arabia). However, this company was smart enough to look outside of their industry for someone to lead the HR function, whether it was me or someone else.

This past week I came across an article at MAD [MediaPost Agency Daily], titled Agencies Need to Tap a Broader Talent Pool which was written by Will Campbell, CEO of Quantasy. His article spoke about the “seismic shift” the agency world has gone through. He went on to describe how successful firms are rethinking their approach to talent by “reimagining their positions.”

Using their non-conventional staffing model, Quantasy went outside of the industry and hired successful people who had NO previous ad agency experience — an award-winning music executive, a web entrepreneur, a screenwriter, and even a blogger, to work on their many projects.

If you are involved in HR, or for that matter are just interested in how to take your company to the “next level,” this article is a must read.

Changing the narrative of your personal brand

Talent is scarce today and it will continue getting scarcer. Just by opening up your talent requirements to various skills sets, and not just specific industry experience, expands an organization’s talent capabilities.

In a lot of cases, hiring managers are the hard liners when it comes to this outdated concept. They feel that the only ones that can do their business is someone who has already been in their business.

I worked for a lot of years in publishing, where editors had the strategic roles within. That may still be the case for some that are holding on, but the new big thing is to look past industry experience for digital professionals where ever they may be.

As a matter of fact, I often tell my former publishing colleagues to change the narrative of their personal brand from “publishing experience” and instead express a varied background with digital leading the charge and publishing coming up in the rear.

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In our role of being innovative HR practitioners, this same concept can be applied to us in our own development. Are we only reading HR bloggers and HR websites? If so, you are caught up in a loop like the old vinyl records that keep skipping and repeating the same songs over and over again.

Going beyond our own sphere

Stretch your development by reading about other professions. I found this article about Quantasy because I’m a big fan of marketing and advertising periodicals, their blogs, etc. My reading list also includes articles from Psychology Today, CFO, CEO.com, CMO.com and Advertising Age, to name just a few.

I want to stay abreast of all the thinking within the organization, not just my own profession. I want to know what all the others are doing to deal with disruption in their respective professions.

Our thinking has to go beyond our own sphere. We can’t allow our organization to get stuck in the one-industy corral.

If we want to be the captain of our organization’s human capital, we to need to move beyond a locked-in mindset. We can’t afford to focus just on our own industry, whether it is hiring or our own self-development. Read about it from a different vantage point and you just may learn something and gain some new ideas.

Hire from a different vantage point and the sunrise of innovation just may come up over your horizon.

Ron Thomas

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.