Should we still be focusing on sector experience?

by Aisling Reid

Let me paint you a picture.... CV’s that look good on paper are what we strive towards, they are the holy grail of recruitment; that perfect shiny shortlist you dreamt of has come together perfectly.

 

There is a left field candidate you weren’t quite sure about but you sent them anyway to ‘rule in’ (or make the others look better). There is an absolute gem in amongst the shortlist that is a dead cert to get the job but surprisingly the left field candidate has pulled it out of the bag, to everyone’s surprise! You pat yourself on the back for ruling in, you have no idea how this happened and bask in the glory of your godliness, until the next deal comes in that is.

I hear the skeptic's cogs already turning at this title ‘of course sector experience is relevant, that’s what my clients want to see.’ In some cases it is the only factor they consider! What about when you can’t find that perfect candidate? Do you give up? Walk away? Or flex the job spec?

You flex the job spec of course!

Agreed, we have all seen a candidate given the job on the grounds of personality before. In these cases skill set and sector experience are secondary to the fact that, that particular candidate was a perfect personality fit for the business. Richard Branson recently wrote in an article telling us all to recruit on personality. ‘Most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality, you can learn most jobs extremely quickly once you are thrown in the deep end.’ However you can argue this can be a risk for a lot of companies that aren’t as large are Virgin but there is definitely something to be learnt here.

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"Most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality, you can learn most jobs extremely quickly once you are thrown in the deep end."

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Within health and safety I believe the focus is too heavily in favour of sector experience; the active pool of candidates is getting smaller and the expectation to deliver is substantially greater. Candidates that work in health and safety have the same base core qualifications but what has shaped their experience is the risk profile of the businesses they have worked in. While specialists are sometimes required, adaptability should not be underestimated.

9 hours a day, 5 days a week I speak to health and safety professionals who work in the manufacturing arena. I come across a common frustration from candidates who are more than willing to work hard and learn but they are not given the chance to showcase this.

Yes there is no doubt sector experience will give you the edge but it is not the be all and end all when it comes to guaranteeing yourself a new role. We need to look at the wider reasons people are successful at interview and drive this into our process.

From the minute we take on a role we need to make sure we are informing our clients on relevant market knowledge and get them to see the value we add in interviewing candidates before we have sent them across in our chosen shortlist. At the end of the day we are a consultancy, our job is to consult with our clients on what is the most beneficial way of moving forward.

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"At the end of the day we are a consultancy, our job is to consult with our clients on what is the most beneficial way of moving forward."

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We competency interview our candidates prior to submittal to any job, part of this is understanding what makes them tick. As a recruitment partner one solution we can provide to our clients is psychometric profiling to test individuals' mental capabilities and behavioural style. If someone ticks these boxes for your clients company, are adaptable to new environments and they are willing to learn, can’t this type of diversity add immense value to your business?

So yes, sector experience is important; we work in niche markets for a reason; to drive our professional intelligence. However, personality should be seen as an equal driver and one we see as equal. Our next task is getting people to stop paying lip service to that emphasis on personality fit and get them to rule in along side us!

 

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