Industry experience — Is it necessary?

Salt’s APAC CEO Jacqui Barratt shares her thoughts on whether industry experience is necessary.

I first wrote about this in 2017 but felt compelled to bring this topic to the table again. As a recruiter, CEO and business owner this is a question I have often posed to myself and clients alike.

Many times in my career, clients have been adamant that ideal candidates must come with industry experience. Some will quote a quicker return on investment or the fact that they will understand customers better, the unique aspects of the industry or the networks, etc. These are all sound reasons.

However, I wonder whether it is time to challenge our thought process. At a time when we know every industry is undergoing change, fresh thinking and different experiences can accelerate our learning and our change programme.

Every industry is being “disrupted”, so why would you not consider hiring someone who has perhaps faced similar change and survived? Fresh thinking requires someone to have been exposed to different experiences often in dissimilar environments. Whilst your new team member will go through a learning curve about your industry, this is the easy part as you already have a wealth of industry experience surrounding that person.

Thus, perhaps it is more important when recruiting your next team member to consider the transferable skills and one of my personal favourites, learning agility. The ability to pick up new concepts and tasks, so you can feel more comfortable that they can learn, adapt and transition into your environment and more importantly keep learning so the business grows further. To help you do this, it might pay to check who is involved in your recruitment; if everyone comes from the same background — chances are group think prevails, and innovation and change will be harder to come by.

Now please don’t get me wrong, I am not discounting the value of industry experience. However, I am suggesting we challenge ourselves to go beyond that, question ourselves whether industry experience is really necessary or is it just easy?

 


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