Switching industries can open the door to new opportunities, and many mid-career professionals consider it at some point, either through choice or necessity.
From a company standpoint, hiring someone from another industry can be an excellent solution to fill a key need, but from both perspectives, some careful thought and vetting should take place.
In today’s job market, I often see a need for higher skill sets. When those skill sets are in great demand, businesses might consider whether they could find a better candidate from outside their industry.
Interviewing for the right skills and knowledge.
For example, I worked with a manufacturing client who needed a controller. One of the job applicants had inventory and cost accounting experience, as well as an MBA. She had been an assistant controller and had handled a variety of functions during her progression up the ladder, and was ready to take the next step. However, she had spent most of her career in the service retail industry with a different type of product.
Another candidate had worked in the same manufacturing industry, and had a solid career there, but lacked the progression of positions, the variety of experience with different functions and the MBA.
Industry experience is not all that matters.
The company, after careful interviews, went with the candidate from outside the industry. In the end, her experience and career progression made her the better fit for the company’s needs despite the different industry background.
Key to making a good choice is to check out the candidate thoroughly. He or she might look qualified on paper, but going deeper will help you understand the nuances of the experience. This can be true with any hiring decision, but especially so when considering a candidate who has not worked in your industry before. Going deeper in the resume also can uncover a candidate with the right background and skills that you might have overlooked otherwise.
Candidates considering a transition to a different industry.
Candidates aiming to switch industries, need to identify and understand which of their skills are transferable and make sure their resume highlights them. Listing skills sets, certifications or other responsibilities that show relevancy when applying for a job in a different industry is a must.
I’ve had candidates whose previous positions may have touched many skill sets within an industry that they want to go into. Listing everything relevant to what the job requires will show employers the candidate isn’t just jumping from, say, accounting to the medical industry. The focused approach in the resume is more likely to get the candidate in the door.
Employers searching for specialized skills.
A company that is trying to cast a wider net can also be more specific in their employment ad about what they are trying to do. Do they want relevant experience? Current experience? Or do they need someone who has worked for three years in manufacturing, for example?
The right nontraditional candidate can bring different and valuable perspectives. But doing your due diligence — from both sides — will help make sure you get the best fit that allows both the company and the new employee to grow and be successful.