Five Reasons To Hire Someone With No 'Industry Experience'
by Liz Ryan
I don't want to say that hiring managers are too lazy to train people, and that's why they insist on hiring candidates with "industry experience."
Maybe it's nicer to say that rather than being lazy, they are afraid.
They are afraid to hire someone who doesn't already know the industry jargon, even though any reasonably intelligent person could pick up your industry's buzzwords within a few months.
I worked for a greeting card company in my first HR job. Then I moved to a technology company. I didn't know diddly about technology. I had no idea what my co-workers were talking about.
I figured there was no benefit to me or anyone else in trying to hide my ignorance. They knew I was an opera singer when they hired me!
I started asking questions.
I asked questions at every meeting and in almost every conversation, not just for the first few months on the job but for years.
I wrote a glossary of terms for new employees so the jargon wouldn't throw them, and organized training sessions so our non-tech employees could learn what our business was all about.
Would I have done those things if I hadn't spent the first few months on the job drinking from a fire hose myself?
I learned that being an outsider is a huge advantage. As an outsider you can ask questions an industry veteran would be embarrassed to ask. You can be the kid pointing out the emperor's lack of clothing when you haven't been taught to keep your mouth shut!
It is easy for a department manager to write a job spec full of Essential Requirements only an industry veteran would possess — but it's bad for your business to do so.
You don't get breakthrough ideas from people who have been trudging along the same neural pathways for years.
You get big new ideas from people who are totally new to your field.
See what has changed in today’s workplace & what it will take to recruit and retain employable talent.
Bill Bryson's brilliant book A Short History of Nearly Everything makes this point in dramatic fashion.
I didn't realize before reading that book how many monumental scientific discoveries came from newbies and outsiders. Thank goodness for fresh perspectives!
Here are five good reasons to hire people with no experience in your industry:
1. People fall into mental ruts. We all do it. Someone who has performed an identical job in a different company is not going to question or reconsider processes, decisions, methods or strategies as easily as an outsider will. The best question an employee can ask is "Why do we do things this way?" because the question invites a conversation that desperately needs to happen. Will you get that level of inquiry from someone whose professional self-esteem and ego reside in the notion that they already know how things are "supposed to work?"
2. When we are forced by circumstance to learn a new industry, we apply what we've learned in other industries — and the results can be earth-shaking. Industry newbies aren't constrained by Best Practices handed down to them like gospel. They get to look at your problems from a new angle, and see new opportunities and solutions.
3. People who have performed the same or similar jobs over and over may become calcified in their traditional methods. Cookie Cutter Candidates are the worst folks to hire if you want someone to rethink or re-imagine a function. They will tell you right at the interview how they will do the job. They aren't interested in learning what's different about your company. They have their standard process and they're sticking to it!
4. When you hire someone who lacks industry experience, it challenges you as a manager. You get to see your new hire encountering your world, and that is an instructive thing to experience. You have to train your newcomer differently. You have to ask and answer questions you may not have considered for years — or ever.
5. When you hire an outsider, you get diversity of ideas — a precious thing every manager needs.
Maybe you can't or shouldn't fill every job opening with a person from outside your industry, but you can stretch yourself to expand your idea of the Perfect Candidate to include an awesome, brilliant person who has never set foot in your industry before.
You will grow in the process of welcoming your newcomer to the team. Your hiring process will be faster and easier when you drop the "industry experience" requirement.
Your interviews will be more interesting. You'll learn much more talking to people who come from hither and thither than talking to people who basically lived your life, only in different companies.
You will shake up your own thinking when you hire outside your industry — and that may be the best gift of all!