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Ask James Caan – Issue 80

Written by Kimberley Startup | January 25, 2012 | 0 Comments

Ask James Caan webrecruit
Transferrable skills: everyone has an opinion on their value in the recruitment process. And especially in such a volatile market where unemployment levels keep rising, the benefit of them – especially in the hiring process – is becoming a much-debated subject.

Take Amanda for example. She tells me for the last 12 months she had been working for an Outplacement Support provider as its Director of Employment Support.

She has been out of work since December and whilst she appears to have had no issue finding opportunities and securing interviews, she is unable to clinch the deal and is losing out to others who possess experience specific to the industry.

The good news, Amanda, is that the employers who have invited you to second interviews are obviously seeing the value of your skills; however for some reason the opportunity to take on someone with a specific skill set is proving hard to resist.

So why have transferrable skills been usurped in place of specific industry experience? And why has there been a shift in attitudes towards them?

I posed the question to a few employers within my portfolio of companies. The general consensus was that in the present market, many businesses feel that the cost of training someone who is missing out of industry experience can put pressure on existing resources.

Having interviewed and recruited hundreds of people myself – as a recruiter and business owner – I can see both sides of the argument.

It’s tough out there, businesses are constantly reviewing their processes with the aim of streamlining their systems – some of them, whilst they are able to take on a few extra staff – can’t afford the downtime of training. They have a need, a specific requirement, that needs someone to be able to hit the ground running – so chances are, they’ll favour the candidate who can fill the need quickly.

On the other side, you’ve got candidates who display fantastic transferrable skills and proven employment records. Throw anything at them and they’ll be able to pick it up straight away. A few years ago employers would have snapped them up, but now they’re not being considered.

It’s a difficult situation to be in, Amanda. As someone with a background in employment services, you have demonstrated that you are able to source opportunities, use every tool available to you and know how to perform in first-round interviews. So how do you impress at the next stage?

I’ve mentioned it before; it’s about finding a need and filling it. What steps do you take to ensure you are fully prepared for interviews that you don’t have the relevant background?

Using recruitment as an example, I’d start by teasing out what requirements are needed, and looking at how you can use your existing skills to your advantage.

Recruitment consultants need to be tenacious, great relationship builders and hungry. Your background in employment services will no doubt put you in a great position to work with candidates, but which of your skills can you leverage to demonstrate the target-based aspect of the role?

One way to find out more is to request a 5-minute call with the interviewer a week before hand. Get to the basics of the role, tease out the essential requirements and work out how to align your skills to the need of the employer.

Investing this extra energy may seem hard work, but it’s an employers’ market at present. Show them a way to see your long-term value and hopefully you’ll start to uncover new angles and ways to market yourself.

I wish you the best of luck,


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