Whenever I take a job spec from a client I always ask the question, “would you consider someone from outside your industry, with no sector knowledge?”
Unsurprisingly, the majority of the time my clients are seeking someone from within their industry, ideally with knowledge of the products, the market and potential customers and invariably the reason given is that they can “hit the ground running”
But is this necessarily the best answer?
Interestingly when you look at the appointment of CEOs in large blue-chip companies the successful candidate often comes from outside the industry with little or no sector knowledge but with proven leadership skills, the main prerequisite for the role. They will then spend their first few months acclimatising to the new industry, observing and learning before taking putting together their own management team and taking control of the business.
So why is it that, if this works at the top of a company, it isn’t applied when recruiting sales people?
It is perfectly logical to think that by hiring the candidate with industry knowledge they will automatically make a fast start, they will need less training, the induction process will be easier and they will be making you money sooner. But, by making the obvious choice you are losing the opportunity to recruit some excellent candidates, high calibre sales people who, with no preconceived ideas of what is right for the industry, can bring a fresh perspective to your sales team boosting sales in ways you could not have imagined.
It is much easier and cheaper to teach someone about a new product range than it is to train them on sales skills so rather than making the obvious hire, why not broaden the search and and make your number one requirement “A proven sales record” …in any industry
As the economy continues to grow it is going to become increasingly difficult to find skilled people from within specific industries. Setting very specific recruitment criteria and not broadening your search can make for a painful, long-winded recruitment process.
By broadening the search, widening the net, and recruiting on the basis of abilities and attitudes rather than industry experience, you are allowing yourself a much wider pool of candidates who are the “right candidate” which inevitably will lead to better hiring decisions in a shorter time. Good for business?