“Industry only experience” is not a new requirement, of course, and exceptions have always been made for talented candidates. However, in a down economy, it seems industry experience becomes a highly enforced criterion used to close the door on marketing talent.
I am not in Human Resources (HR), so I cannot tell you why it happens (I have my suspicions though). However, I have been a hiring manager and will say industry experience is something I avoid like the plague when reviewing resumes. Why? Because industry experience has absolutely NOTHING to do with the level of experience, talent, drive, problem-solving skills, enthusiasm and passion a candidate has to offer, which should always be the benchmark when hiring. A smart employee can learn any industry. It isn’t rocket science—unless you are handling marketing and PR for NASA.
[Sidebar: Please do not use the ‘regulations excuse.’ Again, a smart employee can learn regulations. An exceptional employee, however, learns them and then figures out how to stay within mandatory regulations without allowing them to chokehold company goals and objectives (Read: Growth).]
According to Executive Staffing Solutions’ latest newsletter, there is good news and bad news when it comes to filling open positions. The good news is that there are many good positions opening up for candidates. The bad news is companies are not recognizing top talent when it comes through the door.
Back to my suspicions. Hiring companies are not recognizing top talent because they have their heads in the proverbial sand when it comes to “industry experience only” being a benefit (something that promotes well-being; an advantage). It is not a benefit, it is a disadvantage that is hurting your customers, employees, and shareholders (or whoever is backing your business financially).
Customers (whether B2B or B2C) are not in need of the products and services that ‘industry experience only’ people develop. Customers ARE the industry (or market) and they have seen it all already. Unfortunately, inside-out driven product and service innovations often miss the boat when it comes to providing customers with much needed solutions because they usually never take the time to ask the market what they needed (even if that need is as simple as a new pair of jeans. The Gap has learned this lesson).
It doesn’t take industry experience to “break the code” for what customers want. It takes employees with the willingness to step back, listen, understand, and work to aggregate common customer needs (an outside-in perspective) and work towards fulfilling them. Employees with alternative industry experience are often more capable of identifying unfulfilled needs because they don’t look through the same rose-colored glasses. They are the employees that will topple the competition and secure long-term loyalty from customers for an employer. Yes, these employees buck the system, turn their backs on the status quo, and rock the boat. All of the uncomfortable things that the industry experience only mindset made comfortable.
When companies hire within the industry a certain inbred mindset develops, which leads to complacency. “This is the way we do it.” If the way you have always done it has always worked then why are companies losing market share and revenues or barely holding steady? Sure, learning new techniques, tools, and strategies from outside the industry can be scary, challenging and… make you work harder than you ever have.
Employees with the same industry experience and backgrounds stifle each other. Energy, creativity and problem-solving occurs when unique backgrounds are brought together.
According to Ranjay Gulati’s latest book, Reorganize for Resilience, “customer-driven companies were significantly more successful than shareholder-driven ones, providing a 36 percent advantage in shareholder returns, compared with their industry median; shareholder-aligned organizations provided only a 17 percent advantage.”
Who wouldn’t want those returns?
Unfortunately, any company that stays with an “industry experience only” mindset won’t be able to deliver because they have already set the precedent for the status quo. In a down economy, more of the same is not the solution. Customers have limited budgets and they are only willing to spend it with companies who fulfill their exact needs and treat them as valuable assets (versus a marketing expense).
Perhaps it is time for a new criterion. “Customer Experienced Only” need apply.
[Image Source: Joseph Paul Haines]