Sector experience. It's a phrase we see all too often in the "Essential" list of a job description. Even if it isn't essential, employers are likely to favour someone with experience in their sector. At You've Got This, we believe sector experience is overrated and cross-sector experience has too many benefits to ignore.
We get it, you want someone who understands your market, competitors, and product. But any capable person can do their homework before joining your company, and perhaps you could give a little fast-track introduction to your new employees.
Many of the challenges that businesses face are the same across multiple sectors. How to market your product and brand, manage finances, maintain good customer service, and manage data for example.
A cross-sector approach works well when the brief is for a technical role with strong leadership skills. For example, a marketing manager who has already transitioned from an individual contributor to a leadership role could be a perfect candidate. Despite their sector background, the balance is less focused on technical skills and more about leading other technical people.
Let's explore the benefits of cross-sector hiring and why you should consider it for your next hire.
A broader talent pool
Imagine all of the amazing talent you're instantly turning away by asking for sector experience. There could be a top sales rep with the best conversion figures in their previous company, who won't apply to your opening because they haven't worked in your sector before. Said person could have a passion for the sector you work in, but their lack of sector experience causes a barrier to entry for them.
Removing that requirement from your job description opens opportunities to find top talent from all backgrounds. It might also mean you're finding talent where your competitors aren't looking.
We've discussed diversity in the workplace before. A range of people from all walks of life brings varied knowledge, fresh ideas and promotes creativity. Building a diverse culture encourages people to share experiences and influence one another. The more sector backgrounds within your team, the more likely you are to transfer a concept that works well in one sector, to your own.
Think of the original online marketplaces, they were typically e-commerce. Now, look at how many marketplaces there are for non-eCommerce. Trust a Trader lets you find tradespeople near you. BandCamp helps you discover new music and directly support the artists who make it. It might be an obvious example, but it goes to show that you can transfer ideas from one industry and make them work for another.
Great ideas are born through diversity
Many great ideas arise from a combination of good ideas. A wider range of ideas come from people with different values and backgrounds collaborating.
David Epstein writes about a study, focusing on numerous laboratories with different team dynamics, in his book Range: Why Generalists Trump in a Specialized World. The study found that “labs which had more diverse professional backgrounds were the ones where breakthroughs were more reliably produced”.
Hosting people from different sectors, functions, cultures, ages and mindsets should inspire a more universally accepted conclusion.
Diversity also ensures that you don't accidentally offend or miss the mark. Which adverts come to mind when we say this? Probably Pepsi for many of our readers. Pepsi’s 2018 ad with Kendell Jenner was pulled after a huge backlash on social media. The images from the ad reflected those of Black Lives Matter protests. People felt that Pepsi undermined and hijacked a movement to sell their product.
These situations beg the question... How diverse was the team behind it?
Adaptability is an important aspect to measure when hiring. You might find that someone has worked in a variety of sectors and roles and performed well wherever they go. Showing adaptability not only means they are likely to transition well into the role, but also adapt to increased or varied workloads, and respond well to changes in the workplace.
We believe it's clear there is a strong case for cross-sector hiring. Prioritising skills, motivation, interest in the sector, and track record over sector experience can lead to better outcomes for both parties.
At You've Got This, we ask talent to select sectors that they'd like to work in and use this in our algorithm to show you people who have a passion for your industry. We aim to promote diversity while helping people find work that they love and diversify their career.