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Transferable Skills: Become a Hiring Naturalist


  • Naturalist Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

    As of the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics employment situation summary, there are currently around 12.8 million unemployed job seekers in the United States. Some of these job seekers have been unemployed for a long time, and the gap that is forming in their resume is probably beginning to hurt their chance to interview with your organization. The truth is that – even though we try to give everyone a fair chance – hiring managers receive hundreds of resumes in response to each posted job listing and we can’t read them all. 

    So, we skim them – and often make decisions on whether to pursue certain candidates based on where they went to school, the format of their resume or unexplained gaps in employment. Many job seekers are working to make the task of hiring managers easier by creating multimedia resumes as a way to stand out in the recruitment process. Some are even widening their search to jobs that may not fall into their particular areas of expertise, but that they can pick up quickly by applying key transferable skills that they have accumulated through their career.

    For job seekers, survival may depend on their adaptability to change. As a matter of fact, a fresh perspective from an employee with no formal training, but solid transferable skills, can drastically improve the productivity and innovation within your organization. But, the challenge then becomes how to find and hire this type of candidate, and to ensure that s/he is able to adapt to a new type of position quickly, and to make a positive impact on your bottom line.

    Here are some things that hiring managers need to ask when factoring transferable skills into the hiring process:

    Is the candidate qualified to do the job?

    As job seekers become better educated on the interview process, and on what questions they should be prepared to answer, interviewers are finding that many of their standard questions are met with rehearsed responses. As a hiring manager, it is important to ask questions that move beyond these prepared responses to learn more about the candidate through thoughtful questions that elicit passionate and unscripted answers – which will ultimately help you to uncover a potential hire’s ambition, interpretation of success and work ethic. Other skills can be taught on the job, if necessary.

    How quickly will the candidate contribute to the bottom line?

    If you are concerned that it will take some time to get a potential candidate up-to-speed, invite him to work part-time, or on a contract basis, for the first 30 days of engagement to ensure that he is willing to be pro-active, remain motivated, and quickly and seamlessly acquire the necessary skills to do the job. As an employer, once you see how quickly he can pick up the position, you may feel more confident in hiring him on full-time based on his transferable skills, alone. 

    Will the candidate get along well with others in the organization?

    The trick to seamlessly transitioning a new hire into your organization is involving your existing team in the entire hiring process. To ensure that they will be willing to help train and onboard an employee who you’ve hired based on transferable skills, make sure that the team has an opportunity to speak with the new hire and to see the great qualities and potential that you see in this person. Since their help and their buy-in is so important, involving your existing team from the start means that they will be more willing to take ownership of the new hire’s training – drastically improving your new employee’s learning curve. 

    Will the candidate stay with the company?

    Ultimately, employees are looking for jobs that take them out of their comfort zone, teach them something new, respect their existing skill set and allow them to grow professionally. By choosing an employee based on that person’s transferable skills, you are taking a risk that she will not like the job; but, there is also a strong possibility that your faith in and willingness to work with a particular person directly will help with that employee’s engagement and loyalty in the long run.

    It boils down to this: Top talent is not always the strongest, smartest or the most experienced. Sometimes, hiring managers need to look for candidates with a passion for trying something new, and with core competencies in areas that can transfer to any position. Taking a risk on this type of candidate can bring your organization new perspective and growth. If you’re lucky.

    Have you ever hired someone based on transferable skills, alone? Tell us about it here!

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