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A plea to open our eyes and minds to the potential of candidates from outside our commercial comfort zone.

08 April 2015

A plea to open our eyes and minds to the potential of candidates from outside our commercial comfort zone.

There has been a trend amongst employers for a while now to only recruit people from their own industry and only with the same commercial cultural background. This is often justified by describing it as looking for the perfect employee. The perfect “fit”. The person least likely to rock the boat of to make the hiring manager feel challenged? Surely not!

Every time a company takes someone on they are taking a chance. Accept, for a moment, that “transferrable skills” went out with Margret Thatcher and these days are often cited by candidates who have allowed themselves to be sucked into spending too long in the same narrow (comfortable) job and now need to look for something new without the corresponding drop in income. That doesn’t automatically mean that employers should disregard someone coming at them from another industry or background.

More often than not, companies will hire who they want, rather than who they need. They want those who will fall in line, do what they say, not question authority, and conform to the established culture. Ideally, hiring managers would ask themselves, "Is this person an independent, critical thinker?", "Will she question me when I might be wrong?". "Will he make me look bad in front of my boss?" Far too often people will employ individuals who will be least challenging and most likely to become reasonably efficient in as short a time as possible while, at the same time, not exposing too many of their own limitations.

We all tend to connect better with (at least, at first) people who have similar backgrounds. That’s why, ultimately, given the choice between two individuals who are pretty close in terms of suitability, we all plump for the one we like best. Why wouldn’t we? We trust our own judgement, don’t we? It's safer too. We don't have to leave our comfort zone.

All too often we hear clients tell us that their “company is different”. That not just anyone will be suitable because the products or services produced are unique. News time! - Your company's technology/service isn't rocket science. In fact, shockingly more people than you imagine will “get it”. Try to convince a candidate at interview that you have something that is truly unique and off the wall and they will likely run a mile. Particularly if they see it as the “Emperor’s new clothes”. The truth is we are often blinded by what we know. Bringing people from outside your circle can create a wealth of ideas and perspectives can be mind-blowing. They can see things that may never have occurred to you but which to them are just common sense. They will most likely have new and interesting experiences that can be applied to your company.

So, put simply here is a plea to consider that the right person for the job, not necessarily the 'person who's like everyone else'. You may need to be a bit flexible in your approach to their first few months and cut them some slack but the rewards could be massive. OK, you might make a mistake sometimes – but be honest, you do that now anyway!