Is Direct or Transferable Experience Best?

Is Direct or Transferable Experience Best?

Don't exclude potential applicants by ignoring transferable skills.

By Marcia Smith

Most employers recognize the benefit of inviting job applications from people who have transferable skills, not just specific work experience. However, the relative importance of transferable skills versus experience is something that will vary depending on the nature and complexity of job, and on the specific needs of the business.

The benefit of direct experience

By requiring direct, relevant experience, you may increase your chances of getting a new employee who can be productive from day one. This is obviously particularly helpful if the job involves certain technical skills that take a long time to teach, you’re specifically targeting the employees of a direct competitor, or you feel that direct experience has a high value for this particular role.

This approach can also speed up the filtering of applications, and by minimizing the amount of training or tuition you will need to offer to the new employee, you can save money on the overall recruitment process.

Expand your talent pool

However, by focusing on direct experience you risk reducing the pool of potential applicants. You may also be inadvertently favouring less motivated people who are happy to keep doing the same job, rather than highly motivated and ambitious staff looking to learn new skills. It may also be that the salary demanded is higher for those with a specific skillset than those with generalized ability willing to learn on the job or through training.

By considering those with transferable skills, you can significantly expand the number of applicants. Although this can make recruitment more time consuming and costly, it will give you a much broader choice, and so it could be more cost effective in the long run. It also allows you to focus on more general skills, such as organisation, teamwork and communication, which might be just as important for the role but are much less teachable than specific, technical skills.