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How to assess candidates with transferable skills, but no industry experience

Employers by and large concur: When it comes to hiring, an ideal candidate is one with experience. However, there’s something else business owners also agree upon – experience isn’t everything, especially when job candidates bring other desirable qualities to the table.

According to findings from the 2018 MRINetwork Performance Management Study, close to 80 percent of employer respondents either somewhat agree or strongly agreed with the statement that they’re more likely to extend job offers to people with transferable skills, but who lack industry experience due to increased difficulty finding qualified talent.

Interestingly, however, candidates aren’t always aware of employers’ flexibility. Just 50 percent of respondents somewhat or strongly agreed that companies seriously consider applicants with tangible skills, but who lack industry experience.

This is a key finding for employers to recognize, one that they may consider factoring into how they advertise job openings, so candidates are fully aware.

That being said, candidates don’t always mention transferable skills on resumes or in interviews. Thus, businesses must endeavor to identify them during the hiring process.

Here are a few tips that can help you assess inexperienced job candidates whose marketable skills could make them the ideal people to fill open positions:

Look for signs of enthusiasm

Enthusiastic employees are engaged employees. When workers are excited about the job functions they serve, they’re more likely to perform well because they’re eager to learn, improve and achieve results. Try to spot evidence of potential workers’ passion for previous work, as well as for the job to which they’re applying. This may be found in their resumes, such as if they were ever “Employee of the Month,” but also in the interview itself.

Consider prescreening

The interview is only a small moment in time that provides a snapshot of what candidates are like and can offer. It can be difficult to identify all their transferable skills inside of 30 to 60 minutes. You may want to pre-screen them so you have an idea of what they’re like before they arrive.  Social media can provide a sneak peek into their backstory. In a recent poll conducted by CareerBuilder, nearly 60 percent of employers who acknowledged using social networking for researching job candidates did so to better identify their qualifications.

Fifty percent said they also used Twitter and Facebook to get a sense of their level of professionalism.

Seek manifestations of potential

Hiring solely based on experience can be tricky because it’s not necessarily indicative of how well applicants will perform in the short-term, or the long-term. They may lack the temperament or desire to take their talents to new heights.

The ideal is a combination of both, noted Johansson Consulting CEO Anna Johansson. Writing in the Huffington Post, Johansson stated that potential is particularly worthwhile, because it’s more inclusive and broadens the pool of prospective hires. It also makes the hiring process in general less taxing.

“It’s a lot easier to find and hire a candidate who has potential than to track down someone who has years of experience and is available for hiring,” Johansson wrote. “A business is also much less likely to overrate potential than experience … which has become a problem over the years.”

How do you spot it? Experts say potential is manifested through indications of enthusiasm, such as curiosity, inquisitiveness, determination, insight and emotional intelligence. Asking probing questions can draw these qualities out.

No candidate is perfect, nor is any particular hiring method. However, being more open-minded and evaluating applicants beyond credentials and specific industry experience, can help employers hone in on the right person whose transferable skills can have a huge impact within the company.