How to Hire Someone with Transferable Skills

Thanks to the increasing shortage of knowledge workers, our staffing agency recently helped an organization–let’s call it XYZ–find a great candidate whose entire career had been spent in a different industry. During the recruiting and hiring process, XYZ’s hiring team felt uncertain that someone with transferable skills could actually do the job, and if so, what was a fair wage to pay considering the risks. Understandably, they found it difficult to compare apples to oranges.

Well, Lou Adler, long-time dispenser of hiring wisdom, understands employers’ pain. Based on the premise of using a performance-based job description rather than a list of skills and talents, Adler has developed what he calls the 6S translational process for gathering the information you need from your candidates in order to compare their accomplishments with your performance objectives. His commonsense process uses 6 categories, all beginning with the letter S (I’m impressed by his alliterative genius!):

  • Scope–looking at the candidate’s previous team size, budget, complexity, revenue, and more for sheer size comparison.
  • Staff–comparing the candidate’s previous roles, reporting relationships, peers, managers, and so on, with what exists at your company.
  • Systems–comparing the IT systems and process the candidate used and/or improved with what your company will require the candidate to use.
  • Sophistication–learning to what degree the previous company used reporting, information, and management systems to make decisions to compare it with the level at which your company runs.
  • Structure–determining the lines of authority the candidate was used to operating with, and comparing those with your company’s structure.
  • Speed–finding out at what pace the previous company operated to see whether the candidate can succeed in your organization

If the skills gap has you in a dilemma and you’re now one of the many companies considering hiring someone with transferable skills, Adler’s 6S process is a helpful tool. When you hire based on performance objectives rather than just skills and experience, you may be pleasantly surprised at how many transferable candidates are actually qualified for your open position!

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