The one where it’s in the family

I am currently job hunting. I have made no secret of it and although I have chosen not to discuss the blow-by-blow activities of my job hunt here there is something that I would like to share and get some views on.

I understand and am quite comfortable with the idea that some jobs in some industries are very specific. I understand that in order to be a surgeon, a bricklayer, a commodities broker, a lawyer or a book editor that I will need very specific skills that are also very specific to that role and industry. However, I work in learning and development.

Whilst my roles have included elements of industry specific development it’s been my stakeholders that have given me that specific knowledge and my expertise has been in how to transfer that and in the delivery of the ensuring programme. Likewise developing managers and leaders always has some context but the general skills and abilities one would require to deliver that work are very transportable (in my opinion and that of others) and again I can ask the correct questions of the correct people to understand and embed the context into the work.

Therefore I am surprised when on a regular basis I am told that I am not worthy of consideration for a role (my words not theirs) because I don’t have for example ‘financial services’ background. Having reflected on this at length (there’s plenty of reflection time at the moment) there’s a few reason that come to mind but this is just my starter for 10:

  1. The world is being an insecure teenager at the moment so managing it’s insecurities by making industry background a prerequisite
  2. ‘No one gets fired for buying IBM’ – is it individuals playing safe on hiring ‘people like us’ to make sure they are not exposed in the organisation?
  3. Some industries, even in transportable roles such as mine, are just very different, very complex and need specialists?
  4. The individual manager doesn’t want to have to invest the time getting an individual up to speed on context?

That list is by no means exhaustive and I would love to know your thoughts on them and any other reasons you can think of…

One final thought, given the events of the past few years is it just me that thinks that some industries could do with actively seeking talent from outside their own sphere in order to gain objectivity and challenge from people who weren’t inside their respective bubble when it burst? No? Just me????

I was going to try and work in the analogy of people who intermarry and therefore reduce the diversity of the gene pool with a ha ha reference to the British Royal Family but it didn’t seem to fit anywhere but think about it for a second 😉




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12 responses to “The one where it’s in the family

  1. Rob

    I come across this all the time in every industry. It’s one of my pet frustrations with the recruitment industry.

    I came to the conclusion that it was all down to lazy recruiters. They’ve probably received applications from 100 people who meet the most basic criteria and somehow need to get that down to 5 or 6. It’s an easy excuse isn’t it?

    My other pet hate is ‘lack of experience’ – I wrote about that on my blog here:

    Good luck

  2. I agree with the comment from Rob. But having said that, when Royal Mail receive 11,000 applications for 6,000 roles, it’s easy to understand why it happens.

    As an L&Der I’m thinking these recruiters need better education on what they’re understanding of someone in this role is capable of doing. But let’s assume they are educated as such. Then I think it comes down to a numbers game. Why go for the maverick when they can hire good old trusty?

  3. Great post Rob 🙂 totally agree with this, spot on with the limited gene pool analogy and the royal family ‘we’re related, we should marry and celebrate by spawning young with lower than average IQs’ approach to genetics.

    I’m also job hunting at the moment, and facing related issues, I’m tainted apparently? I met someone by chance from a large, rather well known PR agency who explained to me my taint (I’ll leave this fellow and his agency nameless, for now, but once I prove him wrong.then the gloves are off). He made it abundantly clear that certainly the employer he worked for (and many of the other ones he knew) would never hire anyone from a local government background…which is nice.

    You thought about going solo Rob? Working as a consultant or you looking for inhouse again?

  4. Unimaginative but busy people like to put candidates into boxes and sector experience is an easy box. Determining that certain boxes need to be filled is a way of screening people out and hence coping with a tsunami of applications. In my opinion it is also very short-sighted, as competitive advantage comes from not being the same as everyone else. I think the economy has a bit to do with current cautious attitudes. I got down to the final two for a great role this spring, but, despite the fact that the EMEA CEO really liked me and thought I would bring a fresh pair of eyes to the business, the role was offered to the other candidate who happened to work for their main competitor because “in these troubled times it is easier to justify a safe hire to Head Office in The States”. To finish with a cliché, great organisations and great recruiters need to “think outside the box” so that they will stand out as being exceptional and highly successful in the future.

  5. David Dumeresque

    As a “recruiter” I see the problem is twofold. Firstly, there is stil a surplus of good quality candidates and so the east default position for the lazy recruiter – and yes there are a lot of them – is to fall back on the “sector experience” excuse. Secondly, however, and more worryingly, clients are in “box ticking” mode and are scared of making that “brave move” in case it goes wrong and then their peers are able to say that it was always bound to go wrong! Sadly, in the current economic climate I am seeing all to few clients prepared to make the bold decision preferring to play safe in the hope that this will help them to keep their jobs! Let’s hope people start to grow some **** next year

  6. I think there’s a high degree of human nature at play in the reactions described. I’m not endorsing them or saying they are rational but they do exist – perhaps there’s your Royal Family intermarriage gag!

    Chip & Dan Heath referenced the following in their book “Switch” :
    What this shows is that shocking as it might be, when presented with more options people don’t make better decisions. They just revert to what they perceive to be a safe baseline even though that might not be the best solution.

    There is an element of affinity at play too I think. In Financial Services there’s often an expectation that you need to understand how the products & markets function, the regulatory environment etc… fundamentally the behaviours at play. There’s some merit in this but not enough for many positions. I think L&D is a classic example…

    This post also reminded me of Carol Braddick’s coaching survey (link below). This shows that in Executive Coaching, recommendation, referral and business experience were all more important in the buying decision than Coaching qualification, Accreditation or professional membership.

    This could reflect many things but I think it might reinforce the view that people don’t necessarily make the best decisions. Just the decisions that they are most comfy with.

  7. I think you need to put a link to your CV and your email address on this great post.

  8. Soosie

    You seem to have come against what most of us jobseekers see all the time.
    I often look at job specifications on recruitment sites and think ‘Oh just the ticket I can tick all boxes there’. I apply and often get turned down by the agency. Of those that put my CV forward it’s then the turn of the company to turn me down because I don’t come from their sector.
    I’ve had several years experience of managing teams and now I’m in the position that I don’t seem to fit anywhere. Although from a Financial Services IT Service Desk, my IT skills fell behind due to the need to actually manage the people I was responsible for. Plus the IT was most bespoke. Financial companies turn me down due to lack of front line banking experience, a charity turned me down as I have no sales experience. Well their loss…do they want high performing teams or not???
    On to recruiters… I applied for a job that I felt my experience and CV fitted. Within 3 minutes of sending the email I had a reply to say I wasn’t selected. Sorry but that’s not even enough time to read my CV!!
    I then called the agency on the pretext of finding out where the company was based and try to extrct the company name so I could by pass them (wrong I know, but you have to do what you have to do….) The consultant asked about my experience and skills and said I was just what she was looking for and could I send my CV… Then I told her I already had, she was speechless.. I was incandescent by this stage and told her what to do with my CV and the vacancy.. needless to say I took the agency off my list of search sites.

  9. Very interesting posts….As a highly experienced and qualified Social Entrepreneur, what we are witnessing is a major Transformation – individually and in the world. I believe many highly experienced and qualified people, have been comfortable in employment and an element of them have become insecure in their own abilities to be creative in earning a living. With so much unemployment especially amongst young people, where are the creative thinkers to help create solutions? I have been doing this work for over 21 years, alongside my ‘job’ in preparation for the day I would feel stifled. Luckily, for me, I was made a ‘scapegoat’ and fought back, to clear my name. I know I have created something for many people to feel part of and to help them with their transition, how do we find people who are ready to step into the space of limitless? Qualifications are only of any use, if you are in a ‘job’. When you are not, there are different qualifications, called ‘survival kit’

  10. There is a good argument to look outside of the industry for some roles where appropriate and generally where there is a serious skills shortage. Having said that it is understandable that if there are an adequate number of applicants with Industry knowledge and experience then they will generally take preference.

  11. Pingback: HR Careers and Recruitment Blog Summary

  12. Sarah Durbs

    I had one interview in the financial services sector during my recent job search. I was told that previous FS experience would be advantageous but that given I had worked for a “global matrix/complex org” for many years, that would help. During the interview we did discuss whether sector experience was vital and I didn’t get the feeling it was sector experience they really wanted. In fact, I was left wondering whether it was more that they wanted someone who had experienced the same culture – someone compatible! I didn’t get the job…but as you know, I did get one that I really like. And, I had no previous experience in the sector! In fact, I think that that helped 🙂

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