Why hiring managers should think outside the box when recruiting

The phrase ‘thinking outside the box’ is a metaphor which originated with management consultants in the 1980s. It essentially means to approach things from a different perspective. Before moving into recruitment Joshua Bennetto, Senior Consultant at Michael Page Marketing worked for a management consultancy business and believes that the world of recruitment could learn a little something from his former profession.
I use a fair bit of ‘consultancy’ terminology and my colleagues give me stick for it all the time. For the most part that language isn’t going to be adopted here. However the phrase ‘thinking outside the box’ is something different. It’s been widely accepted and is used in all walks of life, and in my view it should be used far more frequently within the world of recruitment. There is a lot to be said for approaching things from a different perspective in this industry.
Generally speaking, employers will prioritise candidates that come from within the industry they operate in. Often a hiring manager is looking for a specific industry background or a level of knowledge that only candidates from the relevant sector would possess.  This approach has its obvious merits; there are many circumstances where prioritising specific sector knowledge makes perfect sense for an employer. But my question is this: why shouldn’t employers think outside the box? Why shouldn’t an employer focus on a candidate’s skill set as opposed to their sector background? 
I meet hundreds of candidates every year and I’d feel confident that the best people, those who possess excellent transferrable skills, could walk into most roles irrespective of industry and perform well. Unfortunately these exceptional individuals are all too often overlooked because on paper they do not tick specific boxes when it comes to industry background.
Employers who are open minded about the sectors from which they review candidates have enjoyed huge benefits, often securing supremely talented individuals who would have been out of reach had they stuck to industry lines. We have seen former military personnel become successful bid managers, FMCG communications directors shake up big banks and agency side marketing candidates helping legal firms to win digital marketing awards. The talent pool in the UK is rich and diverse; hiring managers need to consider this when the approach the market. 
The positives of thinking outside the box and focussing on a candidate’s skill set over background are as follows:
  • A larger pool of candidates – This is particularly relevant if you are recruiting a niche role. While a candidate may not have the right industry background they may well have the right skills to take on the role. If so, they may well be able to learn quickly about the industry once in the role.
  • Quicker recruitment process – We’ve seen employers spend months and months recruiting a single role. When a brief is very specific it can take time to find an individual to fit, resulting in a huge loss of time and opportunity. It may have been easier to widen the brief at the start of the process.
  • A varied workforce – The most successful businesses are those that innovate. Bringing in a diverse range of people from different professional backgrounds will bring new ideas into your business. Most often those highly innovative businesses are the ones who focused on skill set rather than background when building teams.
  • Personality fit – This is becoming increasingly important for all of our clients. Ever met the perfect candidate on paper but been disappointed in person? This happens the other way round as well. It is eminently worth meeting people who may not tick every box on paper; they may surprise you in person.
  • Improved employer brand – You don’t want to be known as an employer who hires the same type of people again and again. It’s well known that employees thrive within a diverse workforce where productivity increases.
While employers will mostly prioritise candidates with a certain industry background I strongly believe that thinking outside of that box and focussing on skill set is a highly effective approach to recruitment. If you come across a candidate with the right skills but wrong background and you are not sure, then why not hold a ten minute telephone interview? You never know, you might just find yourself talking with the best candidate on the market.
For a confidential discussion about recruitment options in the marketing space contact Joshua Bennetto, Senior Consultant at Michael Page Marketing.
Joshua Bennetto
T: 020 7269 2323