Is sector experience really essential?

With economic uncertainty still at large, many organisations are reluctant to take risks when it comes to their hiring decisions. With tight budgets and a general nervousness around talent acquisition, companies are displaying increased caution with regard to who they take on.
With many marketing jobs, there’s an increasing trend of companies only wishing to recruit from within their own industry sector. In general, marketing departments have taken quite a hit in the recent downturn and now, as some stability starts to creep back, feel under pressure to boost their marketing resource quickly, but carefully.
Here we discuss why employers value sector experience so highly and why it’s a must-have for many hiring managers. We also ask whether this dependence and preoccupation with sector experience can sometimes result in missed opportunities.

Why is sector experience so desirable?

In many instances, candidates are rejected on the basis that they don’t have enough specific sector experience. With the general anxiety around hiring, organisations are looking for skilled individuals who can add immediate value and deliver ROI on their marketing ventures. 
Whatever industry you work in, your potential employer will want to be sure that you understand their client and customer groups and will therefore view sector experience as a good sign that you’re in tune with these needs.  Particularly within financial services, telecoms, professional services, retail and FMCG industries, employers are keen for new hires to hit the ground running. Typically, it will take candidates with relevant sector experience less time to get up to speed in the role.
Often, with many skilled candidates all vying for the same job, employers have the luxury of picking from a wealth of talent to find just the right combination of skills and experience they’re looking for. If a marketing professional has delivered impressive results in a certain sector, there will be confidence from the employer that they can replicate this success again within the same/similar area of industry.

Problems with playing it safe

By playing it safe and only recruiting within their sector, some organisations could be hampering the development, inspiration and opportunities within their marketing division. Fear of the ‘outsider’ could prove a mistake and mean that employers are losing out on highly motivated, skilled and valuable talent.
Cross-sector recruiting can bring with it fresh perspectives and innovation, helping marketing teams to grow in their knowledge, expertise and outlook. By remaining risk averse in their hiring strategy and attempting to employ failure-proof candidates, they may be stifling their own creative pool and restricting the scope of skills.
In addition, candidates can be left feeling frustrated at their inability to shift into new roles and diversify their experience. Candidates can begin to feel restricted and pigeon-holed by their previous experience.

The benefits of looking outside your sector

Particularly in the marketing discipline, new ideas and fresh perspectives are of great value and importance. Candidates with other sector experience can often inject a well-needed boost of creativity and offer a new way of thinking about a marketing strategy. In addition, they may be more malleable and flexible in their approach. Employers can often train and shape these candidates so they best fit the needs of the business, rather than the candidate arriving already set in their ways.
It could be argued that, in a difficult economic climate, businesses need to innovate, grow and adapt in order to survive – rather than simply sticking to what they know. To truly harness the skills of talented marketing professionals and encourage real development, do employers need to be more open-minded? By adopting a less blinkered approach to sector experience, companies may find that an industry outsider can actually be a breath of fresh air.
To discover how our experience can add value to your marketing recruitment, please get in touch with your local Michael Page Marketing office. Alternatively, you could browse all of the marketing jobs we’re currently handling now.