The fiercely competitive dynamics of today’s job market have transformed executive recruiting. For some companies, this means a longer and more expensive recruitment process as they compete for top talent in a rapidly shrinking candidate pool. These businesses end up paying above-market rates in order to land the same people their competitors seek.

More and more companies are solving these problems by searching outside of their industries for top candidates. On paper, a non-traditional hire can look like a high-risk gamble. It’s also one that can pay tremendous dividends for years to come.

Take for example, one of our best hires and success stories at Lucas Group.  David wasn’t your typical recruiter candidate.  He was a year or so out of college, had no real sales experience and he didn’t have any experience in the industry we recruited in.  When we hired Dave, he was a bartender looking for an opportunity to learn and grow within an organization.  What he did have was drive, ambition, intelligence and persistence.  That combined with his ability to easily develop relationships and gain rapport with potential clients led to his amazing success within the organization.  Twelve years after we hired him, he’s still here and he now leads one of our branches as a Managing Partner.

What is Industry Experience?

Industry experience refers to a job candidate having had previous work experience within that particular industry. While industry experience can be valuable, often times it implies that the hiring manager may not be willing to train someone new on the intricacies of their particular industry.

Worth the Risk

Hiring outside your industry is certainly a risk. Without an industry background, your new hire may struggle to master the lingo, connect with clients, and close sales. Hiring a candidate with insider knowledge, however, is no guarantee for success. Safe, predictable hires can also fail. Seeking industry perfection unnecessarily limits the candidate pool. In an attempt to reduce the risk of a failed hire, you may also reduce the likelihood that your new hire will be able to effectively innovate.

Do not assume that prior related experience will automatically translate in desired performance. Industry veterans sometimes rotate through companies at ever-increasing salary levels, regardless of performance. To echo the words of Eric Seibold, “The movement of human capital within a closed industry breeds complacency.”

Reasons to Hire Someone with No Industry Experience

Industry-driven hiring based solely on contacts and experience will leave your organization with little understanding of other industries and even less ability to tap those industries for the great ideas that can drive your business forward. Conversely, hiring so-called “outsider” candidates can bring a much-needed influx of fresh ideas, creativity and innovation into your business. Outside hiring is a natural defense against myopic thinking; it challenges the status quo with fresh perspectives. Don’t let risk management limit your options and ultimately delay your ability to constructively solve problems.

Access to Millennial Talent

Too often, job descriptions continue to mandate a minimum length of experience in specific fields, rather than focusing on essential soft skills, like intellectual curiosity, decision-making confidence, and inclusive, team-oriented leadership.

This “because we’ve always done it that way” mentality won’t fly in today’s highly competitive hiring economy. This is old school thinking that ignores rising Millennial talent, which is inherently more flexible, diverse, and broadly experienced than executive leadership teams typically expect.

Have you found success hiring from outside your industry? Let us know in the comments below.