3 Keys for Finding Transferable Skills

3 Keys for Finding Transferable Skills

All too often, we lose promising candidates from being too hung up on finding someone who can “hit the ground running.” With such a tight candidate market, you can’t afford to wait until you find someone who is a 100% technical match.

Transferable skills need to be considered when looking for top talent. We’ve seen far too many great candidates get passed over, finding out years later they excelled at a competing company. Those companies succeeded because they knew how to look for transferable skills.

Here are 3 keys to identifying, and using transferable skills.

1. Must-have versus nice-to-have

Most people are familiar with the concept of wants versus needs. The same principle must be applied to job qualifications. It can be difficult to differentiate between the two, but it’s critical to getting the best people in the door. To differentiate, don’t look at a position’s tasks alone. Instead, ask your team what goals they need to accomplish in their first 6-12 months. That will focus your thinking in the right direction.

To do this, make sure you get the input of key team members, including those doing the job right now. They understand better than anyone what skills are necessary to get it done. They’ll know workarounds and have a realistic take on the timeline to get new hires up to speed.

Keep the list of must-have skills to 2-3 key areas. It will force your team to make tough decisions.

2. Separate skills from tools

Too often, job qualifications don’t make distinctions between skills and tools. As a result, too much importance is placed on knowing a particular tool, instead of the underlying skill. It’s like the early days of word processing when knowing the Word-Perfect tool was required in many administrative positions. Because hiring authorities were focused

on this one tool, instead of the word processing skill, they missed out on candidates who had already moved forward with Microsoft Word.

The same thing applies to the tech field. Learning a skill takes in-depth training and years of experience. Good employees can learn a tool in weeks. Don’t pass up one of the top C programmers or electromechanical engineers in your field because they’ve used different compilers or design software.

The same can be applied to moving engineers from one industry to another. Industry standards and processes are much easier to learn than core skills. For example, someone with a strong knowledge of communication protocols used on automation equipment can take that knowledge to a power systems company using the same ones.

As one electronic hardware design engineer once told us, “An electron didn’t become something else when I changed industries.”

3. Stronger emphasis on soft skills

It takes more than a good skill match to transition to a new company or industry. A successful move requires the ability to learn and communicate with your fellow team members during the first months. In other words, soft skills are critical.

You’re looking for someone who interviews with positive energy and responds well to more challenging questions. This shows good listening ability and intuition about the issues you’re facing. You also want to find a track record of adapting to change and learning quickly on the fly.

Ask them to tell you how they tackled a new problem that took them out of their comfort zone. It will give insight into how they’ll adapt to your new environment.

By following these steps, you can both find and recruit candidates with the transferable skills you need. It will be a key element to your success in the ongoing talent-short market.

With our 30 years of recruiting experience, along with our expertise in Electronics, Embedded, and Controls development, PRA USA is well suited to locate and bring in

talent who hit all these points. We will take the time to understand your needs and company culture, which is why our candidates are always worth your time.



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