A Case Against “Industry Experience Required”

As HR leaders, we’ve all seen the job postings for  where we know we would be a perfect fit for the job – except for when we come across that dreaded statement: Industry Experience Required  – or something similar.  Despite the fact that we meet the required education, years of HR experience, certification, etc., they won’t even look at our cover letter and resume because we never worked in their industry.

I once heard an executive proudly declare at a meeting that his organization’s industry is “all about the people” – as if other industries are not “all about the people.”  I know he’s very proud of what he does and the industry he has worked in his entire career.   So that’s all he knows.

Most recruiters and executives think their industry’s human resource requirements are so unique that only HR leaders with experience in their industry could understand.  They have a bias against candidates who don’t have experience in their industry. 

I get it.  They don’t know any better and it’s just easier for them.

Having been someone who has changed careers and industries, I can tell you from experience, how valuable it can be to bring a fresh and creative perspective to the table. 

Now before getting into my case against Industry Experience Required, I can’t stress strongly enough about how important it is for HR leaders to know their business – I even wrote a series of articles about it here.

Here are two points that support the case against “Industry Experience Required”:

First, bringing in an HR leader from a different industry gives the organization somebody with a fresh perspective, a new set of eyes that can see past the “this is the way we’ve always done it” mentality.  Being able to offer a different HCM perspective to the organization’s strategic planning will set the organization apart from its peers and may help establish it as the employer of choice in their industry.  One that is different and more creative than other employers.

I came from the stores organization of a major department store chain and routinely planned and executed major hiring blitzes every Fall for the Holiday Season for my store.   In my new role in the mining industry, I was able to use that expertise when it came time to hire and staff our new mine in less than a month and a half.

Second, people are people when it comes to dealing with the HR performance and conduct problems. It does not matter if they are a retail sales or support associate or a highly educated engineer or scientist.  They all have their “issues”.   I deal with nearly the exact same problems with highly educated engineers and scientists as I did with retail sales and support associates.  People are people. 

So, I’ve defined the issue and given two reasons why I think Industry Experience Required for HR leaders is ineffective.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue.

In future posts, I intend to explore how we can overcome this bias.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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