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Should You Always Recruit From the Same Sector?

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At We Are Adam, we know that finding a good fit doesn’t necessarily mean you need to hire from the same sector. Yet this is what many of our clients do. In this blog we argue the pros and cons of same-sector hiring and encourage you to broaden your recruitment horizons.

Narrowing the Field

HR teams are always under pressure to do more. Deliver more, demonstrate extra flexibility, be more strategic, bring additional innovation. Which makes it very tempting to hire like-for-like when growing your team or replacing a leaver.

One of the biggest challenges we face is encouraging hiring managers to look beyond their own sector for recruitment. Blue collar, unionised organisations only want people from that background. And white collar firms, be they professional services or a charity, make same-sector experience a must-have.

Why do businesses like people with the same background and experience as them? Over the years, we’ve found there are a number of reasons.

  1. Comfort - People who are like each other like each other. Recruiting someone who has been successful in a similar organisation with similar values and cultural norms means the individual is likely to be a seamless fit. The CV looks familiar, the interview feels comfortable and the hiring manager has the sense that the individual will slot in without rocking the boat.

  2. Shortens the Learning Curve - Bringing new hires on board is expensive. The average cost to get someone up to speed? £30,000. And it takes around 40 weeks for them to be optimally operational. Research shows that those recruited from the same sector tend to get closer to peak performance more quickly than those changing sectors.

  3. Reduces Risk - In industries with a particular emphasis on regulation, recruiting from the same industry can reduce risk for the business. Bringing in someone who understands how specific regulations relate to their role and who can ensure they don’t step over any boundaries, feels sensible and safe.

  4. Networks - Most people build up a network of contacts within their own sector which means they are more likely to hear about people looking for new roles from, you guessed it, their own industry.

If two identical HR Business Partners are presented, it’s only natural that the one who comes with a recommendation from a trusted in-sector person will have an advantage over the one from outside the sector you’ve never heard of.

With all these solid reasons for same-sector recruitment you could find yourself asking what’s the problem?

Too Close For Comfort

Recruiting people who have faced similar challenges and who have similar expertise to existing team members reduces the breadth of knowledge within your team. Without differences of opinion and fresh ideas, innovation is restricted and problem solving follows the same stagnant thought processes.

While it might feel unfamiliar to hire from a different sector, there’s comfort knowing that the fundamentals of HR are the same wherever people have worked. CIPD qualifications provide a solid baseline of knowledge and no matter the sector, HR always deals with people, performance and engagement. This makes cross-sector recruitment a possibility that more businesses should take.

Opening your recruitment up to a wider pool of candidates delivers a number of benefits. In fact, some of our greatest recruitment successes have occurred when we have persuaded businesses to appoint someone with a different background.

In our experience, recruiting outside your sector brings a wide range of benefits:

  1. Different Viewpoints - No leader wants a team full of ‘yes’ people. It’s a recipe for stagnation and single-minded thinking that can spell disaster. HR teams need to be able to understand the varying points of views within your employee population and to communicate and deal with a range of people effectively. A variety of backgrounds on your team will bring varying viewpoints and the capability to deal with whatever comes up.

  2. Different Ways of Working - There’s usually no one right way of delivering a piece of work or a project but if everyone has same sector experience you could find yourself following the same methods regardless of their success. New blood brings different methods and can open up alternative approaches.

  3. Innovation - HR is always being asked to adapt to something. Be it new legislation, a fresh organisational structure or digitisation. Whatever the challenge, you need people with fresh ideas, new thinking or experience of delivering similar projects.If your sector tends to be one step behind, recruiting someone from an industry that’s often in front could catapult you forward more quickly than you had imagined possible.Financial services is a good example of a sector that takes new technology and trends and embeds them operationally. Recruit from this industry and you could bring someone onboard who has seen and done a lot of what’s new to the rest of your team.

  4. Increased Flexibility - Organisations average a new CEO every five years which means you need a team that can adapt quickly to changes in direction. This requires a broad church of ideas and experience on your team, which all starts with getting your recruitment strategy right.

We Are Adam has spent decades developing our specialist HR recruitment knowledge which enables us to work in partnership with our clients as their trusted recruitment advisors.

If you’re looking for a new HR recruitment partner who isn’t afraid to open up a wider recruitment pool and give your team the competitive edge, get in touch.