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Opening the market by understanding transferable skills and sectors

Written by: Lee Narraway, Managing Director, Antal International.

When working in a technical market the chances are it will be candidate driven, there are a number of reasons for this.  Firstly skills in the technical space tend to be high demand and short supply, the second is that many sectors experience a recessive period and during this period the candidates still need to work so they migrate out of the sector.

During an upturn, the sector looks back to the market and suddenly finds that all the candidates have gone and they struggle to fill the roles that they may have.  But dont worry there is something you can do in order to counter this.

The first thing that you must do is change your mindset, the market has changed and so has the availability of the candidates, the skills the candidates posses have developed and in changed allowing them to adapt diverse markets and new challenges, this is a good thing for you so dont discount them at first screen stage if they are not currently working in your sector.

I have placed a number of candidates back into a sector that once left behind and they have all gone on to do great things, one candidate had been out of the automotive sector for over 10 years and the client was a little unsure whether to look them at the first screening stage.  At the initial brief with the client I spoke about this particular person who I felt matched the role perfectly.  The client wasnt keen initially but I managed to convince the client that this candidate was very much worth looking at.  He now heads up the business and has turned them around from a loss-making situation into a profitable situation.  The candidate had learned some very valuable lessons in other sectors which really allowed him to bring those lessons into the automotive sector and developed a new way of looking at things whilst maintain the values of the new business.

I was also in a meeting with a client recently who was a senior manager in a very large automotive company, this particular individual had taken some time out of the sector into FMCG. He said to me that he felt the FMCG sector was way behind automotive in terms of process and systems.  For the FMCG sector this would tell me that they need to look at automotive candidates who may be able to help them with the process and systems needs they have, I know from my experience in FMCG that there is a huge need for good systems people, finding processes which take care of Health and safety, quality and efficiency are so vital to any manufacturing company that they simply cannot ignore this. 

Another example would that aerospace candidates tend to get nowhere in automotive as they are considered to be less urgent than the automotive sector.  I personally have found that aerospace people tend to be very detailed and methodical and this translates into automotive as perfection paralysis although it really isnt always the norm as we placed a program manager from aerospace in to automotive and this candidate has been amazing for the client, he has taken on a massive workload on is managing the load very well and developing the team accordingly, he has also brought in other project engineers for the team, some from the sector and some outside the sector.  He has a calm approach, which is considered and detailed whilst still maintaining an urgent sense of attitude. He has been a real breath of fresh air for the client who ordinarily would not have taken him.

Other examples of how we have helped clients build teams in a sector.

One of our clients won a contract to maintain a large capital asset, they needed to build a team that were familiar with the asset but also up to speed with the latest more efficient methods of machine management.

Once we had established what the organization chart would look like we then focused on the positions which were likely to be more demanding in terms of sector experience and knowledge.  Once we had completed this assignment we could then blend non sector candidates alongside and look for other complimentary sector skills sets around the maintenance piece. We also looked at some of the more routine roles and recruited ex forces people into these roles, as they tend to find routine more confortable and take a rigorous approach.  The result was a really well balanced team, which has contributed to the asset being the worlds most productive machine in the sector.

Another of our clients wanted to build a middle management team, which had a different culture to the current team.  The client was going to redeploy the current team and we were assigned to search and bring in skills to help drive culture change and improve productivity.  During the search we identified complimentary skills from a broad range of sectors and built a string team, which has taken the client forward to a level they have not seen before, this is something we are particularly proud of.

In both of these examples, the single most important factor to making the assignment work was to get the clients to open their minds to taking non-sector people on board.

Its not always the answer but it certainly goes a long way to opening the market up further.  I confidently predict that the future of recruitment in technical skills will demand clients take from other sectors, those clients that stick to their own sector will fall behind their competition and lose out on the best skills, which can add real value to their own business.

Lee Narraway
Managing Director



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