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Transferable skills: Your best weapon in the war for talent

18 Oct Transferable skills Content

I get it, it’s like a needle in a haystack. Trying to find that top candidate amongst piles of CVs that all look the same. It’s like an elusive spark – something you’ll recognise just as soon as you see it…

But what if I told you that the real treasure trove lies in something most candidates aren’t even putting on their CV? Yep, that’s right, finding top talent is less about experience and a lot more about transferable skills.

If you’re hiring the same people and having the same struggles with turnover and bad hires listen up. What I’m about to tell you might just change your hiring process.

Skills shortage or skills blindness?

First thing’s first: no matter what you might have read or heard, we’re not dealing with a skills shortage.

Nope. It’s not a thing. People are as skilled as they always were. What’s changed is recruitment.

As is so often the case, the problem lies not with the candidate but with you – the employer. Because contrary to what we’re told, the skills you need in a candidate aren’t in decline; employers simply have ‘skills blindness’ when it comes to seeking them out.

In other words, it’s not that there aren’t skilled individuals out there, it’s that you’re missing the potential of the ones who don’t have the exact experience you think they need.

Well, news flash. While you’re busy focusing on your candidates’ experience, you’re missing out on specific skills that are vital for your business. In fact, transferable skills often trump relevant experience altogether, because what people know is more important than what they’ve done.

Not all CV sections are equal

Imagine this: you’ve got a stack of applications from your job ad, and you’ve narrowed it down to two candidates. One boasts years of experience in your industry while the other comes from a totally different background.

You’d choose candidate 1, right?

But what if candidate 2 showcased transferable skills? I’m talking about critical thinking, creativity, self-motivation, you know, the sort of thing you need in your business.

Who are you going to pick now? On the one hand, candidate 1’s experience means they understand the jargon of your industry, are familiar with how it works and have already worked in a similar role.

But on the other hand, candidate 2 has the skills to learn all this – and then some. After all, the workings of an industry can be taught. What can’t be taught is empathy, communication, tech-savviness, presentation skills… the things that really matter to a company in the long term.

By picking candidate 1 you’re thinking of a short-term hire. By choosing the candidate with transferable skills, you’re finding a golden ticket to better things.

The ‘universal soldier’

Employees with transferable skills are like Swiss army knives – you can throw them into almost any situation and they’ll come in handy. So even if a candidate doesn’t have direct experience in your field, these skills can bridge a gap and ensure a smooth transition into your company. They’re the secret sauce to innovation and adaptability.

So what are the top three most desirable transferable skills? Well, they’ll depend a lot on your organisation – it’s size, your values, the industry you work in.

But as a rule, when you’re on the hunt for adaptable talent you might want to look out for these game-changers:


Effective communication – in written, verbal and presentation form – transcends industry barriers. It’s all about conveying ideas, listening actively and resolving issues before they become a problem.

People management

Even hybrid workers need to operate within a team environment, and the ability to bring the best out of others is priceless. Can your candidate lead and motivate a team? Are they able to manage others?

Problem solving

Quick thinkers who can navigate complex problems are invaluable assets. They bring fresh perspectives and innovative solutions to the table. And you can’t teach this stuff, so if you see it, hire it.

How to hire for transferable skills

Ok, so we know why transferable skills are the way forward. But how can you find and nurture them in your hiring process? Here are my top tips:

1. Find your company’s own top three

        The skills above are a good place to start, but you’ll need to identify the key transferable skills your organisation values the most. It could be a combination of the ones mentioned above or other skills specific to what you do.

        2. Embed them in your job ads

          Craft job ads that not only mention these skills but encourage candidates to demonstrate their proficiency in them. This weeds out those who can’t adapt and will make your interviews much more valuable.

          3. Understand how your candidate thinks

            In interviews, ask scenario-based questions that challenge candidates to showcase their transferable skills. How would they lead a team through a crisis? Can they explain a complex concept simply? Find out not what they’ve done in the past, but how they think.

            4. Use AI to predict performance

              Harness the power of AI-driven tools that analyse candidate data beyond their CV. These tools can predict a candidate’s potential based on their transferable skills, providing you with valuable insights into what they’d be like as an employee.

              As you embark on your quest for the best talent, remember that finding candidates with transferable skills is like investing in a stock that pays dividends for years. These candidates will not only be easier to train, but they’ll widen your talent pool, bring fresh perspectives and lead to innovation and adaptability.

              Now that’s win-win.

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