• Post Vacancy
  • Register
  • Jobs

Is "Industry Experience" really that essential?

  • Posted 05 Aug 2015
  • Richard Holmes
  • Article

Prior to the Global Financial Crisis, Sydney was in the midst of a Talent War. Organisations were desperate to secure candidates with lots of potential, engagement skills, the right attitude, initiative, hunger, ambition and drive. They still are! However, many roles have an additional prerequisite when candidates are now applying for jobs - “Industry Experience” is now required.

Over the last few years, there has been a substantial increase in companies only looking to recruit from within their own industry sector.

Many employers are placing more emphasis on industry experience than professional experience itself. 


Some companies are reluctant to take risks when hiring. Many teams have downsized so when the opportunity to recruit presents itself, hiring managers feel enormous pressure to make sure they “get it right”.

There is a perception that if the candidate comes from the same industry and they performed well there, then surely they can replicate this performance in the hiring company’s business.

Finance is known to have one of the most transferable skills sets of any trade. Is a Commercial Finance Manager with a Media & Entertainment sector background only capable of achieving high performance within that space? Could they not do just as well within the Property or Healthcare sectors?

Let’s look at both the perceived positives and negatives of what candidates can bring with the industry experience and without.


Candidates with Industry Experience

  • Good understanding of industry jargon
  • Ability to hit the ground running
  • Less time to train and develop
  • Common understanding of business practices
  • Better understanding of customers, products and services offered
  • Bring competitor insights
  • Quicker ROI
  • Immediately effective
  • Perceived as being a less “risky” hire, a safer bet


Candidates without Industry Experience

  • Can bring a different perspective and new ideas (i.e. challenge the status quo)
  • Have broader experience
  • Can bring a varied and possibly a new skill set
  • Willingness and hunger to learn
  • Open to ideas
  • Easier to mould



Candidates with Industry Experience

  • Set in their ways
  • Closed to new ideas
  • Same way of thinking
  • Stick to what they know
  • Development is limited
  • May get bored in the role
  • May get frustrated more easily and, as a result, look to leave the role earlier
  • Similar skill set to what the team already has


Candidates without Industry Experience 

  • Steeper learning curve – can they do it?
  • Investment in time
  • Bigger investment in training and development
  • A perceived “Riskier” Hire
  • Unproven entity - What if they don’t work out?
  • Are their ideas applicable?
  • Will they understand the industry?


As you can see there are many ways to look at this issue and there is no right or wrong answer. It really depends on the role that is being recruited and, without a doubt, for some roles industry experience is definitely essential. Everyone I speak to has an opinion on this topic and when searching for talent we all have different views on what is the best hire.

I see numerous instances of hiring managers who would like to select an alternate-sector candidate as their preferred choice. Often, however, they end up selecting their second choice candidate simply because they have industry specific knowledge. Often their reasoning for this is that they are less likely to receive criticism from their senior manager if things don’t work out.

We currently live in a risk averse environment. Managing risk in business is massively important but, by filtering talented candidates out purely on industry experience, are organisations missing out on identifying and hiring great talent?

As the economy improves many businesses will need to innovate and grow rather than sticking to what they know. For organisations to truly improve their talent capability, will they have to be more open-minded?

By embracing a more open view to industry experience, companies may be surprised to find some amazingly talented candidates out there. 

How important do you think industry experience is when hiring?  


Richard Holmes is Co-Founder & Director of HPR Consulting, a leading Accounting & Finance recruitment business in Sydney, Australia.

He has been in the Executive Search & Selection Industry since 2003 and has developed a track record of recruiting senior Accounting, Finance and Commercial professionals into leading ASX listed, private and multinational organisations. Passionate about talent, he has an in-depth knowledge of the Sydney market and brings a significant amount of intellectual property to his clients and candidates.

Back Next Post