How to identify transferable skills (and why they're essential now)
The employment landscape looks vastly different to the way it did just a few months ago. For some industries, hiring has been reduced or has even stopped completely due to the impacts of COVID-19. But for industries such as healthcare, there’s been a dramatic increase in the demand for talent. So, if you’re looking to hire new employees in this changed environment, how do you find candidates who are ideally matched for the job?

Why transferable skills matter

Transferable skills are the key capabilities or skills that can apply to any industry, field or job. In some situations, transferable skills could be just as valuable as experience.

Joel Broughton, Head of Talent Acquisition at BlueCross, says regardless of the industry or job that candidates are coming from, hirers should be looking at an individual’s broad skill set.

Broughton points to the role of a residence manager (RM), who is responsible for running operations at BlueCross’s aged care facilities. “Our RMs are responsible for everything from staffing and rosters, to some sales, clinical care and governance, family liaison, finance, hospitality, lifestyle, allied health, maintenance and so on,” he says.

While RM roles have traditionally been filled by senior nurses, Broughton says there’s no reason multi-disciplinary leaders with experience in complex environments can’t step into this role. “Individuals with retail or child care leadership experience could be suitable as they run very complex operations, managing hundreds of staff across several departments,” Broughton says.

COVID-19 has seen displaced workers from industries such as retail, travel and hospitality gain employment within supermarkets, call centres and supply chain logistics thanks in part to their transferable skills.

Hiring from non-traditional talent pools

Considering  candidates’ transferable skills could help organisations to reach the broader talent pools they may need to future-proof their workforces. For example, in New Zealand, the workforce in industries such as aged care will need to grow in the coming years as the demand for workers is expected to increase by between 50% and 75% by 2026.

“This is more than double the size of the current workforce, and without looking for candidates with transferable skills we won’t be able to meet the demand,” Broughton says.

But it’s not simply about having the ability to fill vacant positions; candidates from different industries can bring fresh ideas and new ways of thinking. “Before starting at BlueCross, I had no aged care experience, so I’m thankful they saw the potential of my own transferable skills and experience,” Broughton says. “After all, fresh thinking never gets old!”

Attracting candidates with the right transferable skills

Candidates with robust soft skills (that is, the skills that facilitate interaction between people) have never been in greater demand.

You can attract candidates with transferable skills by:

  •  Focusing on specific skills (such as communication, self-motivation or ability to work under pressure) rather than experience in a particular industry
  •  Avoiding industry-specific jargon in your job ad
  •  Interviewing for cultural fit and diversity.

The questions to ask

Broughton believes good screening questions help to identify candidates who have the right transferable skills for the role. “Have screening questions that focus on skills as opposed to experience, and if possible, make them behavioural,” he says.

Instead of: Do you have experience running an aged care facility?

Ask: Tell me about a time when you’ve led multidisciplinary teams?.

Instead of: How much experience have you had as a bank teller?

Ask: How have you ensured that your customer has had a great experience?

Instead of: What were your tasks at your previous role?

Ask: Can you tell me how you prioritise your tasks?

It may initially seem daunting to consider a candidate who has no experience in a particular industry or field. But once you look at transferable skills, such as communication, teamwork, critical thinking, creativity and leadership, you could realise that person and their skills might be just what your business needs.