March Transferable Skills

A Focus on Transferable Skills Could Transform Your Team

The one constant in today’s business environment is change itself, leading many organizations to seek more flexibility and adaptability in their talent. That’s the driving force behind one of the biggest search trends right now: transferable skills. Seeking out candidates with these skills, rather than focusing heavily on industry-specific technical skills, can give companies a true competitive edge in the marketplace.

Here’s what we share with clients about transferable skills, their role in talent strategy, and why it can be helpful to have a recruiter’s experience to spot relevant expertise.

What Are Transferable Skills?

Transferable skills are, put simply, broad skill sets and abilities that can be applied to a variety of jobs, niches, or industries. They can be contrasted with highly technical “hard” skills. For example, strong communication and writing skills would be categorized as transferable; experience writing technical manuals or political speeches would not. Other transferable skills that can be highly valued are leadership, problem-solving, critical thinking, organizational skills, and flexibility.

What’s driving the increased focus on transferable skills right now? We can look at a number of reasons behind the shift, but two in particular are especially important. First, there’s more job movement among today’s professionals – in one LinkedIn survey, 85% of American workers said they’d at least think about changing jobs in the next year. As a result, they’re more likely to explore opportunities that stretch beyond their current industries. This implies a broader talent pool for recruiters, as well as a potentially more diverse one, particularly when “traditional” degrees and career paths are no longer the sole markers of value. Evaluating these candidates effectively requires looking at transferable skills more than hyper-specific experiences.

Second, a focus on transferable skills is a focus on flexibility and resilience, which are priorities for many organizations. Research from McKinsey shows that teams with a culture of resilience, agility, and adaptability are better able to withstand external (and internal) disruptions. Transferable skills may not be specialized, but they’re critical to enhancing responsiveness, encouraging innovation, and supporting problem-solving for individuals, teams, and organizations overall.

How to Identify Transferable Skills

Once your team understands why transferable skills are so important to your talent strategy, it’s time to think about how to identify them in candidates. Consider some of these recommendations during your search:

  • Comprehensive job and competency analysis: Ask yourself: which skills are necessary for a given role beyond specific technical requirements? Your organization’s competency frameworks may help you identify essential skills and draw the connection between them and certain roles.
  • Focus on adaptability and growth: The benefit of transferable skills is about flexibility and growth potential. Look for candidates who demonstrate a growth mindset, an interest in skills development, a desire to learn more, and an overall sense of curiosity; all indicate a candidate’s potential to thrive across different roles.
  • Behavioral interview techniques: Focus on scripted questions to reveal a candidate’s strength in specific transferable skills, such as critical thinking, leadership, teamwork, or adaptability.
  • Assessment tools: Experts have developed quite a few tools and techniques available to help you assess these hard-to-pin-down “soft” skills. Consider including them in your strategy, but be aware of any inherent biases in the tools, and remember to not over-rely on them – balance quantitative and qualitative data.
  • References and background checks: You might ask a reference if the candidate is a good problem-solver, how well they work with others, whether they’re seen as a potential leader, and so on. Remember to adhere to consistent standards and legal requirements when conducting background checks.

Recruiting Partners and Transferable Skills

Shifting to a focus on more transferable skills can be a challenge for any organization, especially if you’re used to relying on technical experiences and formal certifications. If done successfully, however, your organization is likely to welcome more dynamic, innovative, and agile team members who are poised to make a real difference at your company now and into the future.

All of the tips above can be very helpful for hiring teams, but even the best advice can only go so far. When you work with an expert recruiting partner like NW Recruiting Partners, you get the full benefits of their experience, industry knowledge, and well-connected network. An experienced recruiter knows how to structure interview questions to identify the transferable skills you need, how to connect your goals with certain qualities, and how to bring out the best in your organization and in the candidates to find a mutual perfect fit.

Bringing transferable skills into the heart of your recruiting strategy can boost your organization’s resilience, innovation, and competitiveness. When you take this approach, you’ll expand your talent pool, open the door to unconventional ideas and talent, and foster a culture of growth, curiosity, and innovation. It’s an opportunity to enrich your organization and build the flexibility you need to take your team into whatever the future brings!