Why recruiters should care about transferable skills

Last updated:
December 14, 2020
December 16, 2021
min read
Sam O'Brien
Transferable skills
Table of contents

Most recruiters look for employees that have relevant experience in their specific industry. They feel that hiring people with industry-specific skills, for example, knowledge of a specific contact center solution, means new staff will be up and running quickly. However, this approach may result in companies missing a trick, talent-wise.

By only focusing on people with specific experience, you could be overlooking a vast talent pool of applicants with transferable skills.

What are transferable skills?

An employee can take transferable skills with them to a different work environment or industry. Such skills can take many years to master, and once learned, they can be used in a variety of situations, projects, or industry sectors.

There are many types of transferable skills, from hard skills like accountancy, sales, and project management to the ‘softer’ skills of ‘communication’, ‘teamwork’, ‘problem-solving’ and ‘leadership’.

Industry newbies can bring a new outlook to roles

Recruiters are often wary of bringing in people from other sectors because they feel that it will be costly and time-consuming to onboard them. But what they’re forgetting is that people with the right transferable skills will bring new energy and outlook to the role.

Candidates that are happy to switch jobs and try something new are often a good bet because they’re motivated to move outside of their comfort zones. Self-motivated people require less supervision and oversight than other employees. They tend to take the initiative and get things done without being asked.

Top skills employers should be looking for, include:


People with empathy that can co-work effectively will make the team more productive. Candidates who can prove they’re able to collaborate effectively will be a valuable contribution to any company with employers reassuring them that they will ‘fit in’.


Employees with good verbal and written communication skills are able to interpret information and relay it quickly and accurately. This enables them to deliver their ideas well and speak to all levels of management confidently, as well as listen effectively.


Hirers should always be keen to employ people with a strong work ethic, so as to ensure they are punctual and well-organized. This means that tasks will be completed in a timely fashion.

Critical thinking

These types of people are invaluable in the world of computing and automation - also in general situations, companies will benefit from people that can solve problems quickly. People that are comfortable with computers and can learn quickly when it comes to new software and systems are highly sought after by employers.

Recruiters are often wary of bringing in people from other sectors because they feel that it will be costly and time-consuming to onboard them. But what they’re forgetting is that people with the right transferable skills will bring new energy and outlook to the role.
John Allen

John Allen, Director, Global SEO at RingCentral


Candidates may not be applying for a leadership position, but employers should still be looking for people who demonstrate taking the lead in certain situations. An aspect of personality to look out for is ‘charisma’ or the ability to build rapport with others.

3 key benefits of transferable skills

1. People with transferable skills add diversity

Diversity is known to improve innovation and thereby boost productivity. Research indicates that diverse companies are more likely to be prepared for change - and are also more likely to be market leaders. If a current team comprises people with exceptional ‘hard’ skills, it could be a good idea to mix things up and hire someone with transferable soft skills.

2. Employees will stay in their jobs for longer

By allowing employees to grow and thrive in new ways, they will be more engaged and motivated. That generally means they’ll stay with a company for longer - saving on hiring and business costs.

3. Teams will become better at problem-solving

Many studies have shown that teams with diverse members are better at coming up with new ideas. People with different backgrounds and experiences will bring their own unique points of view when it comes to solving problems and getting jobs done quicker.

How to attract top transferable talent

At the beginning of the hiring process it’s far easier to search for directly relevant skills when filtering through piles of CVs. It’s harder to find the transferable skills that will set one candidate apart from another. It’s essential that employers read between the lines and think about what a candidate could bring to the role.

Psychometric testing is a common way to measure soft skills. One-on-one interviews are also used as open-ended questions that can draw out a candidate’s personality and give an indicator of how well they might fit a role.

Write appealing job descriptions

Take great care when crafting job descriptions if you want to attract new people into your industry. Get their attention by emphasizing that you’re looking for candidates with transferable skills from outside your sector. Mention that training is involved in the onboarding process and outline the benefits and opportunities for growth that are on offer.

Leave ‘industry experience’ out of the advert if you want to attract a diverse audience and make it clear you are seeking candidates from all walks of life. If you’re short on time, consider using applicant tracking system software to help you create and distribute optimized job postings.

Create an attractive career page on your website

Your career page is where future employees go to research your company and get an idea of your ethos. Make sure your page reflects your company values and vision. Don’t use generic photos or outdated content. Craft unique, informative job listings, so you’ll make potential hirees read further.

This is an opportunity to state that you’re always on the lookout for talented people from a diverse range of different occupations and sectors. Make it visible that you value transferable skills regardless of someone’s years of experience in a certain industry.

Make interviews more informal

63% of managers and recruiters said, failing to identify soft skills is their biggest problem, according to Business LinkedIn:

When you’re aiming to attract brand new talent, make interviews less formal and more entertaining so that candidates will warm to the idea of working for you.

Use open-ended questions to get candidates to talk about themselves and allow their personalities to shine through.

Take them on a tour of the premises so they can meet the team so you can get their input.

How to onboard new candidates

Getting a new hire up to speed is critical. If you’re in the tech industry, for example, newcomers should be given plenty of opportunities to find out what your business is all about. You’ll also need to offer full training on how to use your software and systems e.g. if their job involves using a specific enterprise ecommerce platform.

New recruits should attend meetings and ask questions to get a grip on the business - and the training period can be longer or shorter depending on your niche and the ability of the candidate.

The future of employment is likely to differ widely from what we recognize today and will introduce numerous opportunities for people with the right transferable skills. Experts are predicting that soft skills will be the most sought after by employers over the coming decades - from problem-solving and teamwork to communication and leadership.

Employers need to realize that many technical skills can be learned quickly; e.g., how to use a company’s small business phone system. What they should be looking out for instead of these ‘hard’ skills are the soft skills candidates possess.

Transferable skills not only show what a candidate can already do - but demonstrate what they can bring to the role moving forward. The key for employers is to be open-minded and look for talents you may not have considered before.

John Allen, Director, Global SEO at RingCentral, a global UCaaS, teleconference services and contact center software provider.

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