How to Identify Transferable Skills in Job Applicants

Caitlin Weiser, aPHR
January 3, 2023

Work as we’ve known it has changed drastically over the past few years and is continuing to evolve. First, it was the “Great Resignation”, followed quickly by quiet quitting.  As more of Gen Z enter the workforce, and we’ve learned they are more flexible and open to change when choosing their next career move, the way we attract talent may never go back to the way it was before. Although an increasing number of professionals are open to work and shifting their job search in order to make a career change, businesses are still struggling to find talent. Employers can take advantage of this influx talent market by identifying transferable skills and being open to hiring employees with varied backgrounds.

What Are Transferable Skills? 

Transferable skills are the competencies a person develops throughout their career which can be directly applied to a new position. Most professional skills are not job-specific and can be applied across different industries. Potential employers can widen their talent pool by identifying the knowledge, skills, and core competencies a candidate will need to be successful in a position. By not limiting yourself to only interviewing candidates from a specific industry, you demonstrate to job seekers you value transferable skills and are open to innovation in your hiring process. Identify a candidate’s transferable skills from their resume and ask targeted interview questions to determine if their skill set matches the job regardless of their previous work history.

Types of Transferable Skills 

Transferable skills can be divided into two categories: hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are objective, quantifiable skills that are gained through education, training, or hands-on experience. Hard skills are quantified by educational degrees, technical and analytical tests, and assessments. On the other hand, soft skills are non-technical personal attributes and social skills that affect how someone works and interacts with others. All jobs, from entry-level to C-Suite, can be broken down into the hard and soft skills essential to daily performance and success.

Ways to Identify Transferable Skills in Job Applicants

Once you define a position’s required skills and articulate them clearly in the job description, keep an open mind when reviewing resumes. Understanding a candidate can gain a number of professional skills through on the job experience allows you to identify when a candidate’s previous experience aligns with the position you’re hiring for. Having an open mind when it comes to job seekers who are applying from different industries or backgrounds rather than looking for a “unicorn” employee gives you greater access to more candidates.

Easily identify transferable skills during the interview process by asking behavioral based interview questions. These questions prompt the interviewee to answer with a real-life example from their previous work experience instead of an answer they think you want to hear. During a behavioral interview, listen for examples of skills aligned with the ones listed in the job description. Even when the candidate shares an example that isn’t directly related to your industry, their answer will indicate if the skills used throughout their previous experience can be transferable to the position you’re hiring for.

Need Additional Guidance on Recruiting the Right People? 

At Red Clover, we are subject matter experts when it comes to using best interview practices to identify transferable skills in candidates. Through our recruitment process outsourcing services, we aid our clients in making the best hiring decisions for their business by putting scalable recruitment processes in place and skilling up their hiring teams. If you’re ready to grow your workforce but are feeling stagnant in the current talent market, contact us to see if recruitment process outsourcing is right for you.

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