When is a Lot Too Much?

If you’re a regular reader, you know that I’m like a broken record when it comes to industry experience.

It’s one of the things that most executives look for when hiring. It seems like a safe bet. A sure thing. A short cut.

12319899_sIt’s not.

But rather than harping on that this Wednesday, let’s give it another twist.

Can a lot of industry experience be too much industry experience?

I’ve learned (the hard way) that it can.


You’re considering a candidate.

She’s clearly been a Rockstar throughout her 15-year career in one company in one industry. Promotion after promotion. Award after award. She’s amazing.

But your company is in a different industry. She’s a fast-learner. A quick-study. So it shouldn’t be a problem.

But here’s the risk to evaluate: How much of her success was caused/enabled/driven by her expertise in that company in that industry?

Perhaps some, perhaps most of it. The more embedded she became, the more expertise she developed, the more people connections she made. Perhaps it reinforced her success.

There’s no way to remove this risk.

When you transplant a plant from its pot into the ground, there’s a risk that it won’t take, that the plant will wither and die quickly from rejection.

Don’t hire a candidate simply for industry experience.

And when you hire a candidate who has deep experience in one industry that’s not yours, take precautions to ensure a successful transplanting.

So where does that leave us?

  • Can’t be too much.
  • Can’t be too little.

What am I… the Goldilocks of recruiting?

Do 3 things to Avoid the Hiring Mistakes:

1. Don’t overweigh industry experience. It’s not a sure thing, and it must never supersede the candidate’s DNA. Ever.

2. Always use a Scorecard, to lay out before you hire what’s truly crucial in the role. Here’s how to write one.

3. Take the finalist on a test drive to see if s/he can understand key concepts in your business, even though s/he hasn’t worked in it. Here’s how to structure the test drive.

And leave the warm porridge to Goldilocks.





Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman is the author of Recruit Rockstars: The 10 Step Playbook to Find the Winners and Ignite Your Business. The Chief Talent Officer at Chicago-based Strong Suit Executive Search, Hyman currently teaches the MBA course on recruiting at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and hosts the five-star Strong Suit Podcast. Jeff has been featured by Inc., Fortune, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Bloomberg, and other media outlets. Learn more at www.recruitrockstars.com

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