Case Study: Hire For Skills, Not Just Industry Experience
19 September 2022
Robust industry experience is often the top requirement for hiring managers, and it’s easy to understand why. Valuable connections and specialist technical knowledge can help new hires ‘hit the ground running’.
However, targeting your sector alone can restrict the talent pool and lead to over-compromising on vital requirements such as mindset or skills. You also risk stifling innovation by not bringing in outside perspectives.
Expanding beyond sector boundaries is often the right answer.
For B2B organisations, recruiting from B2C talent pools can bring a new strategic approach, deepen customer centricity, and expand reach when there is high competition for talent.
This case study will show how an industry-leading B2B materials manufacturer in India expanded its search to include B2C organisations and experienced great success as a result.
The search requirements
The client was keen to hire a high-performing sales leader from their own or a similar sector to drive business growth.
They wanted someone with deep manufacturing experience but not weighed down by the ‘baggage’ of industry norms. They needed someone to think outside of the box to drive sales.
The strategic priorities for the new hire were to fast-track the sales pipeline, grow revenue significantly, engage new customers, and create new markets.
We began by completing a detailed talent map of businesses in similar and allied sectors. Since it is the largest manufacturer in the country, finding someone who had led a company of that size was challenging.
They were also not keen on hiring an expat due to cultural challenges they may face. Even an Indian executive returning from other markets was seen as a risk because while they are a top manufacturer in the sector, they had systems that weren’t contemporary.
We shared the mapping results and our reservations about why candidates from the primary competitors wouldn’t fit the role. We have a long-lasting relationship with the hiring client and deeply understand their pulse when it comes to talent.
After considering the lack of suitable options, and their focus on customer centricity, we recommended expanding the search to include the FMCG sector. The client trusted our council, and we extended our talent mapping process.
The successful candidate
Despite not having experience with materials manufacturing, we identified FMCG leaders with profound knowledge of customer orientation that would be a strong value-add.
The final selection came from a progressive multinational organisation. The executive had led national sales, expanded to rural areas, and created new markets.
The candidate also had an accomplished network spanning multiple sectors and functions, which helped him to leverage connections and reach potential clients faster.
What did the candidate think about changing industries?
It was difficult to convince the candidate even to consider it – the move was entirely outside their envisioned career path.
However, large-scale investments in manufacturing were happening at the country level following a strong push by the government. We used this opportunity to pitch fast-track career growth in an old economy like manufacturing.
We also showcased the hiring group’s strength and their ability to honour superior talent like him with role progression and compensation.
He was excited by the prospect of leading a challenging and complex role that could see him progress to a larger or perhaps group-level position. Concerns about leaving his industry disappeared as conversations continued.
The onboarding process
The client undertook appropriate measures to bring the candidate up to speed, including visits to the manufacturing plants, providing education on the entire process, and sharing the overall business scenario.
We also co-created a structured onboarding process that had him meet all the key stakeholders – not just from the business but also from the group. This made him feel ‘one amongst them’ and that he was in the right place for his career ambitions.
We also ensured he met their customers with the current team to understand how buyers in this industry conduct business.
Three years later
Since the successful hire, the sales pipeline has been increasing exponentially. New customers have been added, existing customers have signed longer-term engagements, and most impressively, revenue has doubled.
It is thanks to the client’s open-minded and trusting approach that we could steer the search in a new and highly positive direction.
Our key takeaways
- In many cases, searching for talent beyond your industry is the right move. When recruiting top talent, consider adjusting your parameters to gain new perspectives, meet changing requirements, and cope with fierce competition for talent.
- Talent mapping is the vital starting point for all search assignments. Learn what talent is available in your client’s sector, and accordingly, expand to sectors that cultivate your desired candidate skill sets, i.e. customer centricity in FCMG.
- Sometimes we must challenge our clients’ status quo to help them think outside of the box. They see us as true partners, not vendors following predetermined steps. Clients value new insights, but it needs to be backed by data (hence talent mapping).
Jyoti Bowen Nath
Jyoti Bowen Nath, Managing Partner at Claricent Partners, has rich experience handling search assignments for senior professionals at the CXO and Functional Head Levels as well as Board Member assignments. Jyoti has worked across a wide range of industries including Industrial, Consumer and FMCG, Retail, and Technology. She also leads the Diversity practice, and engages with leaders across industries.
About Claricent Partners
Claricent Partners is a leading Global Leadership Search and Advisory firm assisting organisations at the Board and C-Suite level. Established in 2017 by the team that led Gilbert Tweed Associates in India, Claricent has the DNA of a start-up blended with the experience of a best-in-class global executive hiring organisation. They are a valuable member of IIC Partners, providing strong leadership in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.