Transferable Skills?

“Whilst I don’t technically have the experience you requested, I feel my Transferable Skills enable me to fulfil the role”.

All of a sudden every other job applicant appears to have Transferable Skills.  So transferable and relevant, that they feel the need to highlight them……and then explain what they are……and then explain why they are transferable….and then explain why they are relevant….and why I should immediately shortlist them regardless.

The phrase is used in a fashion to be something similar to a cross between the ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ in the board game Monopoly, and Diplomatic Immunity.

I know my history as a career paper-shuffling administrator with no accountability or human contact doesn’t immediately appear particularly relevant for a Commercial Director opportunity dealing with real people, but my transferable skills mean I’m worth considering anyway….

I’m not sure who came up with the term ‘Transferable Skills’ and suggested that irrelevant job applicants should immediately plaster the word all over their CVs and covering letters, but whoever it was needs punishing, preferably Middle-Ages style, locked in the stocks, pelted with fruit – ideally tinned.

If skills ARE both transferable and relevant, it will be fairly obvious from your CV. If it’s not, then either your skills are not transferable or your CV is poorly written (too much time repeating the phrase Transferable Skills in your CV and trying to reduce font size to miniscule levels to hit the pointless, mystical 2-page limit).

This boils down to common sense. If you do not fit the job specification or advertisement, don’t apply. Don’t blame the advert. Don’t blame the belligerent, bigoted author for asking for skills other than your own. Just accept it isn’t a relevant job for you.

Recruiting the Best People

This phenomenon has worsened dramatically since the Public Sector Spending Cuts. With the cessation of many people’s Gravy Trains, the attempted migration to the private sector has been immense. Alas so has the increase in angry job applicants – or rather angry, rejected job applicants.

We have been told, ad nauseum, that the private sector is evil for being unwilling to engage public sector workers, that the private sector is not playing its part in ensuring ‘fairness’ in the workplace by favouring those with commercial, private sector experience for their commercial, private sector jobs rather than the non-commercially exposed, public sector workforce.

The fact is that majority of Public Sector employers aren’t suitable for the majority of Private Sector positions we handle….. But then the majority of Private Sector employees aren’t suitable for the same Private Sector positions we handle.

The prime difference is that the number of angry responses we get from (former) Public Sector employees is many times greater….usually because we have ignored their Transferable Skills. These are the Transferable Skills they have had to point out because they weren’t obvious.

It doesn’t matter how hard someone explains that Betty in Procurement was a tough as any customer could be, or how Frank in Accounts was so devious it prepared you for the toughest strategic planning challenge.

Businesses come to me because they want to recruit the best people.  Proven methodologies and the ability to focus on chemistry have ensured that I have never failed to fill a mandated role in 18 years – including some farcically unusual mandates.

I’ve never sold Transferable Skills as part of a solution. I’ve just put the Best People into the Best Jobs.

5 Comments on “Transferable Skills?”

  1. Very humourously written but I suspect fairly accurate. How far do people push the notion of transferable skills? And what element is such skills is genuinely transferable?

  2. Thought “paper shuffling” comment was a tad elitist, unless the “excerpt” was actually from a candidate. We’re in a recession, you know! 😉

  3. The reason why people like me feel the need to highlight transferable skills is because people like you are so blinkered in your assessment on candidates. Just because I have not worked as a sales person for product X, instead being working as a sales person for product Y, does not mean that I cannot sell product X. If no-one is going to give us the opportunity to expand our skills, how are we ever going to be able to?

  4. Good Blog Gary. I echo your comments. We have recently advertised a operations role with some very specific requirements needed (or we could have just trained one of our existing team members).

    The range of applicants was huge, which we expected, but the arguments we got from people we rejected, especially those with totally irrelevant experience, was incredible. We got called some really nasty names and accused of everything from fascism to racism to nepotism as if it was our duty to give these people a chance. Not all of these people cited Transferable Skills, but well over half of them did, but none of them actually had skills that were genuinely transferable AND relevant.

    We even had three different people contact their current Union to make an official complaint about our unwillingness to consider them.

  5. Where has this sudden desire to favour the underdog come from? I sympathise with Gary, I’m not a recruiter but do recruit for my business. We want what Gary finishes his blog with, the best person. Part of that assessment as best person is the relevance of their skills, yet all of a sudden we are expected to forget that aspect of our criteria in favour or fairness whether it be accepting people who are unsuitable, or accepting people who are less suitable merely because they come from a specific gender/race/disability/geographic region/etc.

    Roger Lane


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