What to do with transferable skills?

Last week, we got a request for a Proposal Co-coordinator from one of our engineering clients. They needed someone for a few weeks to help pull together and format a massive amount of information for a proposal.

I immediately thought of a candidate that I had met recently. She had been laid off from her position as a meeting planner/event coordinator. My colleague looked at her resume and asked why I thought she would be a good fit.

What does a good event planner do well?

• Listens to client needs, wishes and expectations
• Gathers information from a variety of sources
• Facilitates decision making
• Lays out timelines and schedules
• Juggles all of the details and stakeholders while the event is on
• Maintains a pleasant demeanor
• Functions well with immovable deadlines

Aren’t those the same qualities required to help pull together a large proposal? The only piece that we thought might be missing was strong skills with Microsoft Office. It turns out that she created all the printed materials for her events so we checked that off the list too.

We introduced the client and the candidate and the fit was obvious right from the get-go. The candidate did a stellar job and the client was very happy.

So why is it so difficult to recognize transferable skills? Both my colleague and the client needed some guidance (read: persuasive conversation) to see that her skills were indeed suitable. There was a baseline assumption that the successful candidate would come from an engineering or technical background.

Will they be more open-minded now? I hope so but it is up to us in the recruiting field and up to candidates themselves to lay out their skills and experience in a way that best maximizes their potential fit for the role.

Maybe it’s like paint by numbers. Hiring managers are pretty sure that the picture of the successful candidate is a horse in a field but maybe we open their minds to the possibility that a horse in a parade or even a horse in the kitchen could be successful too.

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