How much industry experience do you really need?


BlogBreak contributor Gary Wheeler discusses the frustrations of employers telling job seekers that “industry experience” is required, even for entry-level jobs:

A friend of mine asked the manager of sandwich shop if he had any openings. The manager replied, “Do you have sandwich making experience?” He told the manager that he makes a great tuna salad sandwich! What in the world?!

What happened to bringing a different perspective to the company to broaden the company’s perspective? I know that there are a lot of people out of work, recruiters are getting bombarded and this is a way to weed out the masses but this is almost incestuous.

Is it that companies don’t have the leisure for people to get up to speed in their industry or that people will find it too difficult to learn their business or they are too lazy or it takes too much time to find out what the skills and talents that an individual may bring to the table that grew up in another industry? I tend to think it is the latter.

I admit that each industry is unique, but, business is business and what new ideas are you eliminating by excluding someone who can bring a different perspective to the table?

Finance is finance – bean counting is bean counting. HR is HR – policies, ethical practices and treating people with dignity and respect transcends across all industries. And if you can sell medical equipment and technology, you can sell undergarments and suits.

In an employer’s market they can tend to more selective, however, companies should be seeking the best possible talent to fill their position, which may mean selecting people who have a track record of success, have transferrable skills, and have the energy and the potential to learn.

If you get to talk with an actual person vs. a computerized reply, ask them why industry experience is apart of the critical selection criteria and ask them to give you an opportunity to show how your knowledge, skills, abilities and experiences are transferrable to their industry. Let them know what you can bring to the table.

Have you been told we are only seeking candidates with industry experience? How do you get industry experience if someone doesn’t give you a chance?

3 comments Add your comment


February 27th, 2009
9:50 am

I got layoff around 2 months ago. I have over 10 years purchasing and sales experience in technology field. Last month, i had interview with one company, who had buyer position open for consumer electronics. The CE purchasing manager disapproved of me because i had no CE purchasing background, but HR manager disagreed with him. Anyway, i didn’t get get job. I also had interview with the company, which is also in the consumer electronics. I passed the interview, but due to the hiring freezing, i also didn’t get job. I absolutely agree with you “Knowledge, skills, abilities and experiences are all transferrable”, but due to the tough job market, i realize the company is looking for the perfect match or over-qualified candidacy, which will make job seeker harder and harder.
Good luck to all job seeker!


March 6th, 2009
5:46 pm

I wouldn’t hire you because you can’t write.


December 10th, 2009
6:45 am

Good blog-point! Yes, it’s so sad. I have been applying for jobs in the medcial industry for 7 months and still no job. I have a PhD in neuroscience, i.e. a very long education but I’m not worth nothing to the employers. I am crying everyday because I over and over again hear that I’m not what they want because I don’t have experience from the industy. How will I be able to enter the job market if no one let’s me in??