February 14, 2020

Can You Pivot? Transferring Your Recruiting Skills to Another Industry

Can you transition your great recruiting skills from healthcare to IT, from retail to financial services, or from transportation to semiconductor? Absolutely, yes! 

Experienced recruiters know that the process of recruiting remains roughly the same across different skill sets or jobs you are recruiting for. As Mile Zivkovic, writer for Hundred5 (now Toggle Hire), points out, “No matter the type (external or internal) or their niche, there’s a common set of recruitment skills that every good recruiter needs to have to do their job well.”

While Mile is right about the transferable skills (attention to detail, marketing skills, and communication skills) every recruiter has, you need to prepare and understand the new field you’re tackling. Without an intimate knowledge of an industry, you may lack the business acumen that drives that industry, and you might significantly miss the mark.


To put it simply, you might make some wrong assumptions about the industry you are about to recruit for. Follow these tips to ensure that you’re prepared for changing industries as a recruiter. 

Understand the industry and terminology

According to Lou Adler’s Recruiter Competency Model, a key pillar of success is “Knowing the Business.” 

With that in mind, answering these questions is a good place to start: 

  • What is the product or service and who are the customers?
  • How is the product or service designed, made, and delivered? 
  • How do companies make a profit in this industry, and how profitable are they?
  • Who are the biggest and most profitable companies in this industry? Is my client one of them?

Some answers to these questions can be found in centralized places, like company websites, LinkedIn profiles, and Glassdoor pages. So, get online and do the research before you engage with your clients, hiring managers, and hiring teams. You can also ask for some clarifying information in your kick-off meeting.

Each industry, and the skill sets that drive it, have their own vocabulary, and many large corporations have a language of their own! Read through a few job descriptions in your new industry and you’ll find terms, technical jargon, buzzwords, and acronyms you may not have heard before.


Plan to spend some time looking up terms, researching definitions, and understanding the differences between similar terms. You’ll find that some terms are spelled differently by some companies or candidates, or that acronyms are arranged differently, but refer to the same term. These are important nuggets of knowledge for when you start building your Boolean strings.

Another valuable resource is your hiring manager and the hiring team. They can be a great sounding-board for any questions you may have about the industry. By asking questions, you’ll gain respect and build a much stronger partnership if they see you are really learning the details of their unique field.

Understanding Different Cultures 

Research from Energage, an employee advocacy tool, shows that different industries prioritize different values. For example, the retail industry values family and integrity, while the tech industry emphasizes support and inclusivity. These differences result in different communication styles, dress codes, and language potentially used in the workplace. 

For example, if you are working with a client in the transportation or warehouse space, you might find that the company, managers, and candidates communicate via text messaging. If you’re recruiting in the financial services sector, the hiring managers and client contacts will require more data, written documentation, detailed contracts and commitments, and a high level of risk mitigation. Learn about the many nuances of the industry and how to best work with those nuances, rather than against them.

In addition to understanding the nuances of different industry cultures, you might be recruiting people from entirely different cultures. 


The Silicon Valley Leadership Group reports that every major tech hub in the United States has more workers born outside of the United States than born domestically. With an economy that is becoming increasingly global, being aware of different cultural customs and tendencies will serve you well.

This article on LinkedIn, which references Erin Meyer’s work from the Harvard Business Review, is a quick summary of a number of key cultural differences. Articles like these are a good starting point for understanding different cultures and will help enhance your relationship-building skills, and minimize stereotypes. 

The more knowledgeable and comfortable you are with the industry, its terminology, your candidates and their cultural backgrounds, the better candidate experience you will provide. In turn, this will increase your success rate in helping your client make faster, higher-quality hires.


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