Relevant experience – Seriously?

It is heartening to see that recruiters pore through piles of resumes to come up with that brilliant match of what the functional head has in mind.

I want 15 years of relevant experience in Oil & Gas Industry of which, preferably 5 years in senior management position

It is understandable if such a requirement is for specific function. Say, Medical Researcher. I can’t think of a medical research professional getting into the construction industry. Similarly, a fund manager will be a fund manager and the number of industries that would require a fund manager would probably be a handful.

But functions like HR? Sales? Marketing? Finance? I think it is time to wake up and smell the coffee!

By getting people only from within the industry for generic functions, India Inc is only making goats out of idiots. A professional who has done the same job for 15 years would not come to your organisation and create wonders! He will probably, purely by virtue of having been in a different organisations, bring in some process changes at best! That’s it.

For example, a marketing professional with loads of experience in the logistics industry (courier services), can bring in phenomenal amount of knowledge in FMCG or consumer durables. He (pardon me being ‘male chauvenistic’. It is easier to think this way!) would’ve seen completely different points of view which can be put to great use in Durables. After all, we are talking of a country which specializes in ‘jugaad’ and uses washing machines to make lassi. The key here is, ‘the consumer is the same and the wallet that each industry is fighting for has limited money and the fight is pretty much in the open’.

This is true even in some B2B companies. Guys selling oil machinery will not be recruited by a company that makes OEM engines for cooling towers! They would want ‘relevant experience’! Let’s face it! What they want is the pie from competition. No one seems to be interested in increasing the size of the pie!

By getting sales professionals from within the industry, the contacts will come along of course. But that would mean that you are just poaching business from competition and not getting new customers to your existing base or not even thinking of new things to do within or outside the existing business. While competitive information / contacts is important, it would prove to be a ‘short-term’ solution but would wither away in a few years time!

By doing this, the human mind gets tuned to think and do the same thing over and over again which leads to lack of great product ideas / creative ideas / solutions not coming out from many industries.

For example; a marketing professional has to understand the industry, gain working knowledge about the industry, understand the consumer and use his / her existing marketing skills to good use! Voila! Very similar for Finance professionals too. They need to understand the industry and the tricks of the trade will come with the understanding of the trade.

The search for ‘Relevant experience’ is an easy way out which will only create hordes of pigeons. Same set of people circulating within the industry is safe, but may not lead to progress. Radical ideas come from people who are from outside the industry. There are a few names that are passionate about an industry and have re-invented it over and over again. But great ideas have come from people who have jumped industries too. David Ogilvy for one! He was a kitchen equipment salesman. He turned around to become the biggest name in advertising!

I find this to be a very ‘Asian’ phenomenon. I know of European & American friends who have studied legal and are working in a financial services company in IT department. As bizaare as it may sound, they seem to have found their calling in a different industry in a different role. But in Asia, we would settle for nothing less than pigeons.

I am reminded of this great song… (A different situation, but similar perspective)

How long will our industry keep our eyes, ears and mind closed towards attracting new talent into our industries?

Leave a Reply