The U.S. economy is on the mend, with nearly a million hires in March alone. However, with April’s addition of only 266,000 jobs, unemployment remains high – adding emphasis to how much more work there is left to do. The 9.7 million Americans who were jobless at the end of the first quarter are only part of the story; adding in discouraged individuals that have dropped out of the workforce, the underemployed and marginally attached workers brings the total to 17 million.
After experiencing several years of labor scarcities before the pandemic, one would think that recruiters should be having a field day mining talent from today's massive labor pool; however, that’s not the reality on the ground.
To survive, employers have retooled since the start of the pandemic, adjusting to shifting consumer behaviors, new business practices, supply chain disruptions, a redistributed workforce and other challenges. Thousands of jobs vacated in 2020 are gone for good. Companies are not simply refilling vacated positions but are largely creating roles within new service offerings and new ways of doing business. Many of today's job openings call for skillsets that few available candidates are likely to possess.
Transferable Velocity: Bridging the Skill Gap
Organizations can bridge the skill gap by adopting a more flexible approach to evaluating candidate eligibility. Rather than compete head-to-head with other employers to find and hire individuals that already boast rare experience and specialized skillsets, recruiters and hiring managers can expand their options by sourcing candidates with the ability and motivation to reskill. We refer to this candidate quality as Transferable Velocity, which measures intrinsic skills and underlying drive that are applicable and movable from industry to industry.
It may help to picture transferrable velocity as an equation:
Transferable Velocity = accomplishments / time.
Evaluating transferable velocity requires a recruiter or hiring manager to discern where an individual is headed in their career. Their CV can provide a chronology, but the more revealing information – the story of how and why the individual achieved those accomplishments – typically will require an interview. Draw out these details with empirical questions, such as how the candidate approached an important project or dealt with setbacks. What did they learn, and how did they apply that to the next challenge?
The interviewer needs to understand how the candidate's accomplishments reflect innate skills that will serve them in any industry. Look for personal drive, effectiveness, problem solving and resilience in the face of challenges or failure. Have they achieved success, shown initiative to advance their skills and demonstrated raw talent that could be developed into new or enhanced skills through an effective onboarding or training program?
Once the hiring manager has formed a picture of the candidate's potential or trajectory, further questioning can establish whether that meshes with where the individual would like to be in, say, five years. If the candidate's trajectory and goals synchronize with the company's needs, then the screener has identified a high velocity candidate that is a match for skills and growth. Ring the bell!
If the candidate's five-year trajectory points to an endpoint in another industry, the recruiter or hiring manager must evaluate whether the individual's skillset is transferable. This will depend on the industries involved, skills, credentials and other factors. Assuming the changeover would mean placing the candidate in a more junior role than they have reached in their own industry, will they be able to advance quickly enough to justify a career change?
This is a serious point for both the employer and candidate to consider. Placing a self-motivated, high achiever from one sector into an entry level position in a new field will often lead to the candidate dropping out in frustration before they have advanced significantly in their new pursuit. When a high-velocity candidate's skills suggest they will learn quickly and prosper in the new industry, however, they will likely welcome the opportunity and form a stronger bond with their new employer as the relationship grows their abilities and earning potential.
For recruiters, staffing companies and hiring managers, learning to identify strong candidates from industries outside the one for which they are hiring gives access to a larger talent pool with less competition for workers offering an exact skills match. To discover transferrable velocity in an even larger pool – the entirety of available labor – interviewers must look deeper. We refer to this group as offering Hidden Transferable Velocity, in contrast to the Obvious Transferable Velocity that positions a high achiever to rise in their field, or the Potential Transferable Velocity that can propel a candidate into a new industry.
Discovering Hidden Transferable Velocity
Transferable velocity can hide within sparse or even uninspiring resumes. By asking the right questions and taking time to ferret out the life stories and aspirations hidden behind an applicant's work history, interviewers will often discover highly motivated and determined individuals who have overcome significant challenges without giving in to defeat.
These candidates often present less knowledge of required skill set and may need guidance or assistance to deal with other factors, such as arrangements for reliable transportation or childcare. They may be attempting to restart their careers after leaving another industry, or be reentering the workforce after caring for an aging parent or rearing children. These histories are seldom evident from a resume but can reveal great determination and other strengths that speak to transferable velocity.
Effective software platforms can and should help recruiters measure and document the transferable skills, credentials and histories of individual candidates to significantly accelerate both the sourcing and initial matching process. But they cannot be the ultimate authority or a crutch that leads to overreliance on a machine to spot human potential. As candidates progress along their career trajectories, core platforms like an ATS and recruiting CRM should help to keep track of experience and skill development from role to role and company to company, ultimately giving recruiters and hiring managers the tools and insights to spot a great match faster than the competition.
Harnessing obvious, potential, and hidden transferable velocity opens an organization's long-term talent pipeline to a wide pool. Properly carried out, hiring based on transferable velocity is a win-win-win. The employer accesses untapped talent creating productivity faster than the competition. The candidate is able to jumpstart their career or move into a faster lane and get more enjoyment from their work. And in the larger picture, society wins by bridging the gap that separates so much of the workforce from in-demand job openings today.
Editor’s Note: Aaron is the CEO and founder of Crelate where he brings more than 25 years of experience in product development and technology consulting, and was a lead architect in building Microsoft Dynamics CRM, one of the largest CRM platforms in the world. Aaron has spent most of his career hiring and growing developers, in both the enterprise and start-up world, with much of that time in niche technology fields.