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The trick to identifying transferable skills – three steps to refining requirements

With industries struggling or temporarily shut down and over 36 million people filed for unemployment, the talent pool has shifted. The swelled candidate pool is now teeming with talent rich in transferable skills looking to shift out of suffering and contracting industries.

This is a fantastic opportunity to scoop up some of that great talent… if you can find them.

The challenge with candidates from other industries is that, while they may have all the relevant skills, experiences, abilities, and knowledge, they may still be excluded due to unrefined requirements. Industry-specific requirements such as years of experience in a specific job or knowledge of a specific software (vs. the general type of software) could be weeding out great talent and leaving your organization left out.

Are your requirements ready for the shifted candidate pool?

Here are three steps to ensure requirements are as inclusive as possible for those great candidates with transferable skills, and/or backgrounds that may not fit traditional molds.

Step 1: The first why

Why is this a requirement for the job?

When evaluating a requirement (let’s call it ‘X’), asking why will lead to one of three responses:

  1. X is absolutely necessary for the job. Excellent, keep the requirement, move to Step 3.

  2. X is a requirement because we need Y. Requirement is now Y, not X. Move to Step 2.

  3. I have no idea why we need X. Consider removing the requirement.

Based on these three conclusions, either keep the requirement and move onto step 3, remove it, or replace the requirement with the ‘requirement behind the requirement’ (i.e. Y), and move onto Step 2.

For example:

The requirement: “Must have a degree in corporate Law and licensed to practice in Delaware.”

Why: Because without it, candidates cannot legally do the job.

Conclusion: Keep the requirement, move onto Step 3.

The requirement: “Must have at least a four-year degree in marketing, sales, business, or similar.”

Why: To show that they have a basic understanding of part of the job.

Conclusion: requirement is actually having a basic understanding – move to step 2.

The requirement: “Must have at least 3 years as a Director of Marketing”

Why: To prove they know how to run marketing teams responsible for content, communication, and PR.

Conclusion: requirement is knowing how to run marketing teams responsible for content, communication, and PR – move to step 2.

The requirement; “Must have experience with Adobe photoshop, illustrator, and similar design software”

Why: I don’t know. I think the head of Marketing used to do design work…

Conclusion: remove.

Step 2: The why chain

And why is this a requirement for the job?

As soon as you replace X with Y, you could be on the cusp of a ‘why’ chain. This is when you funnel your inner child – and ask: Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?.... (or sometimes what or how)

And each time the answer is one of three things:

  1. Y is absolutely necessary for the job. Excellent, keep the requirement, move onto step 3.

  2. Y is a requirement because we need Z. Requirement is now Z, not Y. Repeat Step 2.

  3. I have no idea why we need Y. Consider removing the requirement.

The deeper you can dig, the more inclusive and applicable the requirement becomes.

For example:

The Requirement: “At least five years-experience working the front desk at a hospital.”

Why do you need the experience: Because hospitals are high pressure environments and to be successful you have to be able to handle the pressure.

Why is it high pressure? Because people’s lives may be threatened, emotions are high, and if it is handled improperly it can put the hospital at risk.

What is required to handle these situations: you must be able to triage emergency situations, calm angry or scared people, and ensure that you get and protect the necessary information from patients.

Conclusion: requirements:

  • Must be able to triage emergency situations quickly to the proper experts.

  • Must have experience working with clients/customers in highly-emotional circumstances with a proven ability to address and defuse stressful situations.

  • Must be able to collect and secure data following defined best practices and procedures.

Step 3: Trainable?

You followed the ‘why’ chain and have the true requirements. There is one more critical question – is the requirement trainable or do the candidates need to meet it on day one?

As with the ‘why’, there are three potential answers to the question: “Is it trainable?”

  1. No. They must have before starting. Excellent, keep the requirement.

  2. Kinda… we can train some of it. Specify the level of what candidates must have.

  3. Yes. We can train for that. Consider removing.

Based on these three conclusions, either keep the requirement, remove it, or modify it to make it clear what the candidate needs to start.

For example:

The requirement: “Must be well versed on EEOC regulations and methods of ensuring compliance”

Trainable? No – the role is compliance officer.

Conclusion: Keep the requirement.

The requirement: “Must know”

Trainable? Kinda, we show how we use, but if they’ve never used a CRM they wont pick it up fast enough.

Conclusion: requirement is “Must have working knowledge using a CRM for tracking sales activities such as”

The requirement: “Must have working knowledge of collecting patient data.”

Trainable: Yes – all new hires go through extensive training on collecting and handling patient data before they can start.

Conclusion: remove requirement.

Bringing it all together

The candidate pool has greatly swelled with talent. However, the best talent may not be from the specific industry or role that you are seeking. Going beyond the obvious requirements to what is really required will ensure you are engaging the widest range of talent. Ask why, then ask it again, and again, and again… until all requirements are truly required. Then make sure you are only requiring what can’t/won’t be trained.

Increase reach even further by combining the requirements with inclusive descriptions and titles that use clear language, and are optimized for remote hiring.

Refresh your requirements so you attract and identify the best talent in this shifted candidate pool. You can do it, we can help. Career.Place, an anonymous candidate screening tool that removes bias from hiring, is supporting our customers through COVID and beyond. We are providing free software and services through the crisis to ensure that all who need it have safe, remote screening technology while promoting inclusive hiring practices. For more information, contact us at

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