What does BP's ongoing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico have to do with your hiring practices? More than you may think.

Last month, five international oil companies were chastised by the US Congress for having near identical spill-response plans. Putting aside questions of negligence and complacency, this tragedy highlights the risk of only hiring from a talent pool with industry-specific experience. Tight-knit industry clusters breed mediocrity. If BP had enlisted the help of an industry 'outsider' - one with parallel experience, complementary competencies and a fresh perspective - perhaps their spill response plan may have had more success.

Yes, experience and pedigree are important, but old hands don't guarantee new ideas and fresh thinking. The best candidate with the most promising competencies and creative energy may work in another industry. While responsibilities and context may differ, the applicable core competencies driving an individual's success may be readily transferable.

Progressive leaders who toy with the idea of hiring for competency over breed may have trouble seeing past industry boundaries. This is understandable. Such actions demand courage and a hiring process that inspires confidence. Today's market conditions currently favor such courage and confidence. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlights employment trends that support the case for hiring outside the box.

Why act now? Consider just three reasons:

1. Well-established brands are also well-entrenched. Future success depends on innovation and connection to the next generation of customers. Fresh thinking, strategy and perspective borrowed from an analogous company in a parallel industry could propel new growth and prosperity.

2. Far flung candidates may be reluctant to relocate if the hurdles of selling their homes or finding their partners new jobs seem too high. Since relocation costs are also on the rise for companies, the rise of failure may seem insurmountable. Cost-conscious and community-oriented companies must balance the benefit of hiring locally with the potential inconvenience of a smaller, homogenized talent pool. Under these circumstances, hiring outside of the industry may be an attractive alternative.

3. Creative thinkers naturally tire of the same old job responsibilities and challenges. Boredom with their current situation may inspire top performers to jump into something new and stimulating, even if it means a pay cut. A successful person with the competencies you need will ultimately perform well and quickly compensate with rejuvenated enthusiasm.

In 2008, I met with an entrepreneur who wanted to jump from a career in healthcare into the outdoor industry. Sure enough, he is flourishing as a national sales manager with a burgeoning outdoor apparel company. He is passionate about the business and is an authentic brand evangelist in pursuit of market share. After just one year in the industry, he is a top performer bringing all of his past entrepreneurial experience to benefit his new employer.

As in the case above, the risks can be daunting, but the pay-off can be substantial. If you're ready for some brave hiring, hedge your bets with these tips:

1. Prioritize values and culture fit.

Take stock in your company. Review the vision, mission and values driving your business, then let them guide the hiring structure. Don't forget to pay close attention to culture fit. Employees who are a good cultural fit perform better, and typically stay longer. I've written more about culture fit on my blog.

2. Follow your map.

To determine fit and identify transferable competencies, develop a structured behavioral interview process. Carefully align the interview questions to the competencies needed for success. Then, create a consistent selection process. A blog post that I previously wrote provides recommendations for structured interview techniques.

3. Look past the horizons of your industry.

Would it surprise you to learn that some of the best footwear designers come out of the automotive industry? What complementary industries harbor folks with talents, capabilities, and competencies you identified above? Look for these people with experience in parallel, but relevant industries.

Building momentum takes time. Be patient.

If you've invested effort in the above suggestions, then it will pay off to allow your new hire to absorb company culture and vision. Once she gets up to speed, there's no telling how far she'll take you. Although you can be sure it won't be in the same direction as your four major competitors.

About Notogroup: Notogroup is an executive search and talent consulting firm. We have a singular focus on providing the most comprehensive executive recruiting service to that our clients can be assured that each and every hire is a successful one.

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