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Hiring Sales People Outside your Industry

February 26th, 2014

While hiring within the industry may have its own benefits sometimes hiring managers may find themselves walking the other road and looking for recruits beyond their own industry. Hiring from within the industry lends the assurance that little to no training will be required when integrating them with the company or familiar job function. Each sales person brings their own unique DNA and selling strategy. What do recruiters do when there is a shortage of talent in their industry sales pool? Should they raid the competitor? Convincing them to jump ship and migrate to your company may not be the best answer. It’s important to understand what factors to look at when hiring from outside the industry.

What managers need to realize is that traditional hiring criteria will no longer stand true for the candidate if they’re not from your industry. Rather than assessing the candidate on the relationships and experience in the industry, employers must rely on a special mix of skill, talent, achievement and expertise when recruiting. A degree and experience may not necessarily be a factor when it comes to identifying a successful salesperson. Personality traits with “natural” or instinctive skills to influence and communicate effectively are characteristic among top performers.


Regardless of their industry, top performers are goal-driven and thrive on success. Goal-driven individuals seek opportunity for professional growth. Fresh perspectives from outside the industry may stimulate new approaches and solutions to problems in the new industry. Employers need to welcome candidates from outside the traditional circle as untapped potential and understand that skill sets are transferable from industry to industry.


A positive attitude is everything in sales. Hiring for character and the right attitude is not easy. Whether the sales position is inside or outside, hiring managers must hone in on the most important qualities such as relationship management skills and the ability to establish good rapport with others. Keep in mind a positive attitude generates optimism, creates humor and spurs sales. Positivism is a way of life that creates energy and drive to succeed. A good attitude towards the new company can take the candidates career to the next level and fuel growth for the new industry.


A natural curiosity and passion for the job is required for candidates looking to work outside the industry. Try to understand why they are willing to work in a field where they have no expertise?
Are they fresh graduates in an unstable job market or seasoned employees looking for change? Find the primary factor driving their need for change and assess whether they will be a good fit. If basic curiosity is lacking in what may be a completely different tangent for them, they may not be well suited for the job.


Look for the achievements that the candidate already has under their belt. Although these achievements may not be relevant to the current field that they’re applying for, they will provide insight into how dedicated they were in their previous employment and whether that same commitment will be translated here. Look for achievements that have contributed to personal growth and how these goals were met.

Experience & Education

Carefully assess the experience of the candidate. Look for recurring patterns, achievements and results across their work history. Alternatively, education is an important factor. While it may not be relevant to the field, there should be a minimum level of education to qualify for the position.

The Best Candidates

Often the best sales person for the job may come from the deeper talent pools outside of your industry. Just because a candidate has not worked in a certain industry does not mean they don’t have the potential to become an asset to that industry.

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