Instead of thinking of career changers as less qualified candidates for your position, consider them as rising stars, the talents of tomorrow! Why? Because they have already shown the willingness to approach new challenges and have proven the ability to get out of their comfort zone. A change of the career path is not an escape but an expression of motivation and willingness to change and grow.

This mindset is essential for the success of your company in a business world that is subject to continuous change. Additionally, career changers (also called lateral entrants) potentially increase the diversity of your structure – resulting in increased competitiveness of your company. Ignoring career changers in your recruiting process is therefore critically naive and you could miss out on great applicants – uncut diamonds with the potential to shine.

This article, on one hand, explains the potential of career changers and points out how to effectively integrate them into your recruiting process, on the other. 


Forget about Career Changes only being a Job Creation Measure!

First of all, it is important to eliminate the prevalent biases and circulating myths about changing career paths.

Myth number 1: Short training periods are a condition for a job to be suitable for career changers

If you only think of career changers as assembly line workers, school supervisors and cleaning staff, you are not thinking broad enough. A change of career means entering a position without having gone through the typical preliminary stages of that career. But there are numerous successful examples of people switching to a jobs they have not originally been trained for in every industry, every work area and every level of hierarchy.

… or who would, for example, think of the German chancellor Angela Merkel as less qualified, because she studied physics before she started her political career?

Myth number 2: Career changers are less qualified for a position than candidates experienced in the field, lack competencies and need longer time for training 

This misconception is based on the excessive overestimation of the importance of specialist knowledge for a personnel selection decision. Specialist knowledge can be acquired – but the ability to work in a team, initiative and innovative thinking is hardly possible. Recruiters should focus on the skills that can not be acquired easily for everyone. Career changers often have the same, or in some cases, even better prerequisites than experts who have been working in the same field for a long time.

There are more jobs suitable for lateral entries than you might think! It’s not only about the job and hard skills but also about the mindset of a person if they can do a job successfully.


The modern job market is predestined for Career Changers

Both short and long term developments of the job market show the increasing significance of career changers.

The constant change of many occupational fields requires a flexible workforce. The times when people learn a profession and use it throughout their entire career, preferably at the same company, are over! Constant change is the new reality and requires more willingness to learn and adapt than hard skills.

The World Economic Forum stated in its “Future of Jobs Report” that 65% of all children who are enrolled in school now will later have jobs that do not even exist today. And even within already existing professions there is a big change: One third of all core competencies that are sought for a job today lose their importance for this profession after 3-4 years.

This means: Career changers are the new standard on the job market! It will become more usual to change your career path than staying in one. Adapting to these developments now means preparing for the future and planning ahead. The shortage of skilled workers is already a problem the labour market is facing. Lateral entries are a quick short-term solution – or can you afford to always wait for the perfect candidate with a lifelong experience in the same job?


Changing the Career Path – Popular with Applicants but overlooked by Recruiters and Companies

A change of career is not only  a visible demand and development of the labor market – applicants too show a positive and demanding attitude towards more change.

In a study of over 1,000 applicants, the independent market research company respondi, commissioned by viasto, found that a full 75% of all employees are basically interested in changing jobs in a new occupational field. The most frequently cited reason for the idea of changing jobs, at 60%, is that “change is part of the job”. For employees and applicants, lateral entries are therefore already accepted as a matter of course. And there is an enormous potential in this if 3 out of 4 applicants can imagine a change of profession!

Currently, this potential is being overlooked by employers as recruiters are not adapting to the change sufficiently. In a recent study on reasons for rejecting applications, Personio found that 59% of all applicants are rejected due to a lack of professional competence. As already mentioned, however, in many cases these can be easily acquired – but the current recruiting measures are stopping potential career changers.


The Advantages of recruiting Career Changers

The job market is ripe for more career changers and applicants are interested. Personnel departments should not ignore this constellation, because lateral entrants offer enormous potential for recruiting. It is about what an applicant is capable of doing in the future, not what he or she has learned or done in the past. Career changers therefore expand the pool of potential candidates for almost any position and, in addition, they have many characteristics that put them ahead of candidates from within the field.

  • The desire to walk the stony path of a career change is often an expression of a strong intrinsic motivation and the willingness to go the extra mile.
  • Career Changers make the team more heterogeneous and thus promote a diverse workforce in the sense of balanced diversity management.
  • In addition, non-specialist skills complement the existing abilities of the team and can provide new ideas and impulses through the perspective gained. In this way, fixed patterns of thought are effectively challenged and innovative strength is increased.
  • Career changers are often happy about the opportunity to realize their wishes. In the best case, this leads to increased satisfaction, increased motivation and lower fluctuation.


How to systematically integrate Career Changers in the Personnel Selection Process

In order to be able to use all these advantages, a change of the mindset, especially in human resources departments, is needed. Simply saying “we now also accept applicants with unusual career paths” is of course not enough. Personnel selection processes must be systematically set up or adapted so that career changers have fair chances and the potential of candidates can be validly assessed. Of course, not every lateral entrant is better than applicants with a straight career path and not every job is equally suitable for career changers. But you should never overlook applicants with real potential as career changers, and that is exactly what you are risking when using classic recruiting processes.

Adjust your recruiting process to the specific requirements of career changers! The following tips can create a good basis for this:

1. Hire according to potential, not just skills. Competencies ensure that a person can handle a professional task today. But potentials mean an increased probability that future tasks can also be completed successfully.

2. Question and update your requirement profiles accordingly. Openly search for the criteria that are really fundamentally important for long-term success in your company and the position you are looking for.

3. Adapt job advertisements. For example, ask yourself if from the point of view of a person not familiar with the subject, you a) would find the job advertisement attractive and b) would have the feeling that an application would meet with an open ear. And also consider where you would best publish the advertisements. Career changers can also be recruited internally well. Do you reach your current employees with your advertisements?

4. A lateral entry does not end with the recruitment. Also consider how you can tailor your onboarding specifically to the needs of new hires from outside the profession. What special requirements do lateral entrants have in this position, and how can you carefully cushion and counteract the inevitable uncertainties that arise?

5. Ask the right interview questions during the interview. You cannot ask a candidate from a different field the same questions as an applicant with professional experience in the field – at least not if you want to get comparable answers.


Using modern technologies

Are you interested to see how digital personnel selection technologies and a modern mix of metds can optimize your recruiting and brace your company for the requirements of the digitalised working world?

Book a consultation with our experts on the possibilities of digital recruiting now!