This page is dedicated to employers who might be looking to employ a career change candidate, offering advice in what to look for and understanding why people might be looking to change their career.

Changing careers is very common

Gone are the days when most people would learn a trade and stick with it for life. This does still happen, and you are very fortunate if that is the case, but there are many reasons why people seek to change their career, and many of these can be positive.

The average person changes their job around 12 times during their working life, and that is roughly the same for both men and women. It is also believed that around 50% of people are always considering changing their careers. A lot of those will decide not to of course, but it does highlight the fact that this is a huge market of potential employees, and that changing career is both extremely common and doesn’t necessarily mean that the candidate is unreliable, unpredictable and liable to pack a job in and leave a few months after you have recruited them.

Why do people change their career?

There are many different reasons why people change their career, and as a recruiting employer you have a right to understand why, as it can tell you a lot about the potential employee. Often that reason will tell you something positive about the candidate, ie. they are ambitious, they have developed sufficiently in their previous career and are seeking a new challenge, and they see your organisation as it. People often feel stuck in a job if there is no prospect of promotion or progression, so seeking a new job shows they are keen to learn and develop, and you can reap the benefits of that.

Similarly, a job may leave someone feeling unfulfilled. Maybe the position is not utilising their qualities or there is not enough variety or professional achievement in the job. Trying to improve that situation should not be looked on negatively. Of course there can be more specific reasons for a change of career, such as an enforced period of absence from work for whatever reason, so it is important that you establish what that was. But often, this reason will not necessarily mean that the candidate is not capable, willing, reliable and still able to develop.

The importance of soft skills

Soft skills are perhaps an alternative term for ‘transferrable skills’, as they are the skills you can carry from job-to-job and career-to-career, and in effect are skills that will never leave you. Every job has specific or technical qualities, knowledge and tasks which apply to it, these are known as ‘hard skills’, and they are important in every job, but people can be trained to learn these skills. Soft skills are what you need to look for in a career change candidate.

Common soft skills can be classed as things like good communication, high standards, diligence and thoroughness, attendance and reliability, flexibility to new positions and tasks, ie. an ability to learn and adapt. 92% of recruiters say that soft skills are “just as important” as hard skills, because they are fundamental qualities which are always malleable so that they can apply to a new position or career.

Emotional intelligence and why it is important

Emotional intelligence is similar to soft skills, in that it shows that a candidate has basic qualities that are useful to any employer, and they immediately tell that employer a lot about the candidate. So this could be self-awareness, level-headedness, compassion and empathy for others, able to take criticism positively and constructively. An employer should be looking for these to show that this candidate can fit in at their workplace and in their career. It can also show that a candidate can be both a leader and a team player, and still has that potential within them.

What else is important when seeking a career change candidate?

So far we have looked for what can be termed as ‘transferrable skills’, but when you are recruiting a career change candidate, you also need to look for specific things in an application, CV and interview. You need to establish if the candidate has a passion for the position you are offering them. This means that they will be able to embrace a change of career as they have an eagerness to learn, to take on new skills and are able to be educated. You should be able to detect this quite easily during the recruitment process.

You also need to understand what their motive for change is. This will tell you a lot about their circumstances and their future goals. It may also tell you what training and development opportunities they are open to, and hence, whether they will fit into your organisation and the career path you are offering. It is important that the candidate understands your industry and are going into this change “with their eyes open”, so you need to make key features and characteristics of the job and the industry very clear.