Transferable Skills vs Technical Skills – Which Are More Important?

When it comes to finding a new employee, what’s more important, transferable skills or technical skills?

It’s a tough question which can determine the success of your hire and the future of your business.

To help you come to a conclusion on the debate, let’s explore the ins and outs of both transferrable skills and technical skills.

What are transferable skills?

Transferable skills are attributes that can be taken with you from one job or life scenario and used in another job.

These are recognised as core skills which are very valuable in all industries.

Transferable skills can provide your business with several benefits, including:

Flexibility:

With many jobs demanding employees to complete multiple tasks and roles, having transferable skills will allow them to adapt to the situation easily.

Diversity:

The more transferable skills a candidate has, the more diversity they can bring to your business.

Candidates who are fresh out of university will bring a new approach to your industry and a different outlook on the current market, which can help your business reach younger audiences.

Some examples of transferrable skills include:

Leadership:

The candidate’s ability to communicate, manage and motivate the team via captaining or managing sports teams or in other industries.

Understanding business strategy:

Regardless of what industry a candidate has previously worked in, if they know how to describe and implement a set of actions, plans and goals in a consumer market, they’re worth a shot.

Time management:

Whether an employee is on an early or late shift, being punctual is transferable in any type of job.

Check with your receptionist to see what time they arrive at their interview.

Prioritisation:

If you want an employee who knows how to get something done, you need to identify a candidate with an eye for prioritisation.

A perfect way of testing this is to ask them to fill out a ranking questionnaire.

Research and analysis:

Most jobs require some form of research and analysis.

Whether that involves feeding back from your findings on Google Analytics or researching how long a journey takes to get from A to B on their next delivery drop.

You’ll be able to tell how good a candidate’s research and analysis transferable skills are by asking them:

> “What do you know about the company?”

> “How do you think we could improve the operations at our company?”

What are technical skills?

In contrast to transferable skills, technical skills are the abilities and knowledge required to perform certain tasks.

They’re often practical and are commonly associated with jobs that require know-how on mechanical, information technology, mathematics or science.

A good example of a technical skill is a professional’s ability to fix a car.

Are transferable skills more important than technical skills?

The answer to the transferable skills vs technical skills debate boils down to the type of job and industry you’re concerned with.  

In some cases, transferable skills can be just as useful as technical skills – especially when you’re trying to fill an entry-level position.

However, it isn’t just graduates and junior professionals who lack the technical experience.

Nowadays, more and more people are choosing to make career changes in their 30s, 40s and even 50s.

So, don’t be surprised if you receive a few applications from older professionals for entry-level positions.

This shouldn’t be deemed as a problem though, as senior candidates bring a lot to the table.

For instance:

– They’re mature and have bundles of life experience.

– They’re usually better communicators than Millennials.

– They’re great listeners and can set an example.

– They’re sociable and can tackle any challenges head-on.

Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a new employee to work in the IT or engineering industries, having top transferable skills aren’t always going to suffice.

You need someone who has the technical skills to fulfil the demands of the job.

Think of it like balancing scales.

If you’re dealing with an engineering job, your candidate needs to have strong technical competencies and modest levels of transferable skills.

On the flip side, if you’re searching for an HR professional, the balancing scales should tip in favour of transferable skills as filling out forms on a desktop doesn’t require a vast amount of technical skills.

It’s also worth noting that transferable skills are completely recession-proof as well.

While cars continue to evolve and AI becomes more prominent, knowing how to fix a car from the 80s won’t always be enough for modern-day companies.

Technology demands change, but the need for strong leadership and time management skills don’t.

Your company will still need your staff to prioritise certain projects, communicate positively with clients and manage a team effectively.

When you’re assessing a candidate, you need to consider the transferable skills vs technical skills debate and decide which is more important.

By doing this, you can tailor your interview questions to ensure you find the right balance in a candidate.

Final Thoughts

A simple way of finding the right candidate is to create an employee persona and test candidates with certain interview questions which demand facts and examples that demonstrate a certain skill.

If you want someone with leadership transferable skills, try our 21 Tough Interview Questions That Reveal True Leadership Potential.

Or to find a candidate who has a strong mathematical/problem solving technical skills, challenge them with our 7 Tough Brainteasers to Assess An Interviewee’s Critical Thinking.

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