Sector Specific Experience: Needed or Not?

by Sector Specific Experience: Needed or Not?

I’ve taken many job specifications in my time and as a healthcare specialist dealing with FM service providers, a client asking for healthcare experience is a given…. until recently.

While in a meeting with a company I have worked with successfully a few times before, I was surprised to hear “We don’t want anyone with healthcare experience, in fact; we don’t necessarily want anyone with FM Experience”.

My immediate reaction was to check it wasn’t April 1st. Healthcare experience is a standard request, and FM experience is essential. Yet here we were, with a job specification for a role where my client didn’t need, or even want, experience in either.

After explaining their reasons for this, it got me thinking; is sector specific experience really that important? Using healthcare as an example, I explored the pros and con’s.


Pro's of sector specific experience:

  • Understanding the nature of the client within the healthcare sector takes a lot of experience. Dealing directly with the trust can be difficult as they themselves are under huge financial constraints and can be very demanding.
  • With the volume of competition for contracts and the financial pressure the client is under - rightly or wrongly - price is a huge factor. Tenders are priced with very little profit margin. This means a contract has to be run incredibly efficiently and avoiding penalties is a must. Knowing the best way to run a hospital is a distinct advantage.
  • PFI contracts in particular are very complex and sophisticated; they can take a long time to get your head around. Understanding the commerciality of such a contract is vital in order to understand what you are required to deliver and will help enormously if disputes arise.
  • Working in a critical environment is challenging. In a hospital you are essentially responsible for people’s life which brings an enormous amount of pressure. Not everyone can deal with that pressure and not everyone is willing to work the hours required.
  • Healthcare contacts are unique in the way they are often single site with employee numbers in the hundreds. Dealing with this many people on one site can be very challenging, and understanding the infrastructure and communication methods needed is very important.


Con's of sector specific experience:

  • The main negative is the lack of innovation coming in. There is an argument to say that people who have been in one sector for a number of years use the same ideas and practices they always have. This prevents fresh ideas coming through, which means the sector will not develop and can become stagnant.
  • The talent pool is very limited. There are some very talented individuals within the healthcare sector without doubt; however, there are also very talented people outside of it. Are those people being overlooked, despite having a lot to offer the healthcare sector?
  • It is incredibly hard to find enough good FM healthcare professionals for the amount of jobs available. This is forcing the industry to pay over the odds. I personally have seen a significant increase in salaries over the last 2 years and without exploring a wider talent pool this is set to continue.


Obviously as a FM healthcare specialist my life is a lot easier if clients ask for healthcare experience as I have an extensive, well-established network of professionals and know the top talent within the sector. However, the investments made by my company means I have the resources available to reach much further than just the healthcare sector. I am able to utilise my interviewing and assessment skills, in addition to psychometric testing, to understand my candidate’s competencies and aspirations ensuring they match my client’s requirements – regardless of current sector or experience.

I genuinely think we can have the best of both worlds, I believe there is talent within the healthcare sector which we could do more to develop. I also feel we should be encouraging our talent to research best practice and innovation from success stories in other sectors.  The increase in the use of methodologies such as Lean Six Sigma is evidence to me that this is starting to happen, but is this enough to fill the obvious gap in volumes of talent that is growing? In my opinion we should be more open to taking advantage of operational talent from outside of healthcare. We could turn a potential stalling of industry development into a time of bloom and prosperity if we do so. Is it time to take a more flexible approach to recruitment strategies?

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