Imagine this. You have applied for a specific job online that you think you like or confident you can take on. And after a few days, you get a standard (auto) reply in the negative. Chances are that your resume was never sent to the hiring authority but rather filtered by a clueless recruiter. (S)he has skimmed your profile amongst the thousand profiles (s)he may have received and cursorily seen couple of words in it and then had put you in the ‘reject’ folder. I would then say you have been ‘bucketed’. There are lots of other words used to describe the phenomenon – Tagging, Labeling,Cookie cuttingetc. It is not what you know or what you can do, but rather what the recruiter thinks you don’t know or what you cannot do.
During lateral hiring, the assumption for the recruiter of the hiring company is that you should have almost all of the required skills stated in the job description, and anything beyond those skills does not matter to him/her. As one gets more experienced, one evolves gradually to be less hands-on and are more valued for your execution skills, positive behavior and your overall holistic systems knowledge – the companies would term it as ‘you need to have a bigger responsibility’. And there is a good chance that more senior the role is, irrespective of the domain in many cases, the more value that you bring in are these non-technical skills that you had acquired within your past and present organizations. With that said, being bucketed does not help either the job seeker or the employer. Assuming instantly that the job seeker would not be capable of learning and doing the job advertised is a complete farce as one completely oversees the other value that the seeker can potentially bring in to the organization. One can overcome this tag or label only after a couple of discussions have taken place as only an open dialog can address mutual expectations.
Lateral hiring itself is difficult for experienced folks as what you have done in your first few years sort of puts you in a pre-defined bucket and whatever you would have done in the later years may not be seen as offering any value. After about 12 years in the professional market, you need to realize that it is NOT what you know but WHOM you know that is going to land you in your next job. The more experienced you are, it is always better to have the HIRING manager be able to see your profile rather than have some junior recruiter, who may not have any clue of what the job really needs, dictate your destiny. (S) he would see couple of jargons in your profile and immediately label or tag you and moves on assuming you cannot be a fit to the present opportunity. There is an assumption made that your X domain expertise will not be useful to the Y domain expertise that they are looking out for. Here I am assuming X and Y domains both fall into a common superset and there are some commonalities between them. I am not talking about metallurgy and literature, or farming and power transmission as the two domains, just to put my line of thought in perspective, although personally I know of a friend of mine who quit an electrical transmission and distribution company and became a successful vanilla farmer.
The irony also would be that an employee who is already inside the company may not even have half the skills that they are looking out for in the new candidate but still has learnt the art of survival from within. And many of us have had prior working relationships with executives in the higher branches of the management of various companies to wonder how these folks are actually there at such critical high decision making levels? Again, this is sort of a Tagging and Labeling we unconsciously get trapped into ourselves.
The college degree that you had got hopefully may help you get the first job but may not be same domain you would be actually working down the road in your career. Putting it differently, I would say that you do not get to use about 80% of what you have studied but still are able to make significant contribution to the organization you work for.
There are reasons beyond one that an employee is valued within any organization, be it at any level which most of us may not be aware of while passing an unnecessary judgement from outside. It is also not right for a recruiter to assume that a lateral hire is not capable of learning and executing in the newer domains but can be brought in for other values that (s)he brings to the organization. Normally recruiters do not operate with an open mind and they blame the volumes of resumes they get for a particular job for not going through most of them. It is important for all profiles to be considered properly, evaluated for what the skill sets and values they bring in, have a short dialog with the job seeker and then to make a decision one way or the other – this is the proper “Due Diligence”.
No successful entrepreneur would have made it if they had been bucketed to a particular domain or expertise. In fact, their accomplishment is to think outside a defined box and offer a unique solution that they can market. It is also known that a person in his/her mid-life(40s) would have other interests in both personal and professional life that (s)he would like to experience, which means (s)he would be more than open to newer ventures , within his risk appetite. I am also of the opinion that (s)he also can innovate and learn quickly by applying ideas and learning from his/her discipline onto another newer discipline in a precise methodical manner. Doing something new every now and then keeps one motivated and hungry to learn to be able to execute and deliver and I know that most of us have this craving within us to be the best in what we do. I also feel that they get bored after a while in doing what they are doing and want to do something different.
Some examples to remind you that your past does not dictate your future, and it should NOT: Scott McNealy, one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems – a major server company, had a Bachelors of Arts in Economics. John Chambers, the former CEO of Cisco, the networking giant actually had a Bachelor’s degree in Science and Art and a Law degree and started off his career as a Sales engineer with IBM. As we all know Bill Gates of Microsoft fame, Larry Ellison of Oracle and Steve Jobs of Apple fame are drop-outs and still made their name; in fact, Steve got his hands wet with Pixar which brought to us Toy Story and other successful animated cartoons. Rowan Atkinson, the actor of Mr. Bean fame, does have a Master’s degree in Electrical engineering from Oxford.
My point is as you climb the convoluted career staircase based on aspirations and accumulated expertise, each step can be different but must be climbed to get to the next step that may turn in a different direction – all previous steps do materialize. If these individuals were bucketed or tagged, they would not have gone anywhere and done anything close to what they have achieved.