By Gordon Hecht

In this tight labor market, you’ll want to drop the idea that experience in a specific job role is a requirement.

Sure, you’d love to hire Suzy Supersales for your showroom, or a delivery person with 10 years of final-mile experience. But you may find some transferrable and truly invaluable skills from outside our industry in your next candidate. Here’s some examples:

Just the Facts, Ma’am. Selling and customer service skills come from asking good questions. And no one knows how to ask questions like a former police officer. They ask things logically and seek the “real” answer. Officers tend to retire from the force with many more working years left in their careers and can be an asset to your team.

Go to the Head of the Class. The greatest part of selling is teaching; seek to hire former or current teachers. You’ll give them greater earning potential with far less paperwork to do. For the most part, our frontline educators are underpaid, and you may find that they are able to fill in some part-time weekend hours for you.

Miracle on 34th Street. Department stores are closing all around the country. For the most part, it’s not because they had bad employees. You will find good customer skills and people who know how to sell credit when you hire that former Macy’s or Penney’s clerk.  Just understand that they’re used to hourly wages instead of commission-based pay.

A-ten-hut! If you want to organize your organization, look no further than retired or former military members. Skill, determination, respect forward and backward, and responsibility made them successful in the service and they will serve you well too.

Smells Like Team Spirit. We all must start somewhere. High school graduates and college students who participated in sports or other clubs learn teamwork and leadership skills that can help them become productive in your company right from the start.

And as you look to build your team, know that “people knowledge” is more important than “product knowledge.” Hire for attitude; you can teach the aptitude.

Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry. You can reach him at

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