5 Reasons to Hire Outside Your Research Area

When it comes to hiring researchers, you should be prepared to step out of your comfort zone.

When reviewing applications for a research job, you’ll probably be looking for candidates with direct experience in the area you’re hiring for. You’ll search for candidates with a research record that exactly matches the scope of your project or that corresponds to the modules they’ll be required to teach.

This makes sense, and if you can find the perfect candidate with just the right experience, then you shouldn’t hesitate to hire them. But it’s also worth considering that perhaps the best candidate for the position hasn’t worked in that specific research area yet.

Many great researchers have successfully switched focus or even entire disciplines mid career, and thrived in their new roles.

Walter Gilbert, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, began his career as a theoretical physicist. More recently, ResearchGate member Dawn R. Bazely, who started her career as a researcher in Biology, moved into the area of sustainability and science policy and became director of York University’s Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability.

In both cases, the person who hired them could have gone with a candidate with more direct experience. But they saw past the limitations of a specific research area and instead hired academics who went on to perform at an incredibly high standard.

Here are 5 reasons why widening your search can help you find the best candidate.

1. You might miss the best talent

By focusing on those inside the precise research area you’re hiring for, you risk missing out on the majority of researchers out there, many of whom could do the job. You might find a candidate who is more qualified, has an extensive research record, and has the right qualities to transition to a new role. By widening your search, you can find the best available candidates.

2. The best and brightest candidates will be able to learn on the job

By looking at the record, reputation, and skills of candidates, you’ll be able to pick out those candidates with all the qualities that ensure that they’ll be a great fit. For the right candidate, it won’t be difficult for them to learn what they need for their new job, and you’ll end up with a better fit in the long run.

3. They’ll bring a fresh perspective

After they’ve finished their PhD or postdoc, researchers know their specializations inside and out. While this is traditionally an advantage, extreme specialization can sometimes lead to a narrow set of skills and an ingrained set of habits. Skilled researchers coming from other fields bring with them fresh perspectives and new ways of doing things. This could be just the thing you need to strengthen your department and get your research moving forward.

4. You’ll fill your vacancy more quickly

Finding the perfect candidate with just the right combination of specialization and skill takes time. You can fill your job more quickly if you look at candidates who work in related research areas and are looking to transition to a new role.

5. It’s good for science and research

Combining different skills and ways of thinking is good for the world of research. The Human Genome Project, for example, required not only genetics experts, but also computer scientists and bioinformaticians. Moving between research areas encourages a climate of collaboration between researchers, and it opens their eyes to new methods and ideas. Hiring from outside a specific research area encourages interdisciplinary collaboration and drives innovation.

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