Guest Blog | Hiring second career candidates – are you missing a trick?

Changing career later in life brings its own experiences and insights. So why are your clients still likely to ignore this rich seam of well-rounded candidates?

DISCLOSURE:This guest post was written by Dakota Murphey, who often draws inspiration from training providers such as Tradeskills 4U.

When recruiting new talent, many hiring departments focus their attention on graduates with a linear career progression. But what about those who have had a more varied career history? Let’s take a look at second career workers and career changers. These are candidates who come with a broad set of skills and experiences: gained from exposure to multiple sectors.

Making the case for second-career hires

A recent Bloomberg study discovered that 1 in 6 people in the 35-54 age group were unhappy at work; the report describes 35 as being “the age that you start to hate your job”. Whether the classic midlife crisis is entirely to blame for these statistics is debatable, but the fact remains than many people in this age group choose to turn to a different career, and often out of a desire to something more meaningful with their life.
Of course, personal circumstances can also play a part. Take Carl Bennet (Trade Skills 4U founder), for instance, who counts himself lucky to have been given a chance of a two bite life after a promising career as a firearms specialist with the Met was cut short. He now runs a successful company training up electricians from all walks of life.

According to one survey from 2016, just 38% of hiring managers would consider recruiting a second-career candidate with the right skills. This leaves around two thirds of your clients still needing to be convinced. So how can recruiters let clients know that employing a career changer can be an asset as opposed to a risk?

What are the benefits of hiring career changers?

Recruiting from this talent pool can offer real benefits that go beyond greater experience. You can expect someone on their second career to be more grounded and have a better work ethic. It is too much of a generalisation to say that “with age comes maturity and greater self-awareness”. We all know that this is not always the case. However, it is certainly more likely among people who have made a conscious decision to start again.

Mature workers that have changed careers or re-trained have already identified their transferable skills beforehand. Many will have made significant trade-offs with regard to both their private and professional lives to facilitate the move.

One senior manager at the Open University Careers and Employability Services put it explains: “We have many students who are looking to change career, and study for a qualification to help them make the move. Our own research has found that employers value people who study like this. They have often had to make sacrifices to get their qualification, and are committed and passionate employees.”

Northampton General Hospital’s Associate Director for Professional and Practice Development agrees. “Second career workers are usually hardworking, conscientious, bring invaluable life experiences to their role and are not afraid to ask for help.”

While many employers have rigid checklists for the skills and experiences they are looking for in a candidate, career changers may not fit the conventional skill set. That said, there are a number of distinct advantages of hiring from a talent pool of workers who are on their second career that can be highly beneficial to organisations:


In today’s employment market, flexible working patterns and career opportunities are increasingly valued by employees and the organisation they work for. Career changers arguably possess two of the most important qualities that make them highly attractive candidates. They are not afraid of changes, and they are open to learning and new ways of doing things


There are many reasons why people change their career path, and chief among them are boredom, lack of opportunity and burnout in their previous fields. The motivation to look for new challenges (or overcome old ones) makes these candidates highly engaged and productive in an effort to achieve the kind of job satisfaction and rewards that eluded them in their former career.

Broad expertise

With vast experience drawn from a variety of fields, career changers bring a wealth of expertise from across sectors that can be a real asset for their new employer. Compared with professionals with single-track careers, a more diverse background brings new perspectives, innovative approaches and a more holistic view of every task they face.

Open mind

Second-career candidates come with an open mind, and are eager to learn – because that’s what it took for them to reset their path. Due to their flexible nature, these ‘maverick’ hires are used to finding creative solutions, won’t hesitate to question a process in order to understand it better, and have far fewer problems working collaboratively.

What about staff retention?

Of course, it makes complete sense for employers to hold on to their best talent. Key findings from an Oxford Economics study report that replacing a staff member costs a business over £30K, while new hires take up to 8 months to reach optimum productivity. Staff turnover costs UK businesses more than £4.13 billion per year.
From the employee’s point of view, changing careers is a risky strategy that requires careful consideration of the cost and time required to retrain, while budgeting for a reduction in pay that can take years to overcome. For many employers, their experience has shown that second-career workers tend to be loyal and dedicated employees, since they have worked hard to retrain and are now reaping the rewards of feeling reinvigorated by their new career choice.

This guest post was written by Dakota Murphey, who often draws inspiration from training providers such as Tradeskills 4U.

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