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Jul 11, 2011

What do the food industry and sporting goods industry have in common? They both need to understand their consumers — and they both have sensory evaluation (sensory evaluation is a scientific discipline that uses human senses — sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing to evaluate consumer products). How do we know that? Well, after a bit of trial and error, some great sourcing, and a need mandated by a Hiring Manager, we found out!

We were tasked with finding a Wear Test Manager with sensory evaluation experience. This person would be responsible for managing and setting the direction of our apparel wear testing program. The importance of sensory evaluation is that it provides us with data on what our consumers “think” about our products and “want” from our products.

We assumed (thinking this would be an easy search) a Wear Test Manager with sensory evaluation experience could be found in other apparel companies, so we focused our sourcing efforts there. After a few detours and dead ends, back to the drawing board we went. Having another conversation with the Hiring Manager, sensory science experience now became one of the primary requirements vs. simply being a “nice-to-have.” Here is our perspective, from both Sourcer and Recruiter point of view, of how we were able to source outside of our industry.

Arati’s Sourcing Perspective

As the Talent Scout, I conducted market research and provided competitive intelligence on why sensory evaluation was not an established function in the apparel industry. Many companies outsource wear testing to third party testing labs but don’t have the in-house sensory experience our roles needed. However, I learned from experts that most companies in the chocolate industry had a comprehensive sensory science program — who doesn’t love chocolate!

I then provided a one-page business case on approaching companies in the food and cosmetic industry. From there, I built a sourcing strategy and identified companies that had an established sensory science program. Through networking with experts, cold calling, conducting deep web searches, and posting job descriptions in top schools, I was able to build a comprehensive pool of candidates.

Once I identified top prospects, the most challenging aspect was convincing them to leave the food industry and join an apparel industry. Why should they join an apparel/footwear company when their educational background and professional experience was in the food industry? I got them excited by SELLING why sensory evaluation was important to the position, how this role would allow them to be innovative and use their expertise in sensory science, and how they could apply and build upon their foundation at Nike. The basic principles of sensory science could be applied across different industries and this was an opportunity for them to make a difference in the apparel industry.

So after finally uncovering prospects who got excited by this opportunity and the impact they could make at Nike, and after SELLING and converting them to active candidates and making sure they were now open to relocation, I presented the top candidates to my Recruiting partner and provided my assessment and point of view on these candidates to both the Hiring Manager and my Recruiter on why I selected them as my top candidates. Together we coached them and prepared them for the interviews.

Tanja’s Recruiting Perspective

Even with the great work that Arati had done to find candidates, I knew our work wasn’t finished. It was my turn to help SELL this exciting opportunity. As the Recruiter, it was essential for me to assess the candidate’s willingness to work outside of the food industry.  Questions about career interests; what they like and don’t like about their job; what kind of work environments do they prefer; are they okay with ambiguity or do they like things more defined; what was their connection to sport; what are they passionate about; how do they deal with change; and so forth. Overall, we needed to make sure the candidates were at a point in their career where they were open to exploring a new industry and were excited about it!  I needed to be clear on what was motivating their career change to make sure this would be a good next step. It was important to explain the work environment at Nike and how our culture supports career growth.  It was imperative to let candidates know they would be an integral part in actually building the apparel wear testing function at Nike. This is an exciting career opportunity for someone who wanted to have a chance to impact change within an organization.

In addition to SELLING the candidate and understanding their needs, it was also equally important to SELL the Hiring Manager. They needed to be open to someone having non-traditional experience while at the same time being understanding to the concerns a candidate can have leaving their industry. Yes, the Hiring Manager might have to spend a little time training on the apparel industry – but the reward would be gaining someone with expertise that can trickle down to the rest of the team.

Our story has a happy ending; our sourcing and recruiting strategy resulted in a great candidate from the food industry coming to Nike. Sourcing outside of your industry not only allows you to target in on a niche skill but also helps to bring diversity of experience and thought not only to a team but also to an organization. It was a big win – and as always for us, a team win!

Arati currently works at Nike as a Talent Scout for Product Creation and Merchandising and is primarily focused on apparel and sports equipment. She combines her International Public Relations experience and full life cycle recruiting experience to acquire the best talent for Nike. She enjoys talking to prospects who have not thought about leaving their jobs and landing them a home here at Nike. Arati has also worked for multiple pipelines at Nike including IT, Strategic Planning, and HR.  She began her recruiting career at a Software Consulting company as a HR Generalist/Recruiter and then worked at Wells Fargo as an HR Associate/Recruiter and Recruiting Manager at American Income hiring commission based insurance agents. Prior to that she worked in an International Public Relations agency and managed clients such as Benetton, Pierre Cardin, and others. Arati has a Masters degree in Communication Studies and was an Adjunct Faculty Member at the Communication Studies department at PSU and taught Speech Communication. When she isn’t building relationships with talent, she enjoys running, reading and spending time with her kids.

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