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Challenges of moving sectors for HR Professionals - Solutions from Aytan Hilton

Posted by Claire Stradling

I speak with HR professionals every day and one of the topics of discussion to always arise is the challenges of moving sector within HR. I wanted to get a better insight into this matter and so I asked for the advice of a few senior HR professionals who we work with, who have successfully navigated multiple sector moves within their extensive HR careers

It seems that on the candidate side, the concern tends to be that they feel ‘pigeonholed’ and must follow the work, rather than be able to work in a variety of sectors and diversify their experience. On the client side, the view may be that they want candidates who are able to hit the ground running, who understand the challenges of the sector, and despite having empathy for the candidate’s position, the clients have their business needs to consider. 

Here, I speak with Aytan Hilton, Director of Cub3ed Consultancy  - to get his thoughts on how to best navigate a move in the HR sector.

How have you managed to move sector effectively? Do you have useful tips for application or interview?

I am in total agreement with your initial notes and observations about challenges with moving sector in HR, I have been fortunate enough to be recommended and referred for a lot of my cross-sector opportunities. These warm introductions help to overcome the inertia of being stuck in one sector and opens doors to using my skills across different sectors.

Do you have any advice for candidates who feel ‘pigeonholed’?

My advice would be to have the confidence to challenge those who are pigeonholing you. Get them to focus on “what” you have achieved and are good at rather than just “where” you might have done it. Remember, as a HR professional, your skills are highly transferrable, bothin terms of soft skills and technically.

There is a stereotype that public to private sector movers would struggle to adapt to the pace of work and in turn, that private sector to public movers would feel frustrated with the red tape, bureaucracy and different nature of stakeholders. What is your experience this?

To an extent I would agree with this statement (as a generic stereotype) but with the caveat that there will always be exceptions on both sides of the fence. When I worked for the Government Digital Service, the pace was frantic rather than fast but then I’ve also experienced a lot of wasted time in the private sector when projects or activities are shelved for no real reason; with a sense of time and money being wasted as a result

What change would you like to see from a client perspective – whether it is what you’d like to see from potential employers or what you as an employer would like to see in a candidate wanting to move sectors?

I would like to see clients being true to their values and employer value propositions that state they are innovative, forward-thinking, diverse and inclusive, yet so many are not when it comes to candidates moving sector. A diversity of mindset for me is as important as aesthetically diverse workforces and this will tend to come by having more talent genuinely coming into an organisation from different sectors and industries. Having worked in several sectors and industries, the common challenges shared by organisations are a lot more closely aligned than they realise and therefore need to overcome the stigma that they always need to hire from within a smaller community of like-for-like individuals. Hope that helps!

I hope the above has offered some guidance and reassurance to HR Professionals in this position, and perhaps offered a new perspective for employers. I look forward to sharing more insights in this series.

For more information about this article, or to speak to Claire about your recruiting needs or HR jobs in London or Nationwide, contact her on 02072696351 or



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