Check out the latest in the New York Times 'Corner Office' interview series, this one with CEO of Spreecast Jeff Fluhr, (who was also the founder of StubHub), and thus probably knows a few things about finding and retaining talent).
Fluhr, in no uncertain terms, takes umbrage with the traditional, overly cautious in a CYA kind of way, approach to hiring that essentially seeks out only those candidates that have already done pretty much the same job that you want them to now do at your company, and at a company that is pretty similar (industry, size, location, etc.), to your shop.
Basically, you want a slightly fresher, more enthusiastic, (probably younger although you won't admit it), version of the person who just left the job. Someone that can simply be plugged in to the machine without too much bother and the great ship of industry can just keep steaming along.
But Fluhr says you're wrong to try and hire in that fashion. And he explains why in the NYT piece:
What I was often doing at StubHub as the company grew was to say, “O.K., we need a V.P. of marketing and we want somebody who’s been a V.P. marketing at another consumer Internet company, and hopefully, they’ve done these certain things because that’s what we need.” But the reality is that if you get somebody who’s smart, hungry and has a can-do attitude, they can figure out how to do A, B and C, because there’s really no trick to most of these things.
One of the things I tell people is that experience is overrated. I still sometimes find myself falling into the trap of thinking, when I’m trying to fill a role, “Has the person done the work that the role requires?” That’s the wrong question. It should be, “Let’s find a person who has the right chemistry, the right intellect, the right curiosity, the right creativity.” If we plug that person into any role, they’re going to be successful.
Fluhr's reasoning and approach intuitively make sense - after all, in only the most highly skilled, technical jobs do these kind of faux-requirements, 'Must have 10 years progressive experience doing pretty much the same thing we want you to do here' actually make sense.
Admittedly, no one wants a brain surgeon or an airline pilot short on experience but possessing a 'can-do' attitude.
But for most of the rest of the roles that often fall into the dreaded 'hard-to-fill' category, ask yourself honestly if at least part of the problem is that the starting point for the definition of the ideal candidate is that they have already done the job, almost exactly the job, that you are hiring for.
Ask yourself if you are really interested in hiring the best talent you can. Or hiring just the ones that won't need much training or won't annoyingly require someone on your team to explain all the knucklehead jargon and acronyms that unique to your business and industry and are so important for your success.