Taking away the risk

It always feels safer to employ someone who has the done the role before. It is reasonable to assume that someone with 20 years’ experience has come across most of the problems before and knows how to deal with them. It is also reasonable to assume that someone with little or no experience might struggle being as skilled or competent, especially in unusual circumstances. Employing experience has a comforting reassurance about it – but also some traps.

Challenges that come with experience

Experience brings undeniable benefits, there can be some problems. Things to ask about:

  • Were those experiences broad (not enough specific expertise) or narrow (not enough general awareness)?
  • How did they change the person’s approach or practices?
  • Were they repetitive (eg, 1 year 20 times over) or continually new (20 different years)? If repeated, what does that say about the applicant’s appetite for taking on new things? If continually new, what does that say about the candidate’s fulfilment if repetition is required?
  • What habits and ways of thinking have become ingrained? How many of those are likely to be helpful in your environment?
  • How many experiences and responses represent your values, culture or practices?
  • How open is the person to moving on from their old habits and taking on new learning, techniques and processes?

Benefits from inexperience

And while a lack of experience probably indicates reduced competence on day one, there are some benefits:

  • Inexperienced people are often easier to teach according to the way you want things done
  • Inexperienced people are usually less resistant to change
  • Inexperienced people usually value their achievements more highly, and so feel more intrinsically rewarded (it’s even better if you notice them too)
  • Inexperienced people are often less financially demanding, and can be compensated as their skills and performances improve – you pay more in response to getting more value
  • Inexperienced people don’t bring as much baggage
  • Inexperienced people are usually more humble, appreciative and keen to please.

While we value experience, we always make hiring recommendations based on other things too, including potential and attitude, but it depends on your needs, especially in balancing the training you can provide with the independence you require from day 1. We recommend you do too.

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