Why a candidate's 'experience' isn't everything during the hiring process
Why a candidate's 'experience' isn't everything during the hiring process

Work experience is one of the first things hiring managers consider during the application process, as it provides a glimpse into the applicant's core strengths and general competencies. Most candidates who posses a long history of professional experience also perform better during interviews, as they are able to demonstrate their first-hand knowledge and leverage their key skills. But experience isn't everything, as hiring on that basis alone may prevent you from onboarding workers with true growth potential.

While prioritizing industry experience does come with a number of benefits - such as familiarity with common practices and specialized jargon - it can also significantly limit your candidate pool. As Forbes contributor Jeff Hyman pointed out in a recent article, a vast majority of job descriptions are designed to attract candidates who are able to immediately contribute to a business's success, which places short-term gains above long-term prospects. This practice can certainly help you avoid hiring risks and save time during the training period, but it's important to leave some room for less experienced applicants to shine. Disqualifying candidates over a lack of experience can prevent companies from building the type of all-star team they are looking for, so they consider these alternative factors during the next recruitment push:

Cognitive ability
Every position demands a different set of technical skills and abilities, yet almost all professional roles require workers to think on their feet and take on additional responsibilities over time. Candidates with decades of industry experience may find it difficult to adapt to new working environments, especially those that regularly integrate new technologies and software tools. Asking questions is a strong sign of cognitive ability, as it demonstrates an attention to detail and a willingness to learn. Never underestimate the value of fresh ideas and problem-solving skills, as they may lead to actionable insights that can transform your company for the better.

Smiling workers sitting together at a lunch table.Employees who work well in teams can help maintain positive morale and foster a collaborative environment.

Personality traits
Collaboration is a key driver of success across a wide range of industries, yet professional experience does not always correlate with effective communication skills. This is one reason why multiple rounds of in-person interviews are crucial for hiring the best applicant, as it allows hiring managers and supervisors to get a strong feel for a candidate's personality and defining characteristics. Reading a resume will not provide adequate information about an applicant's determination to succeed or their potential for growth, traits that Doug Seville, co-founder and director of DSML Executive Search, considers hallmarks of a successful hiree, according to Fast Company.

Accumulated expertise
Experience and expertise are two sides of the same coin, but they're not quite identical - performing the same type of work for a long period of time does not necessarily mean a candidate has achieved a level of mastery. Some applicants can have years of translatable industry experience, yet it may be difficult to transition them into specific operational environments that require a good deal of flexibility. Understanding the concepts and tasks that a candidate has mastered can provide a useful benchmark for evaluating how suited they are to specific roles within your company.

Rather than focusing on raw brain power or history-based qualifications, hiring managers should look for applicants who can quickly process new information and come to thoughtful conclusions. And while potential is close to impossible to measure with any degree of certainty, there are other indicators that may help you predict a candidate's relative abilities, such as curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. Hiring the best person for the job takes a lot of patience and a willingness to look beyond their immediate qualifications, as skilled workers can come for all sorts of unconventional backgrounds. Before companies pass on a candidate with limited experience, they may want to take a moment to learn what else this individual can bring to the table - organizations could be quite surprised by what they find.

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