Take even a cursory look at the job ads on your Linkedin feed, and you’ll see references everywhere to the need for applicants to have a certain level of experience in order to be ‘suitable’ for a role.
A pointless exercise
But this is actually fairly pointless. After all, what does “years of experience” really tell you about a person? If someone has spent five years doing the same job, but the vast majority of their learning and development occurred in that first year, what value do those additional years have in relation to their ability to perform?
Spoiler: None at all.
A better way
As leaders, what we really need to know is what the product of experience actually translates into; the measures of real learning, development and accomplishment. We need to know how that experience was actually relevant to the task at hand. We are essentially asking how the candidate has used their time to develop vital competencies, skills and attributes that make them the perfect person for the job.
When we are concerned about experience, what we are really asking ourselves is whether this person is familiar enough with the rigours, challenges and opportunities of the job to be able to handle it. Will they step up without needing to be hand-held all the time? Can we trust that they will handle the level of responsibility that comes with the job, and show that they are a safe pair of hands?
To gain the information we actually require as leaders, we need to measure the candidate’s record of comparable achievement; in other words, what have they achieved that is most relevant to the performance objectives of this position?
Re-working the process
This can be achieved in a simple and effective way via the performance-based interview.
Which is all well and good you say, but what about when I’m looking for candidates? I can’t afford the time to interview absolutely everyone to see how well their experience translates into accomplishment. I need a shortcut!
To which I would ask you two questions.
One: When you or your HR department post your jobs online, how targeted are the applications you receive right now?
Two: What if you could apply this same methodology to your adverts, too?
As it turns out, you can. Learn how here.
Thinking outside the box
So we should not fixate on time served in analysing a candidate’s experience. Ultimately, this is not what we are really interested in and the right candidate may well be demonstrating all the competencies, skills and abilities that you need long before they’ve accumulated the desirable ‘service years’.
In fact, people who can do that will be better candidates with much more future potential. After all, who is the most capable person – someone who needs five years’ experience to do the job well, or someone who can learn it in just one year?
Don’t let that perfect hire get away by being blinkered in this regard.
This article was written by Harrison Wright Managing Director