Why you need to hire for potential over experience
Why experience should matter to any business
Any recruiter will look at a candidate’s experience during consideration, and why wouldn’t they? After all, it’s only natural that the company would want to hire employees who have proven they’ve done the job before. Looking at the ‘experience’ section of a CV can provide insights into a candidate’s skills, abilities, and knowledge of the role and industry. On paper, the ‘right’ experience should mean somebody is right for the job too.
Relevant experience is also undoubtedly appealing because it suggests that a candidate won’t need significant training in order to do the job — in theory, they should be able to hit the ground running. And here at Chemistry, we’re in agreement. Experience does matter — but only to a degree.
The limits of using experience to selecting candidates
The problem with focusing on experience alone is that this approach looks at the past rather than the future. A candidate may boast an impressive sales record or a few industry awards. Does this mean they will replicate this success at a new company? Not necessarily.
Context is everything when it comes to hiring talent and every company is unique. Organisational structures, cultures, rewards systems and workplace relationships are just a few examples of things that vary between businesses, and if just one of these factors is different compared to a candidate’s previous employer, there’s every chance they won’t perform at the same level.
With this in mind, it’s unsurprising that research from Florida State University has found that experience doesn’t predict a new hire’s success, despite the fact that 82% of the job ads in their sample either required or stated a strong preference for experience.
Author Chad H. Van Iddekinge suspected this was because while experience shows how long a candidate has been in a previous position, it doesn’t show how they performed within it. “One of the basic premises in our area of research is that past behaviour predicts future behaviour. But prehire experience isn’t a measure of behaviour. The person might have failed or stagnated in previous jobs. So we should take experience into account but maybe do a better job of delving into prehire performance,” he explained.
Rather than focusing exclusively on experience, companies need to consider future potential during the hiring process. And to do so, you must analyse candidates more holistically.
What experience shows you (and what it doesn’t)
You’ll get this:
- Do they have evidence of relevant skills?
- Have they personally had a positive impact on a company’s success?
- Have they solved a problem the company is experiencing?
- Do they understand the role and industry?
Possessing relevant experience means that a candidate may have gained some of the attributes that predicate success within a particular business.
And if several candidates are neck and neck in terms of all the other variables being examined in the hiring process, looking at experience might be the very thing that gives one person an edge.
Experience is one of five criteria that we look at in our uniquely science-led approach to assessing a candidate. In addition to experience, we look at:
- Intellect: speed and accuracy in taking in, processing and retaining information
- Personality: beliefs, principles and cultural ethos
- Motivations: what drives people in the workplace
- Behaviours: what people will do rather than what they can do
Each one of these areas must be examined in tandem to predict how someone will perform in the context of a specific business. Looking at experience alone provides no information regarding these other factors, so unsuitable candidates are more likely to be hired if this is all that’s considered.
Making experience work for your next hire
Experience should certainly be considered during the hiring process, but it isn’t the be-all and end-all if you’re looking for futureproof employees. Rather than looking at what candidates have done, you should be looking at what they will do for your company. The best candidate might not have the experience you’d expect but could still possess a combination of traits that set them up for success within the context of your business.
This is exactly why experience needs to be combined with psychometrics measuring other core criteria. This approach results in data-driven insights that help to identify ideal employees among the candidate pool. However, it’s also crucial that all assessments are tailored to your business — context is everything when it comes to hiring talent.
Finally, each candidate should be assessed on their potential to help you reach your business goals. At Chemistry, we call that understanding What Great Looks Like™. It’s the context you need to create an environment for your talent to thrive. While experience-heavy CVs look backwards at the past, WGLL™ looks forward toward the future.