Talk to any new graduate and you’ll likely hear them talk about the experience “conundrum.” They have the schooling and they have the skills, but they don’t have the experience to back it up. This leads to situations where employers ask for two years’ experience for entry-level positions or require new grads to take on unpaid internships to gain the experience they need.
Even at the top of the chain, experience is highly valued. When people go searching for their next director or CEO, they’ll often look for someone with a lengthy resume and storied results. You’ve probably heard stories about superstar CEOs who are hired on and swoop in to save a floundering company.
Is experience everything it’s cracked up to be? Some business owners and managers are beginning to wonder if the wisdom of hiring for experience is truly wisdom.
The Downsides of Experience
Experience isn’t necessarily something to scoff at, but it may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Traditional business wisdom holds that an experienced employee, be they a manager or the CEO, is the better hire. They have the know-how and the skills. They’ve weathered some of the worst situations you can imagine. Maybe they’ve worked in a company similar to yours.
Experience also has its downsides, of course. The big one is that most of these more senior people are at the end of their growth capacity. While it’s possible to teach an old dog new tricks, many experienced employees will be somewhat more set in their ways. They may be resistant to new ideas or new ways of doing things.
In a changing market with a changing workforce, this can be dangerous.
Less experienced workers can actually prove to be more flexible and more adaptable to new situations than their more experienced counterparts. While they may be learning on the fly and you can certainly expect a misstep or two, their fresh perspective means they’ll see issues and come up with new ways to solve them.
Essentially, these workers have more capacity for growth than their more experienced counterparts. They don’t know everything and they know that! They’re often willing to dig deep and get their hands dirty. They’ll also adapt more readily to the unique and changing situation your business faces.
Promoting from Within
Another issue with hiring for experience is you have to search outside the company and bring someone into the fold. The issue is this person arrives with preconceived notions about your business, about your industry, and about how you should do things. Even if they saved another, similar company from tanking, it doesn’t mean their ideas are going to work for you. Your business is different, in a different time and a different marketplace.
By contrast, promoting from within often means the person is keenly aware of your business. What they lack in outside experience they make up in internal experience. They may not have righted a sinking ship at another company, but they do know your corporate culture inside out. They’re aware of the unique issues facing your business right now.
They’re also more committed and dedicated. If they’re hoping for the promotion, they likely feel they can do good for the company as a whole in the position.
Next time you debate hiring for experience, take a moment to think about hiring or promoting for aptitude instead. Some people have a great aptitude for being a manager or a team leader. Putting them in that position may mean they’re a bit over their heads at first, but their natural talent will motivate them and lead them to success.
These people are usually high achievers and they’ll rise to the occasion. Why pay for experience when you can create it from within?