As originally published on the Business News Daily here.
While managers will tell you that they want the best person for the job when hiring, the reality is that when a resume comes across a manager’s desk and contains all the required experience and more, the best person suddenly means the person with the most experience rather than the person with the personality, work ethic, and values most likely to succeed in the organization and in that role.
Listen, experience is great. I am not dismissing its benefits, but I am concerned with how many managers let it override all other factors in the hiring process, especially for roles where the necessary knowledge and skills can easily be taught.
We’ve all seen it—a candidate’s resume comes across a manager’s desk that lists a lot of experience in the industry or role and an abundance of technical skills and knowledge. The manager’s eyes widen, their hearts start beating faster, and a large smile spreads across their face. They just hit the hiring jackpot; all other considerations be damned. Why the excitement? Because it means that the candidate can contribute right away, requires minimal to no training, and now the manager’s labor shortage problem is solved for the short-term.
In speaking with hiring managers across multiple industries, managers often fulfill their “experience addiction” by bulking up the minimum experience qualifications even though the qualifications are not nearly as necessary as they are made out to be. When hiring someone, you need to focus on the knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors that are required to be successful in the position. Yes, sometimes experience is necessary, but often it is overrated. When we focus solely on experience, we disregard a candidate’s potential.
Across the many industries we have worked with, I have seen employees get fired one day and get hired down the street the next, appealing to a manager’s experience addiction as a way to remain in a job. The experience addiction means that managers quickly decide who to hire. In turn, they conduct a quick interview, neglect reference checks, and have little consideration for the candidate’s fit with the team or the company’s culture.
So, what is the result of this addiction? Well, we know that experience can come with baggage; bad habits, bad attitudes, and complacency about the job can negatively impact the rest of the team’s performance and morale. Managers must remember that the decision of whom to hire is one of the most critical decisions they make because it sends a message to the rest of the team about the manager’s priorities. Is it simply about getting the job done or is it about ensuring the right culture of the team for long-term success?
The cost of a manager’s experience addiction can result in the wrong hire and has many costs, some financial and others that go well beyond the numbers. In fact, research suggests that a poor cultural fit eliminates any good that came from a person’s experience. If the new hire negatively impacts the team’s performance, it is likely that your best people are affected the most. When your strongest team members’ professional routines and beliefs are upset by a poor new hire, they know they have choices that will allow them to move on if something is not done to get their team and them back on track. Don’t sacrifice your best employees because of your experience addiction.
We need to break the experience addiction in the workplace, but how do we overcome it? Consider the following suggestions:
1. Have a Great Orientation and Onboarding Program
The quality of and belief in your orientation (first one or two days on the job) and onboarding (training and certification to complete a role) goes a long way in avoiding the experience addiction. When you have an effective orientation and onboarding program that the manager is confident with, it sets up their new hires for success. Managers will know they can hire people without experience and that new hires will be contributing the right way in a relatively timely manner.
2. Make the Company’s Values the Foundation of the Interviewing Process
From the beginning of the selection process, a candidate should be introduced to and learn about the company’s values. Values are the rules by which people will act and interact with each other. The emphasis on these cultural rules will ensure the candidate realizes that how you interact with your team is just as important as the results they deliver. Often, a candidate with a lot of experience but the wrong moral compass will deselect themselves if the company displays strong values.
3. Detail Job Descriptions Without Relying on Experience
Ensure the job descriptions only reflect the minimal qualifications. Too many job descriptions are overburdened with excessive qualifications and requirements. Reduce the job description to the minimal experience required and emphasize the type of person the company or team is looking for. We encourage companies to step out of their comfort zone by putting, “no previous experience required” to encourage candidates who might not be a normal consideration to apply.
4. Make the Selection Process about the Team and Not About the Manager
One of the best practices we see in organizations is when the employees are involved in the interview process. They are more likely to look for their best fit for their team rather than the person with the most experience. Have a group of employees ask one or two questions individually or as a panel to help determine who will be a positive addition to the team.
The experience addiction is real in many organizations and, at the very least, needs to be a conversation amongst the senior leaders about where experience is truly required and where it would just be a nice addition. When we stop being so dependent on experience, organizations can truly focus on finding the right fit over an experienced warm body.