Are you looking for a new employee to fill a job opening? When it comes to hiring, one of the most important questions you need to answer is whether to go with an experienced employee or one with less experience.
Well, for some, the obvious answer is that they will look for someone with experience. And why wouldn't they, right? They're looking for someone who can hit the ground running and get the job done.
But here's the thing, can an experienced employee do their job better than an employee without a lot of experience?
Unfortunately, the answer is not as simple as it seems. It's true that in some cases, hiring an experienced employee can be justified. Nevertheless, experience does not generally equate to hiring success.
But why is that the case? In this post, we take a closer look at this question.
Why do companies hire for experience?
If experience is not a predictor of job performance, then why do companies still hire so many employees based on experience?
It's actually quite simple. Many companies still hire based on experience because it's easier to measure. For example, it's much easier to ask, "Do you have more than three years of sales experience?" than it is to evaluate skills or knowledge.
In fact, you often don't even need to ask the question because it's on the candidate's resume.
Hiring on this basis is based on the premise that past behavior predicts future behavior. And therein lies one of the main problems. Past experience does not equate to future performance. Simply put, you know the employee has experience, but you know nothing about the quality of their experience.
In other words, an employee could have 3 years of sales experience but never really performed well. He could have underperformed or stagnated, and if you just look at the resume, you can't tell.
Given that, when can experience predict future performance? Well, according to research, experience seems to help when an employee starts in a new job. This could be because they are more used to the job and in a sense can hit the ground running. However, in the long run, this seems to even out.
Another place where it could be helpful is not the experience the employee has in a particular position. Here, it's better to measure experience as time spent on specific tasks. So rather than measuring how long an employee was a software developer, for example, it's better to measure how long they actually developed software.
Why Experience Doesn’t Equate to Success?
Now that you have seen that experience is not synonymous with success, the next question is why this is so. Generally speaking, the reasons fall into three categories.
Change can reduce productivity
It's simple: past performance is more likely to be a predictor of future performance if the environment doesn't change. For example, consider a golfer who consistently plays low scores, but only on one course. If you now move that player to a different golf course and harsh weather is added, it is likely that his scores will not be the same as before.
Similarly, any new employee will have to adapt to many changes in your company and to their new position. For example, it's a different culture that the new employee will have to adapt to. This takes time, and if they don't adapt to the culture, it will directly affect their performance.
A new position in a new company may also require a different management approach, which will affect the new employee's performance. So if the new management approach is worlds apart from their previous management approach, it will affect their performance and productivity.
Similarly, performance expectations may be higher in their new job. This means that good performance with lower expectations will be poor performance if there are new, higher performance standards.
There are also several other factors such as the positioning of the new company in the market, the support mechanisms in the new company, and even the salary and compensation structure.
All of these factors play a role in the time it takes for a new employee to adjust to the new workplace. And as we mentioned earlier, it's harder for experienced employees to adjust to the new company because they adapt more slowly than less experienced employees. This ultimately affects their performance and productivity.
Experience does not equate to more skills and performance
Companies often make the mistake of assuming that more years of experience equals more skills and abilities. Unfortunately, this is not true.
For example, a candidate may have experience at a below average performance level. This means that in his new job, when higher performance is required, he will likely continue at the lower performance level of his previous job.
Also, because a candidate has several years of experience, it does not mean that he has continuously learned and developed during that time.
It could mean that they have been doing the exact same job for the last 10 years without learning any new techniques or technology. If this is the case, the candidate has not grown in their position, they have not learned anything new or developed any new skills.
Experience can contribute to self-satisfaction
After several years of experience, an employee can fall into a pattern of complacency. This means that by the time you hire the experienced candidate, their performance may already be slipping. In other words: If the employee's performance was already declining before, this trend is likely to continue in the new job.
Another reason for this complacency is often that an employee's motivation can wane over time. As a result, they may have become bored, burned out, or lost some of their motivation.
And getting a new job doesn't mean that this lack of motivation will stop. So ultimately, the risk is that this lack of motivation will continue. If it does, productivity will decrease even more over time.
Finally, you have to remember that an experienced employee has been with their previous company for quite some time. During that time, they have built up a certain level of loyalty and commitment to their employer. At the new company, that level of loyalty and commitment will not be as high, and until it increases, the new employee's performance will suffer.
The Cons of Experience-Based Hiring
Although it may seem counterintuitive to hire in this way, it is now clear that experience does not equate with future performance. There is simply no way you can know how the new hire will perform by looking only at their prior experience.
However, this is not the only disadvantage, there are several others:
1. It increases new hire salary costs. If you focus on recruiting candidates with a significant number of years of experience, the pool of talent will be smaller. And since other companies are also looking for applicants with a lot of experience, it creates competition between companies. And you know what competition means. It means that the salary cost for more experienced hires will be higher than for applicants who don't have the considerable experience of the other applicants. Unfortunately, it also means that the performance level of these new hires will not be significantly higher than their less experienced peers, so your new hires will have a lower return on investment.
2. It reduces diversity. Aside from requiring higher salaries, targeting candidates with more experience results in a less diverse workforce. That's because minority candidates tend to have less experience. For example, women have 14% less experience than men. This means that if you require many years of experience, you will reduce the diversity in the talent pool for the position you are trying to fill. The effect is that the lack of diversity in your workforce can hinder your customer experience.
3. It increases recruiting costs. As mentioned earlier, your talent pool is much smaller when you are seeking candidates with significantly more experience than other candidates. This means your sourcing costs are higher because it takes more effort to find the right candidate. Also, people with more experience tend to be harder to convince. As a result, a lot of extra time is spent by managers and HR trying to find a candidate with a lot of experience. And as with higher salary costs, higher hiring costs don't necessarily mean you'll have a good return on investment.
4. It could hurt productivity. It's common knowledge that any external hire requires a great deal of learning and adjustment to the new company and position. However, you should keep in mind that candidates with more experience tend to be more settled in their ways and habits. Therefore, acclimating to your company and the new position may be more difficult than it would be for a less experienced hire.
Generally, candidates with much more experience come at a price, and they are not necessarily better than their less experienced counterparts. So when it comes time to hire someone, don't fall into this trap. If you don't, you can choose from a larger talent pool and save money in the process.
Even if you don't want to give up experience right away, you should at least consider a trial-hire to see what it might mean for your company to give up extensive experience.
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