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Stop Relying on Experience for Hiring Decisions

 While the odds are better, your new hire may not succeed at your company just because they highlighted great accomplishments and extensive experience on their resume.

Just like an investment prospectus that entices you with a great track record yet says "past performance doesn't guarantee future performance", the same applies when you hire someone.

Stop Relying on Experience for Hiring Decisions

Look deeper and explore the skills, characteristics, aptitude and abilities rather than past accomplishments and length of experience when you are hiring someone. Your job is to look beyond the flash and find candidates with exactly the right balance to succeed for you in their role and at your company.

Here are some things to look for, keeping in mind that they shouldn’t be assessed independently since they are often inter-related.

Are they fresh or are they stale?

Sometimes someone fresh out of school will be a better fit than someone who's done the same job for 20 years and may not have much new to contribute. In fact, the 20 year veteran may actually only have one year of experience repeated 20 times, not 20 years of progressive experience.

You have to look closely to understand whether this is the case or not. A resume with many different kinds of experiences may actually be better even if they aren’t obviously related to the role you are hiring for.

How much experience the candidate needs depends completely on the role and the back-up they have. If you are hiring someone into an established team, your current team composition will dictate whether you need a fresh view on the role or someone who has extensive background, perhaps even the same experience for 20 years. If they need to be the subject matter expert, then steady, long-term experience may be useful, but if you are looking for innovation and new ideas, make sure this isn’t the only criteria you use to hire them.

Are they a flash in the pan or do they have staying power?

Someone with many years of experience but no single blockbuster accomplishment on their resume may be a great, steady performer who is under the radar screen yet accomplishes lots, while the resume with a single blockbuster accomplishment may not be able to repeat the performance for your company.

It’s also important to determine the applicant’s actual role in the accomplishment. Were they a driver or did they simply benefit from someone else’s accomplishments and they went along for the ride?

If the single accomplishment is highly meaningful to the role you are hiring for, give it serious consideration. Otherwise, dig deeper to find out their true contribution to success, whether it’s highlighted in the resume or hidden. They may be great for the supporting role you need instead of acting as the shining star.

Are they set in their ways or are they open to new things?

Doing the same things the same way for their entire career may have value in some situations, possibly where the new role requires conformance. However, that type of experience may be a red flag about their ability to innovate and explore new, efficient ways of doing things and thinking beyond their past experience.

It’s not always easy to figure this out, but asking questions about their background that differentiate between a safe, steady-as-they-go approach and a risk-taking approach will help you hire someone who is right for your specific needs.

Are they still still learning or just coasting?

Sometimes specific degrees or professional designations are a requirement for the job, but if they are only ‘preferred’ then don’t take them too seriously on their own. After all, many designations are fairly easy to earn and don’t come with guarantees they are better than a peer who doesn’t have a designation.

In addition, many professionals belong to a related trade association but it’s more for resume building than for developing new skills and learning about new solutions and techniques they can apply on the job.

It’s more important to make sure they are learners, not just accumulators of designations and letters after their name. They should be developing themselves constantly to benefit not just their career, but the role they fill and the company they work for.

Find out whether they belong to their professional association in name only, or are they active? Do they go to conferences and attend seminars? Have they taken courses in their area or even semi-related areas that can benefit them in their role? And make sure it is current and continuous, not just 15 years ago. What do they do on a regular basis to keep on top of industry trends and techniques?

Will they be a square peg in a round hole?

How they fit into your organization can be as important as their skills and ability, particularly if they will be in a role requiring lots of interaction and cooperation with others.

You should have a good idea of the kind of culture your organization has and what works for you. Find out whether the applicant will be a good fit.

What kind of companies have they been working for so far? What is their approach to managing staff, customers and general approach? Are they button down suit and tie wearers, or are they comfortably casual? Are they flexible and open, or straight laced and formal?

Then, compare them to your approach, your company’s culture and the responsibilities of the role.

Keep in mind that a so-called bad cultural fit may be exactly what you need for a specific role, so don’t generalize – take the time to analyze what the role needs. For instance, a compliance role will need a very different type of person from a creative role, and you may need someone to balance and contrast your own approach or that of their colleagues, not just duplicate it.