Why “Years of Experience” is Crippling Your Recruitment Efforts

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When talking with a hiring manager, do you ask “How many years of experience does the candidate need?” or do you ask “What skills and abilities does the candidate need to be successful?”

If you went with question number one, you haven’t done yourself any favors.

The years of experience requirement puts every candidate into a box. Someone, somewhere, decided that in X-years, a person should learn ABC. They should face this challenge and resolve it with that solution within this timeframe. Someone with Y-years of experience might have some exposure to X, but not enough, so we don’t want them.

Who said this was a good strategy? Too many recruiters and hiring managers (HMs), that’s who.

However, there are some recruiters and HMs who know that years of experience can be a crippling way to weed out candidates. So why do we still see it so high on the priority list? Is it because it makes hiring managers feel safe? Because it feels quantifiable (it’s not)? Business as usual?

Years of experience can't always measure credibility and competency. I mean, take a look around. We live in the world where young folks with no expertise founded some of the most innovative companies.

Remember this quote? “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Yeah. That’s what we’re doing: acting like a bunch of nuts. Break the cycle and start recruiting and hiring like it’s 2018.

Test for knowledge and experience—don’t just ask about it

It’s become more common for recruiters to issue skill and personality assessments before they even speak with a candidate on the phone. In some sense, this is a little cold, but it also saves a lot of time. And for the employer/hiring manager’s sake, it could save a lot of money.

For example, if you interview candidates for a writing position, issue a writing assignment. Craft the task based on an actual project they’d complete on the job. It’s easy for a writer to say she can change writing styles and write short-form content. It’s easy for hiring managers to assume someone with X-amount of experience has those competencies. It’s another thing to walk the walk.

Ask candidates about their major accomplishments

Your hiring manager likely already has an idea of what an individual should accomplish in a certain amount of years; that’s why there’s a requirement. Outright ask candidates once you find out what those accomplishments entail.

You could—and probably will—find that numerous candidates with less than the required years of experience have accomplished that and then some.

Let’s say a hiring manager wants a candidate who can reel in a given amount of new business in a single quarter. The assumption is that only a candidate with 10-years is capable of such numbers. But, your guy with 10-years of experience might have never hit that number in his entire career. The dude who has 3-years? He’s hit the mark consistently throughout his tenure. Look for that on the list of major accomplishments, not how long he’s been trying to accomplish something.

Don’t compare new candidates to old employees

Here’s a picture: Your hiring manager needs a new CMO. The previous CMO was a Rockstar. She was a top performer and had X-amount of skills, most of which she mastered in X-years. The HM decides that the next CMO needs those same skills with the same amount of experience because she already knows (or thinks she knows) that’s what success looks like.

Well, my friends, that right there is called the “anchor effect” or “anchoring bias.” It’s a type of unconscious bias that occurs when we rely on one piece of information, the “anchor,” to make decisions. In my example, the CMO is the anchor. The skills the HM “needs” to reach success are anecdotal and self-defined—a limiting and harmful benchmark capable of causing long-term consequences… like missing out on a remarkable candidate who possesses skills and abilities that take you to a level you never thought you’d reach.

And that candidate might have obtained those killer skills and abilities in half the time the previous CMO did. Everybody has a different learning curve. No one should be judged for that or not given a fair chance.

Listen, the truth is, you don’t know what you don’t know. So, get “in the know.” Focus not on years of experience, but on knowledge. Focus too much on how long it took someone to acquire that knowledge, and you very well could have let your best hire slip through your fingertips.

Moral of the story: recruit differently. Recruit more efficiently. Recruit better.
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Sam Sandler
Sam Sandler
Sam is a copywriter and strategist at Qualigence International. She enjoys exercising, eating pizza, and long walks through her Netflix queue.

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