January 20, 2017

By: Ron Guest, Senior Partner  – TwoGreySuits

Employers and hiring managers often make a big and incorrect assumption that experience is the single most important attribute in a prospective candidate.

After doing more than 7,000 interviews, I can say for 100% certainty this is a mistake when hiring managers use experience as the primary criteria for hiring a candidate.  In fact it is a management cop out! Managers mistakenly assume this will make their own jobs easier.  Of course knowledge of the job and the requisite skills and knowledge are important. They are in fact very important in some technically skilled jobs.  Having the job knowledge to be able to do a job is not the same as how you will actually apply this experience and knowledge on the job. My point is that looking primarily and only at job experience is very risky and potentially costly too.

I have worked in various industries as an employee and for the last 16 years as a management consultant. These industries range from construction, recruitment, petrochemical, manufacturing, biotechnology, financial services, retail and of course many types of Associations.  I have come to the same conclusion in all of these industries. Hiring managers very often think that their industry is different from others, so much so that the primary requirement is experience. It is just this kind of thinking that results in “experienced’ candidates often being hired over other much better qualified and better ‘fit’ candidates.

How many times have I been invited into a termination discussion and the termination reason has nothing to do with job skills set but ‘fit’? This is my point; experience cannot be the primary reason all the time for making great hiring decisions. The hiring manager mistakenly often assumes that as long as the candidate has previous experience in the industry or job that the candidate will be a success. Not true!  In fact I see very little correlation with industry experience and on the job success. At least in my experience, industry experience is not a predictor of being successful on the job. In fact, I have seen first-hand when people are so ingrained with the past practices that they need to be retrained at the new employer. Always hiring people with industry experience can hurt a company from a creative and also competitive aspect. Different ways of thinking are required to keep companies alive and profitable.

Early on in my career I was interviewing for a VP HR job at a brand name company. In the end I was told I could not be considered further because the candidate hired had industry experience in the ‘packaged goods industry’ !!!  hahahaha, frankly all I could do was laugh at that point, how short-sighted and ridiculous!
You MUST know the attributes that would make the person a very good fit with the company values and how others think and work. In the HR Power Centre on the TwoGreySuits website we have a Competencies Questionnaire which force ranks 10 soft skill competencies in a job based on how you rate 80 different questions on a 1-5 scale. I have found this to be a huge help in knowing exactly what soft skill or ’fit’ competencies you should be looking for. In general, I am looking for people who have a good track record of building strong trust based relationships. I like to understand the values set of the person and their own level of confidence based on past behavior. Communication skills are also at the top of the list as is creativity. I also like to find out how people react under unusual stress and also about career and personal success stories.

Any manager wanting to improve their hiring track record can do so by utilizing the recruitment module in the HR Power Centre.



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TwoGreySuits is a leading edge provider of on-line human resource management information, processes, tools and forms servicing the North American market. They have linked the HR practices associated with the key drivers of Employee Engagement in the form of an on-line training application for managers utilizing the vast amount of well-organized information on the website. They license their product to individual companies and Associations, Franchisors and Value-Added Resellers (VARS). Contact them at info@twogreysuits.com

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