“Experience” has long been hailed as the trump card of the hiring world. “Must have 5-10 years experience in xyz field.” It should be a no-brainer, right? The candidate must have the ability to do the job. An accountant has to know math, a programmer has to know how to code, and I certainly hope a brain surgeon has to know how to operate. But, like most things in life, it’s not really that simple.
Sometimes it’s not actually necessary for a candidate to already know how to do the job they’re being hired for. A lot of jobs are fairly “teachable,” and a bright, driven candidate with the intelligence and ability can easily pick up the necessary skills after the fact, particularly if your company already has a good infrastructure and mentoring program. Maybe that doesn’t go for brain surgeon, but lots of other jobs can be learned on the fly, if the candidate is able and willing. Not having to wait for a perfect experience match for your opening can give you more room to focus on other requirements, like cultural fit.
Actually, I’ve often found that the best candidate for the job may be one who doesn’t have years of experience doing exactly what they’ll be doing at their new job. A fresh perspective can generate new ideas, add new excitement to a stale work environment, or improve efficiency, so long as sufficient care is given to on-the-job training or mentoring. What’s more, years of experience in other, related fields can bring new insight to your team.
Consider this the next time you are drafting your job requirements for an open position. Ask yourself, how long would it take for an intelligent, creative individual in a like-minded field to get up to speed in this new role, given adequate training support? If the answer is a month of less, you may want to consider relaxing your experience requirements a little. That way you’ll keep yourself open for talented individuals who are looking to change careers, or even who are just looking for a new challenge. Were they successful in their previous fields? Chances are they will duplicate that success in yours if you give them a chance.