Read Time 6 minutes
Author udrafter
Date March 14, 2022

Potential vs. Experience: Which is more important in hiring?

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In the 4th quarter of 2021, the number of job vacancies in the UK increased by 462,000 and reached a record high of over 1.2 million.

Companies all over the country are struggling with recruitment as well as employee retention. If this is true for your business, it might be time to rethink the way you hire new employees.

Instead of making people’s previous work experience the deciding factor in your hiring process, your company might be better served by assessing candidates’ potential.

Read on to learn more about hiring for potential, the benefits of this approach, and how to implement it.

Hiring for Potential vs Hiring for Experience: The Basics

It’s not hard to understand why businesses have focused on hiring for experience for so long.

Employing experienced individuals who have spent years or even decades receiving training and working in a particular field makes sense in a lot of cases. These people can hit the ground running, have extensive knowledge to draw from as they start their new job, and generally seem like the safest fit for most employers.

Experience is not the end-all-be-all, though. Sometimes, hiring for potential is a better choice.

Hiring for potential focuses more on an applicant’s personality and behaviour. Rather than looking only at how much education and experience they have doing a specific job, employers also consider a person’s potential for growth and what they can bring to the company’s culture, regardless of their background and training.

Benefits of Hiring for Potential

Why should you hire for potential instead of focusing solely on experience? The following are some of the most noteworthy benefits hiring for potential has to offer you and your team:

Stop Obsessing Over the Perfect Candidate

As a result of The Great Resignation, companies all over the UK are desperately seeking employees to fill vacancies for all kinds of positions, from entry-level to management-level jobs. Now is the perfect time to expand your horizons and offer a chance to the less experienced candidates.

Of course, this isn’t to say that you should just hire anyone who doesn’t meet the job requirements. However, if you stop obsessing over trying to find the perfect candidate, you’ll have an easier time filling openings. You’ll also open yourself up to a larger talent pool you would’ve otherwise disqualified.

Speed Up the Hiring Process

If your organisation is looking to fill vacancies quickly, hiring for potential may be a better choice than focusing exclusively on experience.

If you’re looking for someone who has 10 or more years of experience in a particular field or a specific degree, you might be looking for quite a long time — and you’d also alienating a lot of perfectly good candidates who could easily handle the role you’re trying to fill.

Focusing on potential can help you speed up the hiring process and get your company running more efficiently, sooner.

Save Money

Not only will you save time when you hire for potential instead of experience, but you’ll also save money.

Recruiting can get expensive, fast. The longer your job ad stays up while you’re searching for an employee with a certain amount of experience, the more money you’re going to spend.

Keep in mind, too, that highly experienced employees typically ask for higher salaries compared to new employees who are just getting started in a particular field. You may be able to get away with offering a slightly lower starting salary when you hire for potential instead of making specific experience demands.

Increase Employee Loyalty

If you hire an employee based on potential and overlook their lack of experience, they will be grateful to you for giving them a chance. This, in turn, increases the likelihood that they will be loyal to your company long-term.

If you’re interested in increasing your company’s employee retention rate and reducing its turnover rate, hiring for potential could make a huge difference.

Increase Innovation and Creativity

People who have been working in a particular field for a very long time may be more likely to be set in their ways compared to those who are recent graduates or don’t have a lot of experience.

When you hire people who are dead set on doing something one specific way, your company may experience a lack of innovation and creativity. Early talent may lack experience, but they will also be more eager to try new things, think outside of the box, and help your company revolutionise the way it operates.

Diversify Your Company

Finally, expanding your hiring practices and focusing on potential in addition to experience can also help you to increase diversity within your company — diversity in thought, background, age, etc.

When you hire for potential, you naturally cast a wider net. This allows you to reach people who may have been turned off by your job ad originally. It also helps you bring in people who might have an atypical job profile but are eager to learn and support your company.

Why Is Hiring for Experience Outdated?

Once upon a time, a person’s education and experience were some of, if not the most, important factors employers considered during the hiring process. However, in 2022, this practice is outdated, to say the least.

Over the last two years, thanks to the pandemic, we’ve all seen that there are lots of ways to learn and gain experience.

People developed all kinds of skills while staying home in 2020 and 2021, from baking sourdough bread to coding and app development. Who’s to say that a self-taught developer can’t be just as much of an asset to your company as someone who has a degree in computer science?

It’s important to note, too, that skills transfer across multiple industries.

Someone who has a background in construction project management might not seem like an obvious fit for the project manager position at your tech startup. However, a lot of the skills this person used every day at their old job will likely transfer very well to the open position at your business.

How to Hire for Potential

If you’re convinced that hiring for potential offers benefits just like hiring for experience does, let’s dive into some specific steps you can take to factor potential into your recruitment process. Here are some tips you and your HR team can implement today:

Eliminate or Edit Experience Requirements

First, ask yourself how much experience is truly needed to do the job for which you’re currently hiring.

When you’re writing job ads for some positions, you may be able to get rid of your experience requirement altogether.

For other positions, you may need to edit your experience requirement to make it a little less demanding — e.g., instead of asking for 5 years of experience, ask for 1-2 years.

Use Online Assessment and Aptitude Tests

Ask those who are thinking about applying for a position to take an online assessment or aptitude test. The results from these tests can provide you with a better understanding of each applicant’s personality and their potential to do well in a particular job.

If you want to evaluate candidates’ personalities, assessments like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (or MBTI) or the Enneagram are popular options that provide a lot of insight into what makes a person tick.

Focus on Transferable Skills

When you’re evaluating resumes, take note of skills that seem like they could transfer well to the position for which you’re hiring.

Even if someone doesn’t have extensive experience using a particular program, for example, they might know how to use another similar one. Many of these skills will transfer, and they’ll likely be able to pick up the new program relatively quickly.

Ask Behaviour-Related Questions

During job interviews, ask questions that allow you to analyze a person’s behaviour and get a sense of how they’ll handle difficult situations if they get hired.

You may want to ask people how they would deal with a common situation that your employees face (such as working with a difficult client, meeting a fast-approaching deadline, etc.). You could also ask about a time when they took a risk in the workplace and it did or didn’t pay off.

Don’t Forget About Culture Fit

During the hiring process, don’t forget to factor company culture into the equation. In many cases, a person’s ability to fit into the work environment and reflect the company’s values and mission in their work matter more than their job experience or training background.

Is It Time to Update Your Hiring Practices?

Instead of focusing solely on employee talent and experience, it might be time to fill open positions with people who show the potential to become great employees.

Focusing more on psychometric tests and personality tests during the hiring process could help you to reduce your employee turnover rate, reduce recruitment costs, and improve the culture at your company across the board.

If you need more help recruiting early-career talent and finding people who are new to the workforce but eager to make a splash, give Udrafter a try today.

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