The labour market is always in transition. The number of vacancies is again rising, and I already hear companies fear scarcity in their hunt for candidates. A common way to attract candidates is still via job advertisements (we use it too ;)). It is interesting to see that almost all positions require relevant working experience, preferably in a similar role. It is even more remarkable that such experience is often blindly used as a selection criterion.

Hey, we are not here to deny that relevant working experience can be useful because it is. Hiring risk is reduced, less need to train and educate thus lower training budgets, employees are quickly up and running and with some luck; he or she brings in a relevant network. No discussion possible: relevant working experience is something that matters. 

Or is it not? Well…Not necessarily….

The thing with experience is that it says little about the three criteria that are truly relevant for attaining the perfect employee;

In my opinion, these are as follows:

1. Motivation: Is the candidate motivated by the job? Does it inspire him or her? What about ambition and passion?

2. Quality: Is the candidate capable? Does he or she possess the skills required to be successful in the job? Does he/she have the qualities to gain relevant skills and knowledge?

3. Personality: does the candidate fit in the company culture and the team?


The right motivation brings you closer to the right job!

As said before, we are not here to ignore the relevance of experience; all we say is that it should not be leading, and it could even work out the wrong way. Let’s have a closer look when it comes to motivation. We look for professionals who want to grow, learn new things, help the organisation go forward, and choose the adventure of yes instead of the security of no. This may well stand apart from relevant working experience. We often speak to candidates for strategic positions, including candidates who seem to possess the perfect working experience for the job. When asking them why they consider switching to do the same work at a different place, the answer that follows is too often the wish for a higher salary, shorter travel distance, a better pension plan, bigger lease car or the lack of growth opportunities at their current company (Really? How could that be?). Of course, there is nothing wrong with looking for a higher paycheck, but it does not guarantee the motivation, inspiration and drive we look for. 


The flip side of the coin… or of the experience

Another serious disadvantage of experience is that people could use it. Allow us to explain. Experience is often gained in the past, facing different challenges and situations. If such experience applies to today’s problems, it automatically follows that old solutions are used for new problems. The consequence is that more often than not, a sub-optimal solution was employed; “We always did it this way at XYZ”. An old saying says that experience is simply a collection of prejudices. A fresh view can do miracles.


Shortage of expertise creates scarcity 

There are simply too few people with the relevant experience we are all looking for. Despite shortage and mismatches, we see many companies waiting along the line until the scarce talent with 5-10 years of desired experience knocks at the front door. The consequence: vacancies stay open for longer, and opportunities are missed.

What then do we do? If we want our businesses to grow and flourish, we need talent; we need employees that make a difference within the organisation and beyond. The existing strategy: standing along the sideline, waiting for other organisations to train the candidate and then ‘bring them in’ is outdated.

The Secret? Train and develop employees!

Luckily, there is another, better way to attract talent; train and develop it! The benefits are clear: positions are quicker filled in, at lower costs with better-motivated employees.

We often speak with well educated, intelligent and motivated candidates telling me that they struggle to get a chance to present themselves at an interview—the reason; lack of relevant experience. Not hiring anyone simply because of a lack of working experience creates an inefficiency in the job market as talent is underutilised. This is even more true if you consider that job starters can be a valuable investment for the future: Please think back to your first real job. You will probably remember who gave you this first chance and look positively back to this first experience. Possibly, you will even be an ambassador for your first employer, even when you leave the company. Word of mouth is so much more effective than flashing employer branding campaigns, and it costs significantly less.

Finally, the biggest advantage of hiring capable employees who lack the required experience but who have the potential: It forces to develop a culture that encourages development! An advantage that benefits everybody from starters to senior professionals.


Create a development structure by encouraging

A culture that encourages development and growth is one of the best things to have. If you accept that people have to develop themselves right from the beginning, you will force the organisation to apply a ‘development structure’. The consequence is that, in the long term, everybody will be actively engaged in its development; people will evolve, share knowledge and skills. By offering such a platform, you will attract people that want to go forward, are eager to learn, look for the best solutions for the challenges ahead. In addition, people tend to stay longer in such organisations. Why leave if there is always room to develop further? Overall, one can accomplish huge benefits; attracting better people, more satisfied customers and a culture that is always in development. In such organisations, change is embraced and knowledge secured. In my opinion, the key to deal with current and future challenges. Who would not want to work there?

About the author
Gijs van der Zanden is director of Chemploy. Chemploy is a specialised agency that creates “Chemistry in Employment”.

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