Stop pretending all experience can be counted the same – stop using the number of year’s experience as a method to measure candidates

I dream of a day when I don’t see job advertisements that use a specific minimum number of years’ experience to screen, and subsequently recruit employees. I dream because I strongly buy into the principle that all experience cannot be counted as equal.

It’s like suggesting that experience gained by someone who moves from project to project, challenge to challenge, working with a multitude of different people (and personalities…), developing a breadth of knowledge and expertise can be counted the same as someone who has done the same project, year in, year out, for the last ten years. It’s not the same, so let’s not count it as such.

It’s OK to suggest that experience will be taken into consideration during a hiring process, but it’s not OK to suggest it can be counted equally and that our primary (and often only) means of ‘measuring’ experience is by time.

But that’s exactly what happens when we request a minimum number of years’ experience. If you’re an organization that has strict HR policies and someone doesn’t meet this minimum, then you can’t screen them in; irrelevant of how much potential they may have.

We’ve come to realize that everyone learns at a different pace, depending upon many factors, including the individual and the environment.  So we need to stop pretending that we can count years of experience the same.

I might have been married for eight years, you two. Does that make me a better spouse? Of course, it doesn’t. But isn’t that what we’re saying when we ask for ‘x’ number of years? We’ve assumed that there is a direct correlation between time spent in a role (or industry etc.) and the depth and quality of competencies developed (i.e. pace of learning).  Even worse is that we’ve convinced ourselves that we can apply this assumption universally. We’re wrong.

Yes, there is a relationship, but it’s not as strong as our policies have convinced us. It’s not linear, and should not be used as one of the main tools to assess the quality of candidates at initial screening. We lose so many great candidates to this.

Instead of using the number of years as a measurement, what we should do is ask ourselves why do we want the minimum? I’m sure it’s not because we actually want ‘x’ amount of years. Instead, I believe it’s because we want a candidate who has developed a depth of competency in certain areas.

So let’s take the time to really dig deep and figure out what depth and breadth we’re looking for and then define that on our advertisement. Almost like a statement of requirement in a procurement process. Then let the candidates do their job and convince you that they meet these competencies enough to move along in your hiring process.

Yes this does take more time, and yes, it does make it more subjective, but guess what – we’re humans and whoever decided that we can rank/rate humans objectively is wrong. Utterly wrong.

So get rid of the minimum number of years requirement, replace it with your own definition of the depth of competencies you’re looking for and start to hire these alongside character; those intrinsic values that also can’t be measured as well as your policies would probably like them to be.

I don’t care if you’ve never managed a budget for more than two years. In fact, I genuinely don’t care if you’ve ever managed a budget at all. But I absolutely do care that your character allows you to be humble enough to admit this and ask for help.

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