Experience is Overrated

Experience is Overrated

Here’s a conversation I have pretty often:

%22It is what we think we know already that often prevents us from learning. %22….Claude BernardClient “Hey, do you know any good candidates for this job I have open?”

Bill: “What attributes are you looking for?”

Client: “Well, of course, I want someone experienced in X. I’d also like them to be…[list of other traits specific to the role].”

Bill: “Why experienced?”

Client (in surprised tones): “Well, I don’t have time to train them. I want them to hit the ground running. I mean, you always want experience, right?”

Bill: “Nope.”

The Downside of Experience

Think carefully vis-à-vis your record of hiring people. The advantage of Joe is that he has experience. And…the disadvantage of Joe is that he has experience.

Consider how often you’ve hired on experience and then found one of these complaints cropping up within just a few weeks’ time:

  • He has all these bad habits that aren’t a fit for our culture.
  • She keeps talking about how they did things at XYZ Company, but that’s not how we do things here.
  • He hit the ground running alright, but he’s so puffed up by all his experience that he doesn’t seem to listen to others.

Perhaps worst of all, many of the most “experienced” people out there seem to know so much that they’ve stopped trying to learn new things.

Experience (In)action

The US postal service could have pioneered e-mail delivery. But they didn’t. Have you ever wondered who invented the technology? It was a 14-year-old kid working in the office of a medical college.

%22It is what we think we know already that often prevents us from learning. %22….Claude Bernard-2Sara Blakely wasn’t working in product development at Hanes when she invented Spanx. She was a sales manager at an office supply company.

Often times, experience and the status quo go hand-in-hand.

That’s not to say that experience is automatically bad. Of course, all the reasons you might want an experienced new hire—ease of training, industry know-how, etc.—are valid and valuable factors.

But experience isn’t automatically good either.

My Experienced Recommendation

In fact, I don’t recommend hiring on experience—and I don’t recommend not hiring on experience either. Here’s what I do encourage:

First, ask yourself what you want to accomplish and whether or not experience really, truly matters to that goal—or if it’s actually likely to get in the way of your objectives. The answer to this question will be different every time.

Then, salt your team with both experienced and inexperienced hires.

Bring in a finance expert, and have him work with a music major who’s fresh out of school. Hire in an experienced brand manager, and get her teamed up with an entry level analyst and an astronomer.

Variety of experience and expertise will lead to greater insight, innovation, and growth for your team and the individuals who comprise it.

Here’s to new beginnings!

About the Author
Bill Munn
Bill Munn helps executives manage teams to their greatest potential, customizing coaching plans to maximize the performance of each individual. Through strategic visioning and in-the-moment issue resolution, he motivates leadership to spur mission-driven growth. As a 22-year management-coaching veteran and former Dow 30 top executive, Bill has supported hundreds of corporate leaders worldwide with practical wisdom, real-world action tools, and unbiased insight. An MBA and former professor of finance and economics, Bill is a dynamic public speaker and author of two books.

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