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Aptitude vs. Experience – Should You Choose One Over The Other

We know that there are specific roles that demand a high level of experience or expertise. Although expertise is extremely important, sometimes even with the most complex jobs, there is more needed than simply enough experience.

For example, if you hire someone with less experience, who is a better fit than other candidates with the workplace culture, aptitude and attitude, it often pays off in the long run. This can be a hard decision as a leader but when you take a good look at years of experience, is 10 years in the same role truly that much different than seven or eight?  Is fifteen years of being in an industry tremendously different than even nine years?

As a hiring manager it can be challenging to decipher and it’s not always as clear cut as some may suggest.  There is no doubt that with experience comes wisdom, but experience can also stunt creativity.  As we all look to hire a diverse workforce, that includes a variety of experience, we must remember that this in turn leads to a different way of thinking. Which, in my opinion, is the overall goal for any team to continue growing; discovering our differences and developing new ways of thinking.

If you’re a hiring manager looking for the right candidate, here are a some key questions you need to ask yourself before filling the position:

  1. What expertise do I really need?
  2. In addition to experience do I also need someone willing to change and adapt from their past experiences?
  3. What new ideas do I need?
  4. What is the short term and long term goal?
  5. Do I need new code turned out tomorrow or a great employee and partner for the future?

And therefore…

  1. Do I need the specific job experience?
  2. Do I need the specific industry experience? Or would other industry experience lead to improvement?
  3. What do I really need? Intellect? Great communication? Aptitude?
  4. Does my team need energy, maturity, both?
  5. How much has this role evolved in the last 2, 5, years? What experience is truly needed?

In the IT area I clearly remember:

  • .Net being 2 years old and companies wanting 5 years’ experience
  • Agile being a few years old and looking for 5 years of experience
  • Or even with the constant evolution of hardware and coding in the market the need for 10 years’ experience…

Clearly, there are needs for experts in all fields, we just need to look at this area with a critical eye. Ensuring that we are asking ourselves: how can we hire local talent to fill local jobs and how can we leverage our emerging workforce?   Our emerging workforce is the path to the future and we need to involve them to compete globally, regardless of where you are on the globe.

I am not saying experienced people lack creativity, energy or aptitude, but that as a leader you look at what you truly need for now, as well as the future and then fill your gap holistically.   Individuals with exceptional expertise can absolutely be beneficial but you need to know what your long and short-term goals are for your team and the entire organization.

We hear all the time that it takes 6-12 month to learn a company, culture and systems.  So ask yourself, as the people learn the company, culture and systems over this time, can they learn the skills on the job as well or do they need to possess them on the start of day one?  It’s possible, yes, they may need the skills day one, but as a leader take the time to be honest and assess your needs.

I watched the great Jim Valvano once say, when he asked an older coach “How do you know you are right?” and he said, “Son I have been doing this for 20 years…”  and he said “Oh I didn’t realize that the 20 year rule applied to you.”   One of the largest drivers of diversity for me is bringing a different way of thinking to the team and that way of thinking can be driven by experience that comes with or without age.

If your company needs help finding the right talent, contact us today! For more career tips and advice check out Versique’s blog.