To hire with or without experience? The answer to this question requires you to ask a few questions to yourself and your team. The hard part, however, is being honest with yourself. We often lie to ourselves more than we lie to others. Mostly unintentionally, but often our beliefs overpower reality. There’s nothing wrong with aspiration; we need it in our lives. We want to be better, reach for something better, or get to somewhere better. But we need to be honest with where we are today and how we hope to get to a better tomorrow.
Question 1: What training am I willing and able to give to a new employee?
Let’s focus on honesty and reality for a minute.
Your training and onboarding probably suck, as most do. Yes, I’m being blunt here, but few companies get this right. I’ve never been at a company that onboards well, so I can look in the mirror at myself and say I’ve done it poorly too.
What exactly are you training new employees to do? The job? Know the product and figure the job out later? Know the product, the buyer/customer, the industry, the tech? In order to onboard your employees in an effective manner, you must have a clear goal in mind.
What about skills and competency? What skills are you going to teach your new employee and how will those skills create competence? Is this merely a “learn as you go” model and eventually you’ll learn how to pitch a product, handle customer onboarding, or create the best marketing campaigns?
My counterargument to hiring someone with experience doesn’t mean that experience was worth a damn; let alone even relevant to your product/service, your buyer, or even your industry.
Do you teach salespeople how to handle objections?
How about how to close for the next steps, how to open a conversation, and how to handle a discovery call?
If the answers are yes, then it may not be necessary that they have experience since you’re going to be teaching them the playbook. If the answer was no, are you ok with having them come in and do it their way without your intervention? If so, then great, hire for experience. If not, then maybe you are putting too much credence into the experience.
Question 2: Will experience improve performance or ramp-up time?
If it improves ramp-up time that’s interesting. I’d ask, is it better to have someone ramp-up faster but reach a plateau point in the performance, or slower ramp-up time and have continual improvement in performance? I know, it’s not that easy of comparison, but it’s still an interesting question to ask yourself. How does experience relate to performance? Is there any indicator used that reflects this? Ramp time is a big factor, but not the only factor.
Hiring for experience can often provide a nice and diverse team. I love building diverse teams! I believe diversity includes all races, genders, ages, cultures, etc.
BUT it also includes diversity in experience. I love having teams that have a lot of experience, a little experience, and no experience.
It’s a great way to forge information sharing and peer-to-peer learning. In this regard, think about your current team state and future team state. Will adding experienced staff help bring a diverse perspective to your team composition? If so, I think it’s a great idea. If everyone else on that team has the experience, perhaps you’re just adding one more person that “looks like everyone else.”
Question 3: What experience is necessary vs nice to have vs irrelevant?
Now we get into the weeds about defining the experience and if it’s worth its weight in gold. I’ll start with the one that I see in many job descriptions that I have serious concerns over…B2B SaaS experience. This pains me. SaaS is NOT an industry, it’s a business model. It’s a method of financial expense management and software delivery. SaaS spans across industries…I’ll say it again for the people in the back: IT’S A BUSINESS MODEL!
A candidate with SaaS experience is no different than a candidate without it. UNLESS…it’s an accounting position, product management position, or software engineer.
I can get behind the need to understand SaaS because you are developing or supporting a product that is different than other uses so it’s important to understand this delivery model. Outside of those, it’s unnecessary and provides zero value to your hiring.
Here’s why: There’s often a deeper reason for wanting to hire people from SaaS companies…exposure to playbooks, sales processes, customer success processes, marketing messaging, etc. This, I get! But, it’s not SaaS that’s the pre-requisite, it’s the other things you want experience in. So talk about those in the job description, not SaaS experience!
Years of experience…this one ALWAYS cracks me up! How do you determine that a certain number of years of experience warrants success? What’s the difference between two years and five years if both are at crappy companies? What skills are developed between years two and five in your statement? Aren’t you just looking for skill experience instead of time experience? There’s an assumed association between length of time and skill proficiency.
Talk about lack of correlation.
Again, go deeper to understand what skills you really want and need from experience and be VERY specific with those. People learn differently, onboard differently, ramp differently, and perform differently. Five years of experience at a company that doesn’t onboard or train can be much worse than two years of experience at a company with an outstanding training program, a great performance management process, with phenomenal coaches.
Give me that person over someone with even ten years of experience.
You should ask yourself several “why” types of questions to get to the root of what you want in a new hire. Focus on skills and competencies, and then how you assess those in the interview process. Surface-level skills are a thing of the past and often can’t adequately be confirmed through interviewing or assessments. In the interview, behavioral-based interviewing practices are a great way to uncover how a candidate can demonstrate skills and competencies. Now that you’ve read this, how can you make your job descriptions better and improve your interviewing processes to get to the heart of what you want in your employees?
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