Let’s face it, in this tight employment market, finding a candidate that matches up to a long laundry list of “must haves” is like finding a needle in a haystack. The problem is that many employers are still trying to hire as if there were an unlimited supply of interested and qualified applicants. They get caught up in the “years of experience” trap versus focusing on the skills needed to do the job.
Hiring Managers often use the previous employee’s background and number of years of experience in the industry as the yard stick for the next hire. There are many challenges with this approach.
First, job duties change over time due to technology. A job that used to be primarily back office administration focused, may now be a mix of client facing and admin duties that require fast computer skills and advanced client relations abilities.
Second, the team make up and dynamics change over time. Work flows evolve to accommodate specific team skills and abilities. Often times when a time member resigns, work load is reallocated in the short term and the team realizes that the job duties have also changed resulting in the need for different skills to fill in the gaps.
Third, salaries are increasing due to cost of living. Many firms have traditionally tied compensation directly to the number of years of industry experience. In consulting with some of my clients, it is not uncommon to hear that they can’t pay a new hire their current salary, let alone a reasonable increase for changing firms, because they don’t have as much industry experience as others already on the team.
Instead of using years of experience as the basis for the hire, it is much more effective to figure out what the candidate needs to know how to do. My advice, put the old job description aside, and have the hiring team figure out what duties this new person will need to know how to perform on a daily basis. By drilling down to the day to day job functions and agreeing on the importance of the specific skilsl needed in the job, it will become clear which skills are “must haves” and which are “nice to haves”. You will then be able to better define the criteria that each candidate must have to be considered for a first round interview and will not fall into the years of experience trap.
By focusing on skills instead of years of experience, you will be able to cast a broader net and will be able to consider more candidates. You will be able to design your screening questions so that a candidate can explain where they performed a skill, how they did the job, and how their performance was measured. This is especially important in larger firms where often the person doing the initial screening interview is not directly involved with the hiring team on a day to day basis.
Another benefit to focusing on skills instead of years of experience is that it allows you to look at more junior talent that you might have overlooked in the past. Often times people with less experience have received state of the art training, have experience with the latest software programs, and have innovative ideas that they can bring to the team. They may not have worked for 10+ years in the industry, but can do the same work as someone who has. If salary parameters are set in stone, this also allows everyone in the hiring process to understand the level of experience that corresponds to the position’s salary range and eliminates considering candidates that are not affordable or who try to negotiate for a far higher salary at the end of the process resulting in frustration for everyone involved.
In my next post, I will discuss the initial screening interview and the pitfalls that can happen when it is not handled correctly.