When Does Experience Become a Rut?
If you were at a cocktail party and discovered that the stranger you just met had been doing the same job for 10 years, would you enthusiastically hand him your business card and tell him that's exactly what you're looking for in an employee?
Or would you feel compelled to encourage the poor guy to get out of his comfort zone and try something new?
Why then, when it comes to recruiting new talent in the workplace do we rank this metric so high?
I would say that 10 years performing the same job qualifies as a rut, not an advanced skill set - unless of course you're a craftsperson, artist or surgeon.
There must be a bell curve that represents when a person is experience saturated and x years doing the same thing brings diminishing returns. But we keep asking for it as though it’s some predictor of future success.
I saw an ad posting that said "Must be creative, adaptable and open to new ideas. Only candidates with 8-10 years experience in a very similar role will be considered.".
What were they thinking?
If I was doing the same thing for 10 years I certainly wouldn't be enthusiastically raring to do the same thing all over again. And my creative juices will have most definitely run dry.
In fact, my best work is done when I'm doing something I've never done before. No experience baggage to cloud what I'm actually seeing. I bring a foundation of knowledge but when presented with something new I am able to apply perspective.
Perspective is the key to innovation.
Clearly there remains a disconnect between the old world that relied on metrics to assess fit and the new world that requires creativity and innovative thinking.
That's not to say that anyone can do anything, but taking people with the right base skills and giving them a new challenge will have greater returns than hiring someone to do what they've always done.
I interviewed candidates recently to replace a valued team member. I was encouraged by recruiters to provide more specific detail on the attributes of the incumbent so they could find an ‘exact match’. I refused to provide that. I was clear about what I expected the person to accomplish but had no pre-conceptions as to what metric would guarantee their ability to do so.
You can’t replace people with an exact match. You look for skills that add to the overall mix. Talents that will help take you to where you want to go.
Don’t hire people to do what they’ve always done. Hire the attributes of the individual that will best contribute to your team. And when you’re replacing talent use the opportunity to shake things up. Bring a new perspective. Don’t look for an exact match. There isn’t one.
The reward is getting someone with enthusiasm that is eager to prove that they're up to the challenge. Rather than someone who thinks they know all there is to know.