Imagine your candidate selection process has narrowed your choice down to two top IT professionals: one with the exact technical experience required in the job description, and one who has proven adaptable enough to overcome similar business challenges. Who do you hire?
Though your instinct might suggest the candidate with greater job experience, you might be better off hiring a less experienced professional who is highly adaptable. In fact, if you were to ask thought leaders from top technology staffing firms, most will recommend you hire for talent vs. job experience. Here’s why this IT hiring strategy often delivers better long-term results.
Top Technologies Are Dynamic
Companies are inclined to hire professionals who fit their technical skillset to a tee. Honestly, it makes sense to want someone who can transition into a specific technology without much of a learning curve. On the flip side, one of the unexpected setbacks of hiring for experience over talent is that the technical skills you want won’t remain the same.
Though Java and Python are among the most popular programming languages and MapReduce among the most sought after data science skills, what’s cutting edge changes in the blink of an eye. Hiring based on experience rather than talent (and adaptability) means that you limit your ability to change and evolve with market trends. By hiring for soft skills like adaptability and a love of learning, you can shorten the time it takes for a candidate to get up to speed (while also preparing your business for any future changes).
Screening for Skills Alone Is an Outdated Idea
As Lou Adler points out, today’s job advertisement and even many hiring practices were shaped by the conditions of the Great Depression. Record high unemployment resulted in a talent surplus with plenty of top professionals available to work. As a result, companies could afford to create intricate job requirements to eliminate a large chunk of the candidate pool and still find the cream of the crop.
In our full employment economy, the situation is reversed. Unemployment is at a record low, and the IT talent skills gap further limits the possibility of quickly finding highly skilled professionals. However, most companies have clung to a talent surplus mentality, basing the majority of their hiring decisions on a candidate’s past experience. The truth is that talent scarcity requires flexibility, expanding candidate searches to highly talented professionals who thrive in fresh situations and adapt to new technologies.
Lateral Job Movement Is an Attrition Risk
One frequent assumption is that hiring for experience guarantees a better fit. The thinking is that experienced candidates know your desired technologies, have handled similar challenges, and can effortlessly slide into their new role. However, that presumption fails to account for what candidates want from their own careers.
Consider this: you are a driven tech professional and you need a change of pace from your job. Though you might change jobs for more money, how long will you remain satisfied if all that has changed is the view from your desk? If it doesn’t eventually engage or challenge you, not long.
Now consider you are taking a position where you have less experience but the talent and ability to quickly learn needed to excel on the job. Because you have a strong technical foundation, you aren’t learning everything from scratch, but there are still new puzzles to keep you engaged. You’ll face new challenges every day and have an opportunity to explore different technical skillsets.
For that reason, someone in this scenario will push themselves more often to perform at their best. And as far as retaining top tech talent goes, it’s much easier to keep someone around who is engaged by the work they do.
Want more insight on improving your hiring strategies? Check out our latest eBook “The TriCom IT Talent Shortage Guide” to beat the competition and find the best technical talent.
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