5 Points To Consider When Setting A Years of Experience Requirement

Endless job postings require a minimum years' experience in order for applicants to apply. Many people cite the number of years of experience they possess in their field in order to demonstrate mastery in their vocation. 

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But the reality is that quantity does not equal quality.

That's not to say years' experience should be discounted completely. It may be a useful metric to mark an individual's consistency, commitment and ability to survive in their vocation. Many years of hands-on work may also demonstrate that an applicant has an understanding of how things function in their field and are fluent in the language of the vocation. In that context, years' experience may be useful in narrowing down job applicants. However, it is important not to overestimate what years of experience is saying about potential hires.

Thus below are five items that years of experience do not say about potential applicants:

1. How much of their full, creative and unique selves they brought to the job each day.

People can mail it in for years. I’ve witnessed this, so have you.

2. If they worked with consistent integrity.

In a forensic accounting class I took, we studied corporate fraudsters. One corporate thief stole several thousand from one company and was consequently let go. He then applied and was hired at another company (citing his years of experience as a corporate controller). He then stole an even larger amount from the second company. Years of experience don’t mean anything in the absence of integrity.

3. How much experience they possess.

Someone may possess "ten years of experience", but it could be essentially the same year of experience for ten years instead of ten years of varying and gainful experiences. During my short stint working in a local government office, I noticed how this was embodied. People had been there for years, pushing the same papers, day after day.

4. How they have added value.

Hiring is an investment that you hope to see a return on. Years of experience do not equate to providing lasting value. Someone may have worked thirty years at a single company and never gave more than the minimum necessary to keep their job. Consider the level of return you want on your investment.

5. The uniqueness of the individual.

Each person is an individual and though their years of experience may contribute to the value that they can bring to a job, they are ultimately a unique human being. Using any standardized rule to measure people is going to fail to provide a full picture of the person who is applying on the other end of the Internet.

It’s understandable that you want to efficiently limit the number of applicants - and years of experience is a quick way to eliminate newbs. However, if you are limiting applicants to your positions based on years of experience, you are ultimately limiting based on a non-quality gauging metric, which could cause exclusion of the ideal individual. You've seen young talented people that have performed incredible business feats. Eliminating potential applicants based on years of experience may be what's holding you back from filling the position. Simply recognize number of years is a quantity - not a quality.

Is there another requirement that you could use to more accurately capture what you’re looking for in applicants? Have you created a patented screening technique that isn’t based on a standardized measurement?