It's a classic hiring dilemma: should you hire for experience or for potential?
Admit it: hiring for experience feels saferIn principle, both seem to have equal ground. In practice, though, HRs tend to lean towards hiring for experience because it's a classic, tried-and-tested method. Imagine that you're trying to pick the best candidate for a web developer position. You're faced with two choices: a seasoned developer with eight years of experience in that specific framework, or a fresh grad who has interesting projects in his portfolio but who doesn't have a lot of experience yet. Chances are, you'll be tempted to pick the seasoned developer. There's a lot less risk involved. Experience is also much easier to quantify than potential--just take a look at your applicant's history, and there you have it. Potential is trickier because it has no concrete metrics. You're pretty much basing it on your own judgment, which is prone to bias.
But hiring for potential is becoming a necessityHiring for experience, however, doesn't work all the time--and it may even be impossible. Several hybrid fields are emerging, breaking down the walls between industries. For example, UX design is very popular now, but you weren't seeing any job posts about it ten years ago. It can be described as a combination of graphic design, psychology, product management, even programming. Because formal education hasn't caught up with UX yet, there's barely anyone with a degree in UX design. Consequently, people enter into it from different, even unrelated backgrounds. The same applies to content strategists, social media managers, and many more. For these roles, one is forced to resort to hiring for potential.
When to hire for potentialAs with all dichotomies, there's no hard and fast answer. Rather, strive to use both, and know their proper context. Here are situations where you might consider hiring for potential:
- If it's a new role (like those mentioned above)
- If the role represents a new business process in your company and it hasn't been filled in by anyone before
- If creativity and problem-solving skills are part of the requirement, but not deep domain knowledge that only comes from experience
- If you're hiring for a startup and roles are still prone to change and redefinitions--you need someone who can grow with the company