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Hiring For Abilities Versus Experience

November 12, 2022

By Tom Jackson, courtesy SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Have you ever looked at a job posting online and wondered why there is a never-ending laundry list of job duties, required experience, and a plethora of other skill requirements attached to the position? Well, the answer is the job posting is serving to screen out candidates rather than screening them in because the job posting is only looking for experience rather than ability.

Granted some jobs require a specific skill set because the position is highly technical or professionally focused, but many jobs can be filled with people that have aptitude, ability, and desire who can fill the needs of an organization if given the necessary training and career pathing within an organization.

In an economy where there are labor, skills, and experience shortages, companies need to be creative in attracting the next generation of talent. This is not the time to hyper focus on experience that may not be required to fill a role within your organization.

Recently a panel of experts was convened by SHRM, and they were asked if it made sense, during these economic times, to deploy only experience-based recruiting methods. The experts on the panel agreed that the typical recruitment practice of screening out—or eliminating candidates because they don’t meet all criteria—is not workable in the present environment. Instead, talent acquisition teams should practice more “screening in,” or hiring for competencies and training based on the particular role.

“Employers have developed some bad recruiting habits over the recent recessions, where we added more tests and assessments to try and select the best and filter down the funnel,” said Kristen DesPalmes, director of talent attraction strategy and innovation at BAYADA Home Health Care in Denver. “Things are different now, but those extra steps are still there. I think we tend to over select. We should hire people who are competent and then train them our particular way.”

She also recommended hiring for the organization, instead of focusing on an individual role. “When you meet talent, what are the fit-finders you can implement? Ask what a candidate wants to do and align that with all the projects that are available in the company. Can you help them find their best fit?”

Chelsea C. Williams, founder and CEO of Reimagine Talent Co. in Atlanta, said the most powerful examples of job-seeker satisfaction she’s heard have been those times when the recruiter has said that the job being applied for is not a good fit but that there is another role at the organization that could work better. “Thinking broader and about the overall value-add of the person is so important,” she said.

Enterprise Holdings, the parent company of rental car brands Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Alamo, and National, has long been a case study in developing talent from within.  

Internal mobility is trendy right now, but it’s been woven into the Enterprise culture from the beginning, said Marie Artim, vice president of talent acquisition at Enterprise Holdings in St. Louis.

As summarized by the panel, don’t overlook candidates that have the ability to contribute to your organization because they only have transferrable skills rather than directly relatable experience. Look at the potential contribution the candidate can make based on their ability and desire to perform for your organization. Sometimes it is easier to train than it is to untrain a new employee.

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