Time and time again I hear stories from my friends about how they've missed out on a job. They had flown through the interview process, their CVs had shone like a beacon, and the business had said they were the perfect cultural fit. Yet, when it came to the crunch, they weren’t picked. When I ask them why, the same reason kept being offered: experience.
The same went for friends who didn’t even get selected despite, in my humble opinion, being a great match for the role and brand.
All the recruiters could offer up was that they didn’t have experience in hospitality. They didn’t have experience in sales. They didn’t have experience in bar work. Despite being able to demonstrate a proven track record, or vast array of transferable skills and behaviour traits perfect for the role, and show they were willing to do whatever it took to get up to speed, they weren’t given the opportunity. In one case, my friend was told she was the stronger and preferred candidate but “we’ve chosen the person with some restaurant experience.”
It just doesn’t make any sense to me. Organisations who are so hung up on experience that they can’t see the opportunity standing before them. This can only stem from one thing – a desire to hit the ground running. An old school mentality of having someone who doesn’t need ‘training’ or ‘investing in’ to do their job from the off.
But how often is this the case? How many times have you appointed someone who has both sector and role experience and they’ve not needed any support, time, development? It’s never happened to me and I bet it won’t have happened to you.
Every business is different. Its own unique make-up of culture, values, personalities, ways of doing things. It’s foibles. Regardless of who you are, and where you come from, it takes time to learn the rhythm of the business. Time which needs mentoring, guidance, support. I, therefore, believe it’s naïve to assume that choosing ‘with experience’ is the easiest option.
Now, don’t get me wrong, experience is always good to have and comes in well when dealing with, say, legal matters or particular needs to a business. But it shouldn’t be the critical factor in recruitment. You are not immune to learning more and growing further. Culture is king and by adding people to your organisation that have proven ability vs solely the ‘right’ experience can really make a difference to future success. Someone who can add to the culture and enhance it by bringing in new perspectives must be seen as equally of value. Especially if they have a track record of doing so, with the inherent capability to do the job at hand.
And, for me, that is the crux. The appointed candidate should be the one who can add the greatest value to the role and our business. The one who is going to help ensure our business grows and moves forward. The one who could be the future leader.
Sadly, I’ve already started to see the impact of this 'recruiting by experience' on our business. I visit schools and colleges where students tell me they don’t apply for roles in hospitality because they’ve not worked in it before. Or colleagues who haven’t applied for new opportunities because they can’t tick the experience box. These are great people and it makes me angry that this is the perception of recruitment.
So, my advice… To employers, think outside the box. We have to be open-minded when we recruit. The pool of great people is not as vast as we wish it could be, and therefore we need to balance previous sector experience with what other experiences the candidate can bring to the business to enhance it further.
To candidates, don’t be put off applying. Though if you really want to break into a sector then learn as much as you can about it. Network, research, learn – with the global world we live in you can find out almost everything you need to know in the click of a button. Get stuck in and get applying.
If you like what you've read then please do follow me on here, or Twitter (@eugeniopirri) where I often express my views on HR, leadership and business. My first book, Be A People Leader: A Sustainable Framework for Achieving your Full Potential, is also available to buy here (RRP: £9.99)