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Tips for Hiring: Education vs. Experience

For a long time, employers have regarded job experience as the final, and sometimes only, criteria when hiring new staff. If someone has been in a job for 5 years, they are usually assumed to be more qualified than someone who is fresh out of school. Of course, that's not always the case. This line of thinking over simplifies the recruiting process by defaulting to valuing experience over education without taking level of training, personality, drive or actual ability into account. In today's job market, this simplified approach to hiring is no longer effective.

While the hiring process needs to evolve, it can sometimes be difficult to know what criteria to use when evaluating candidates. There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to favoring experience or education.

Hiring for Experience: Appealing because it means that person has hands on knowledge of how the job and industry works. As most employers know, an individual with 10 years experience isn't necessarily extremely skilled, but many view this experience as more desirable than someone with related education but little on the job training. Other than experience not guaranteeing quality, the problem with requiring a certain amount of experience when hiring is that these workers are already employed. And depending on the skill level you're looking for, these workers may also be close to retirement. As such, hiring for experience requires investment in the recruitment process in order to find and attract employed persons. These workers need to be given a reason to leave their current employment. Those reasons could be more money, better working environment, telecommuting or other benefits, but it requires investment from the employer.

Hiring for Education: Consider candidates with little job experience but comparative education. These candidates have to learn how to work in the real world, but are probably more up to date on new methods in your field. Employees with less experience often have more to prove, since they are still building their career and reputation, so are likely to take more risks and try new things. An added benefit is that because they are still forming they professional experience, you are able to mould their progression by offering career development and training incentives. In this sense, they have the building blocks of the skills you need through their education, while being junior enough that you can train them to be the ideal employee you're looking for. Offering career development training also works as a recruitment bonus. Many younger workers look for work environments where they can move up. Candidates with less experience but more education will be a bigger investment of time than more experienced workers, but they are a long term investment as you can train them to your standards.