“You need more experience.” The Worst Line in Business

When seeking a new job, going for an internal promotion or attempting to earn your next karate belt – we are often met by the same words,

“I’m sorry, you need more experience.”

Funnily enough, this question reflects less upon you and more upon the individual delivering this feedback.

Why?

Preoccupation with the ‘experience’ of a candidate is an outdated notion.

Consistently I see countless examples in the workplace where hungry university graduates outperform 40+ year old sales people on a daily basis.

Here in Silicon Valley, it often amazes people who come in to interview that their future boss is a 26 year old tech CEO’s with hundreds of direct reports.

Despite countless outliers, I feel there are four key reasons why we continue to disproportionately prioritize experience in the workplace.

Misunderstanding of Learning Patterns

Even today, we continue to foster the concept of learning as a linear notion. By this I mean that we assume that with the greater passage of time, the more knowledge one accrues.

This may be a generalization with some truth – but how do we account for the individuals who continue to go above and beyond the scope of their own knowledge to better themselves?

Despite not having much ‘experience’ on paper, they may have a greater command of the key concepts than we assume due to their own motivation or self-study.

This is why I am an advocate of workplace testing during the interview process rather than over emphasizing on-paper experience.

Testing my employees for simple arithmetic for example, uncovered many performers who claimed strong numerical skills but couldn’t perform simple multiplication exercises.

Tests allow you to see who is truly knowledgeable, not who you assume to be.

Experience is Relative

Not all experience is the same.

Upon completing 4 years of a bachelor’s degree, we as employers assume that a candidate has mastered the area of knowledge to the acceptable standard required to receive the award. Yet because some individuals make better use of this experience than others; we use concepts like GPA, aggregate scores and honor levels to differentiate the quality of that experience to compare individuals with similar qualifications.

When it comes to work experience – it is much harder to create this relative benchmark.

Ten years at a big four accounting firm like KPMG may seem impressive – but it is extremely difficult to source data on the key learnings, complexities and achievements a candidate has undergone.

Additionally – locating references is cumbersome and generally those provided by the candidate are people who have been coached to talk in a positive light.

Given that it is hard to compare on job to another – why do we assume ‘more’ is required, when in fact someone with less ‘experience’ may in fact have had more quality learnings in their last role.

Experience is Easy

For both employers and employees – focusing on experience perpetuates laziness.

For hirers – we are able to sift programmatically through resumes and online applications; taking zero time to deep dive into the personal attributes of a candidate that might make them successful.

On the other side – if you fail to go outside the general application process and personally connect with decision makers on the role; you deserve not to get the job if they deem you to be underqualified.

Experience allows us to dot the I’s and cross the T’s – but overreliance on this can cause both employers and employees to miss the best opportunities.

Experience is Just an Excuse

More often than not – usage of the “you don’t have enough experience” line is normally a well-employed euphemism to dismiss job seekers without reason.

Despite application volumes, hiring managers owe it to each and every candidate to provide real feedback as to why they didn’t proceed. If concerns around someone’s aptitude stem from their apparent lack of experience – an opportunity should be extended to those individuals to justify why this may be incorrect.

If the volume is too high for you to get back to everyone – you are continually destroying your PR as an organization and potentially missing out on real people who could do the job.

For job-seekers, ensure that you follow up when you get an initial ‘no’ to use the feedback to improve your future applications.

A trick that has worked for me many times is to go above the HR manager and book an appointment with the person in the department. You circumvent the diplomacy, show initiative and don’t face the risk of being dismissed by someone embracing the backwards methodologies I have described in this article

Conclusion

Experience isn’t important.

All that matters is whether or not someone is capable of doing the job.

Experience may be a factor which helps them build these skills; but it is a juvenile assumption to assume that just because someone has spent ‘more’ time in certain roles that they are ‘more’ qualified than someone else.

Instead asking skills specific questions in the interview process, implementing testing frameworks and being mentally open to hiring individuals who clearly demonstrate ability rather than longevity will see you bring better people into your company.

As a job seeker – don’t be dismayed. Gather feedback and continue to be proactive in the application process; seek to get an opportunity to highlight your skills and talents to overcome the current bias in the industry.

Still think experience matters? I would love your thoughts in the comments below.

About The Author

Dailius Wilson

Dailius Wilson is the 24 year old founder of WolfofYorkStreet.com – helping the world's top SaaS companies to optimise their sales and marketing efforts. Dailius is currently a Director at TrustRadius and a digital blogger at increasemyonlinebusiness.com. Dailius was named as one of the Top 30 Entrepreneurs in Australia for 2015 by Anthill Online and was ranked in the Top 100 SEO Experts in the World. Dailius has also been a guest on the Ellen Degeneres Show and has over 10,000,000 views on Youtube