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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Measuring Experience in Years Is Messed Up

When it comes to recruiting, my pet peeves are CVs and years of experience. How can you possibly quantify experience in years? What does that mean exactly?

For instance I have worked with C in some capacity since the last millennium. That doesn't mean I have over a decade of experience in it. Nowhere near even. It would be impossible for me to provide an exact figure in years. It just does not make any sense.

Experience Is Not Just About Skills

If you have even a little bit of talent, you can grasp the basics of a language very fast. Becoming an expert can take a long time. Often it's not just about the language, it's about the ecosystem. You have to be aware of what kind of tools to use and when.

Rather than looking for skills in specific languages, libraries, frameworks, whatnot, it would make a lot more sense to focus on raw talent. People have natural affinities that make them better in certain things by default. I for one make a much better endurance athlete than weightlifter.

It takes a lot of work to turn this talent into actual skills. As a recruiter I would rather seek for talent and ability to grow rather than skills. This is particularly true if you expect your recruits to last.

Why to seek to fill specific positions when you should be looking for people that have the right talent and capacity to grow to fit the need?

The problem with skill based recruiting is that skills become outdated fast, especially in IT. It is common that in frontend web development at least a part of the stack gets replaced with something newer every year. The cycle can be faster even depending on your environment. It's more about the ability to adapt than skills in particular technology.

How to Measure Experience?

If years are a bad measure how should you measure experience then? As a recruiter you should look into accomplishments. Ten years of experience on paper tells you a lot less than what the person has actually achieved. What did you do during those ten years? If it's under NDA, tough luck.

Besides achievements blunders are valuable too. You haven't tried if you haven't failed. I know this is something people aren't particularly proud of. This is what experience is at its rawest form. It is about knowing about all the things that can go wrong. You can be considered an expert once you know enough about failure and understand how to avoid problems.

Past is a bad predictor of the future. There simply are too many factors in play. Even if you adopt a broader mindset and look beyond the years you can still go massively wrong. Talented people are not necessarily the right people.

Who Are The Right People to Hire?

If you fail to hire people that fit in culturally, it will not work out for anybody. Find common values and goals. If you do, it can become more than work. Even though it might seem like it, most people aren't here to work, they are to fulfill their purpose whatever that might be. If you can align personal goals with company goals, you can expect great things and a thriving relationship.

Just to recap, focus on three things: cultural fit, talent and skills. I'm in total agreement with Chuck Blakeman that this is the way to go. Too often recruiting starts from skills and forgets about the important two.

I'm not saying skills aren't important. Over longer term other factors become more important. Developing cultural fit and sheer talent are more difficult if not impossible. You simply cannot make a bodybuilder out of a slim guy and so on. It just doesn't work.