Steven's Blog

Attitude Trumps Experience

I advised the vice-president to hire the less experienced candidate and you should hire the less experienced candidate too. Let me tell you why.

Between two candidates for a sales manager role at a major international company, I advised a vice-president of sales to hire the less experienced candidate over a more experienced candidate because the former was growth-oriented whereas the latter was confident that he knew his business and alluded he had little left to learn. The vice-president hired the less experienced candidate.

What do I mean by growth-oriented?

It’s when the candidate has demonstrated, through behaviors, an openness change in a business as an opportunity as opposed to a threat, views failure as learning as opposed to something to be avoided at all cost, and is eager to advance his or her own personal growth as opposed to tentativeness toward new challenges.

The ability to learn and grow always trumps experience.

The learner adapts and acquires new capabilities rapidly as needed or wanted, whereas a non-learner calcifies and will resist any change. The learner will propel your business forward. The non-learned will impede growth and change, and inhibit the capabilities of any staff he or she leads.

Two years on, the vice-president told me hiring the less experienced candidate was the right choice. His performance has been outstanding, and he has been short-listed for promotion to a higher level of leadership. The vice-president continued to use the same criteria for other new hires. She achieved upward of a twenty-percent increase in profitability of her division, and has just been promoted to general manager of a subsidiary in another country.

Do you have a bias toward experience when vetting candidates, or is growth-orientation important to you? Does your HR department screen management candidate CVs before you see them or have a chance to interview people? What are your HR’s biases? Have you ever hired someone less experienced who surprised you with his or her success, or someone with demonstrated competence who became an impediment to strategic change?

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