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What’s Experience Got To Do With It?

We all know the nursery rhyme about Old MacDonald and his farm. But did you know that this famous song from our childhood can actually help you find the next rockstar for your team?

Well, in a recent article on the topic, Ivy Exec quote Jim Baum’s (a serial entrepreneur and investor in the Boston area) cool EIEIO mnemonic for the top five attributes to look for in a candidate:

E – Enthusiasm. Look for people who are passionate, excited, and energised about the team they will be joining and the work they will be doing

I – Intelligence. Look for people who are smart and able to learn quickly

E – Experience. Look for people with the right experience base

I – Integrity. Look for people who are honest and will do the right thing. This one is immutable!

O – Organizational fit. Look for people who are aligned with your values and culture.

Enthusiasm deserves it’s place as the number one attribute to look for in a candidate. Skills can be taught but enthusiasm, attitude and motivation can’t! Often I have chosen to provide industry/company skills training to an enthusiastic but inexperienced worker than hire someone with perfect qualifications but a less-than-positive attitude. In the job interview, look for the signs….he/she might smile, sit up straight, make eye contact, and discuss training and work experiences in an upbeat manner. Once hired into a position, an enthusiastic employee will typically show up on time, show interest in his/her job, approach customers proactively, offer assistance or seek out tasks and projects when there is downtime and demonstrate a willingness to listen, learn, and try new things. An employee with enthusiasm will want to be at work and willing to do what it takes to get the job done. Conversely you can never teach someone who is ambivalent about your company to feel the passion.

What about experience then?

Whilst experience is important, arguably it’s not as important as the other attributes. I have found that the best hires are typically the ones who take the job because they fell in love with the company, the product and the people. So I have tendered to avoid hiring purely for experience. If the position requires in-depth technical knowledge, then experience is likely to be the best option. When I have recruited for senior roles requiring more domain knowledge, I’ll place a higher premium on relevant experience. If I’m hiring for a relatively junior role, then experience isn’t quite so important.

So, say you had to choose between two similarly qualified candidates:

  • Candidate A – personifies enthusiasm, and will attack the role with energy and vigour
  • Candidate B has significantly more domain experience, and will draw upon this knowledge

Whom would you choose and why?

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