Hiring Tips for Small Business Owners: Experience isn’t Everything

One of the greatest challenges for many of my small business clients is making the right hiring decisions, so this is a topic I talk about frequently.  And I’m constantly raising eyebrows when I tell them that experience is overrated.  Our business culture is so inundated that experience is the holy grail when it comes to hiring, that experience is the only predictor of success, that many business owners cannot think about anything else!  And while experience has value, today I’m going to explain why it should not be the top priority in most hiring searches.  

Here is the million dollar question (literally):  is your business the same as everyone else in your market?  Are you unique in any way?  If the answer to those questions are ‘no,’ you have bigger problems than hiring.  If you are not able to differentiate yourself in any way from the competition, you will not be in business for too much longer.  Most business owners understand this concept, and are working to set themselves apart from the competition.  

So given that reality, why in the world would they want to hire an employee with experience in somebody else’s system?  What you should really be looking for is a bright, eager mind—an employee ready to learn your system.  Because if you cannot get your employees to buy in, you are not going to be able to differentiate yourself from the competition.  

You may have heard that young children can learn a foreign language incredibly quickly.  Contrast that with a 40 year old who has spoken English all of his life.  It is certainly not impossible for an older person to learn a new language, but they will not learn it as quickly and will never be as fluent.  That concept applies directly to your business.  When you hire for experience, you are picking someone who has spoken other languages his entire life and will now have to learn yours—if he is even willing to put in the effort.  

When you hire for potential and passion, you are hiring a fertile mind that will be eagerly applied to the task of learning your company language.  Which approach do you think will be more successful?

Again, I am not suggesting that experience has no value.  Far from it.  What I am suggesting is that an applicant with potential, drive, and the desire to learn your business from the ground up is not to be overlooked simply because his or her resume fits on a single page.