If you work in recruitment, you’ve probably heard the saying, “You need experience to get experience.”
In job listings, we’re often guilty of writing “zero to two years of experience required” when really what we mean is “three-plus years of experience required.” Or, sometimes we write “three-plus years of experience required” and we shut the door to anyone with less.
So why are we so hesitant to hire someone with little to no experience?
When we think about applicants with little to no experience, we’re usually talking about people who are fresh out of school or making a career 180. When a CV with little to no experience crosses your desk, what are your first thoughts? It might be that they don’t have a proven track record, will require a lot of training and might leave shortly after you’ve invested in training them.
Especially in the current economic climate, you might think that you need to focus on hiring more senior positions since low-experience hires require a larger time and effort investment up front. While this might be true in certain situations, it’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all solution.
What might not come to mind as quickly are all of the benefits that come with an inexperienced hire. The key is to determine whether or not the pros outweigh the cons by understanding what you’re looking to get out of an entry-level role.
What Does ‘Entry Level’ Really Mean?
So what are our expectations of someone in an entry-level position?
Typically, these roles are focused on tactical execution. They involve owning small- or medium-scale projects while relying on managers to maintain general oversight. What they don’t require are expertise in the field and strategic decision-making. When we put it like that, it helps us understand the skill set those employees need to be successful: an openness to learning, motivation to succeed, and potential to grow and take on responsibilities.
The Perks Of ‘Zero Experience’
This makes applicants without much experience a great opportunity. They’re as eager to prove themselves as they are motivated to execute well. As you build trust with them, they’ll continue to strive to prove that they deserve to be there and can hold their own.
On top of that, they’re typically open-minded to different types of work since they don’t yet know what suits them best and are eager to figure it out. Their lack of background becomes a bonus, making them flexible and moldable to your organization’s needs. This means you can move them around your teams and departments until you find the perfect fit for them and your organization.
These candidates also often have lower salary expectations. Hiring only senior team members is not the only way to improve organizational efficiency—cost is an important aspect, too. Every organization needs to evaluate for themselves which direction is right for their goals.
For instance, my organization built a program to help offset the risk of hiring without experience that offers boot camps in a variety of skills to help people with zero experience get their foot in the door of the tech world. These programs train participants in basic skills in everything from content writing to finance to development. This process allows us to vet potential new hires and understand their strengths, weaknesses and personalities while ensuring they have a baseline skill set in a relevant field.
Build A Strategy That Scales
We have an opportunity to make a real change in how we perceive no-experience candidates—bringing more diversity and talent into the industry and giving opportunities to those who might not otherwise have them. This hiring strategy requires a lot of overhead and investment, so build a process that scales. A few steps you can take are:
• Setting up a structured training plan with the learning and development teams.
• Hiring capable managers who have the patience and know-how to train others.
• Staggering your zero-experience hires with more experienced hires.
• Setting expectations with the hiring manager about the impact of a long onboarding and slower ramping time so they can evaluate if it makes sense for their team.
• Reviewing the seniority mix and the span of control in the business unit to make sure it’s capable of properly handling zero-experience candidates.
Changing your organization’s mindset about hiring zero-experience candidates will also require an investment in training your talent acquisition teams and hiring managers on how to screen candidates based on potential. The approach to CV screening, assignments and interviewing should be altered based on a new potential-oriented scorecard.
Weigh Both Sides And Decide With Confidence
Of course, hiring low- or zero-experience candidates has its challenges. Your organization pays a large price for training and onboarding to fully set them up for success. They also require a lot of attention from managers, and there is always the risk of investing in training them only for them to leave for a competitor.
But, if this recruitment strategy is done right, these downsides become smaller compared to the upsides. Investing in employees encourages them to reciprocate that investment with loyalty and hard work. Plus, it’s your responsibility to offer a supportive environment and leave room for growth so that employees don’t feel compelled to look for greener pastures elsewhere.
If you can create strong hiring, onboarding and training processes for zero-experience employees, you might be surprised to find that they soon become high-experience employees. You probably remember the first person in your career who took a chance on you—and so will they.