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Maybe the Lack of Relevant Experience Is… Irrelevant

One CEO makes the case for hiring less-established employees who are "fresh and eager," with no bad habits to break.
relevantexperience

Is it better to hire inexperienced employees and train them or hire veterans who’ve been there and done that?

David Williams, CEO of software company Fishbowl, makes “The Case for Hiring ‘Under-Qualified’ Employees” in a Forbes column aptly titled just that.

“Less-established employees have room for growth. They are fresh and eager, not fatigued or scarred. They have no bad habits to break; only good habits to learn. You don’t have to un-train them on the paradigms they’ve put in place somewhere else.”

If Williams were simply reciting a litany of recruiting clichés — hire for attitude, train for skill, etc. — his words would ring hollow. But Fishbowl’s track record gives his arguments some teeth.

“Out of 18 developers… only 2 had ever had any serious programming experience before,” he notes. “We employ 50 individuals in support who had never worked in customer service before. The majority of our sales people came with little or no prior experience in sales.” Yet Fishbowl has seen its revenue grow by more than 70 percent over the past 3 years and has had less than 2 percent turnover since its founding in 2001, he adds.

Williams cites as an example a key employee in accounting whose previous job was managing a Blimpie franchise for $9 an hour. “She learned our system (eagerly) and made suggestions that within four days produced the most accurate financial reports in her area of stewardship our company has ever seen,” he writes.

His article elicited responses from executives who were quick to tout the important contributions — and overall success — of employees who did not report for work having done a job exactly like the one they were about to undertake. Has this approach worked for you? Share your comments in the comments section below.

#talenttraits

THE PLUS

Another fan of the supposedly "under-qualified" employee is Paul English, cofounder and CTO of Kayak.com.

"I believe that the top creative people are at their peak when they see something for the first time," he told Business Insider. "I hired someone once because he had an Olympic medal. I hired someone once who was an international chess master."

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