Hiring Experienced Employees: The Quantity vs. Quality Debate

When analyzing a candidate’s experience level for a position, what’s more important: the tenure of the previous jobs or the quality of work accomplished? Often, multiple, short-term positions can imply a lack of focus or an inability to complete long-term projects; however, in contrast, a candidate with a few lengthy positions may not have been exposed to a wide array of tasks and skills. So, how do recruiting firms know a candidate is experienced enough for a specific position?

In the article “Experience is a Function of Time, Quality and Intensity,” author Don Fornes, Founder and CEO of Software Advice, compares two well-known entrepreneurs: Mark Zuckerberg, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Facebook, and The Office’s Michael Scott, Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin. Compared to Zuckerberg, Scott’s duration of experience is more than double; however, Zuckerberg founded the world’s most well-known social media tool while Scott goofed around and impaired the success of his employees.

Fornes uses a formula to measure experience: experience=ƒ(time + quality + intensity).

As a recruiter, I am trained to identify and qualify a candidate’s experience for a specific position, and all three elements—time, quality and intensity—are vital to the vetting process. In terms of the formula above, I try to ask a few important questions to help me better measure their experience level.

  • Time: Was the candidate in a position long enough to get involved, measure results and grow as an employee? If someone hasn’t been a position long enough to truly see his or her actions come to fruition, there is no way to truly know how impactful the candidate is an employee.
  • Quality: What are some of the FABs (features, accomplishments, benefits) that the candidate possesses? Whether it’s an award, promotion or accolade, these tend to be the most telling and truly show the work scope of the employee.
  • Intensity: While the candidate was employed, did the company experience high growth or under-performance? Ultimately, what was the impact that they personally had on the organization? Even if the company under-performed, did this person help steer the ship from further catastrophe?

The answers to these types of questions may reflect on the candidate’s investment in the company.

However, before I speak to any candidates, I work with the company’s hiring manager to gain an in-depth understanding of the job description that I have been provided, qualifying the “must-have skills” and the “nice-to-have” skills. You cannot always go off of what is listed on the job description as it will usually offer one dimension to a role. Even if a candidate meets the qualifications on paper, other extraneous aspects, such as personality, communication skills and cultural fit, come into play. For example, I have a client that is in high-growth mode, so I know finding people that have start-up experience are going to be a stronger match since they know how to wear many hats and thrive in a constantly changing environment.

Similarly, it is important to take resumes with a grain of salt. One candidate may enlist the service of a resume writer, while another candidate may unintentionally exclude key skills or qualifications thus making resumes very subjective and not the end-all, be-all. Your resume is supposed to get you the interview to then get asked those probing questions where you can provide examples and mini-stories of your experience. The goal is to dangle the carrot without over-embellishing. For this reason, I look for key-words or phrases, like “groomed for” or “promoted,” that can help identify work ethic and skill-level when screening a candidate. To further clarify or elaborate on aspects of a candidate’s resume, it is beneficial to ask references specific questions about the candidate’s previous job experience.

Ultimately, experience does not always equal skill, which makes identifying high-quality candidates a challenging process. Recruitment is not one-dimensional; it is multi-dimensional process. All stages of the hiring process—from understanding the initial job description with hiring managers, to thoroughly vetting candidates, to the actual interview process, and conducting specific and in-depth reference checks—play an essential role in the hiring process and meeting the end goal of making a great hire.

For more information on vcfo’s finance, HR and accounting recruiting solutions, please contact Laurie Holsman at lholsman@vcfo.com.