It’s an age-old recruitment question that hiring managers often find themselves stuck on: do you hire someone who has extensive relevant qualifications, or experience in the field?
There are arguments for both, and there is no perfect formula for a recruiter to follow in order to strike this balance. But by carefully evaluating each side, you can establish which approach to favour for each role you’re hiring for, and secure the best candidate for the job.
The case for qualifications
A degree or professional qualifications show dedication and ambition, which are both desirable attributes in a candidate. If the qualification is in a relevant field, it shows an enduring interest in the industry which may signify that a candidate is less likely to want an immediate career change. Academic achievement may also indicate that a person is a keen learner and will appreciate continuous development in the workplace, which will keep their skills honed in the years to come.
However, excluding those who don’t have qualifications from your candidate search (unless absolutely necessary) will significantly reduce your talent pool; exclude those who have had non-linear journeys to employment but are still great candidates; and could result in a less diverse group of potential hires.
The case for experience
Real-world experience goes beyond what you can learn in a classroom setting, and those with experience may be more likely to endure challenges and adapt. They will probably be able to hit the ground running, as they will have an understanding of not only the working world, but also industry issues and customer needs. Those with lots of relevant experience will have plenty of skills that make them a great hire, and being able to see a history of their career path will help you to understand their future trajectory.
However, those with lots of experience may not be familiar with the latest techniques or processes currently being taught. They may also lack some basic skills, such as literacy or numeracy, so it may be useful to ask to see past examples of their work if this is appropriate for the role.
Best of both
In the end, finding a candidate who has a blend of experience and qualifications may be the best way to go. It doesn’t have to be a degree – maybe they’ve recently completed a professional qualification or have been undertaking their own personal development – but some qualifications will show a commitment to improvement. And it doesn’t have to be mountains of experience: maybe that graduate finishing their first year of their first job has plenty of new ideas, alongside newly gained real-world experience, that will breathe fresh air into your department.
If you’re struggling to strike the perfect balance between experience and qualifications, you may find it useful to partner with a recruitment agency. A good recruiter doesn’t discard anyone just on the basis of qualifications or experience alone, and instead analyses who would be best for the role based on a blend of the two, alongside soft and practical skills and other measures. Optimum Recruitment has an excellent track record at placing top tier talent, and we’d love to support you in sourcing your next hire. Please do contact us if you’d like to know more.