Experience vs ability

Jeff Attwood over at Coding Horror wrote a great article titled “The Years of Experience Myth” that everyone should add to their ‘must read’ list.

The article discusses the use of phone screens to in the hiring process (and points to a couple of great articles on the topic) but the point of the article pertains to the trap of trying to be overly specific in your hiring.

Jeff writes about the myth of ‘years of experience’ and how many organizations fall into the trap of trying to hire the perfect person. You know the job descriptions that require “7 years experience in J2EE in a manufacaturing environment”. An excerpt from the article is:

This toxic, counterproductive years of experience myth has permeated the software industry for as long as I can remember. Imagine how many brilliant software engineers companies are missing out on because they are completely obsessed with finding people who match– exactly and to the letter– some highly specific laundry list of skills.

Somehow, they’ve forgetten that what software developers do best is learn. Employers should be loooking for passionate, driven, flexible self-educators who have a proven ability to code in whatever language — and serving them up interesting projects they can engage with.

Emphasis mine.

Jeff’s article discusses software engineers specifically but this same issue can be found in any technical area and many other areas. I’ve talked with recruiters and organizations are filter out way too many excellent candidates. For example, the “7 years in J2EE in Manufacturing environment” sample I gave earlier is one that I saw while searching indeed.com (great site btw) for this post. What does someone with 7 years in experience know that someone with 6 years experience doesn’t? Does it really matter that the J2EE experience come from the manufacturing environment?

I’m of the mindset that you hire the best person you can regardless of the number of years of experience that they have. I’m not convinced that someone with 20 years experience is a better hire than someone with 2 years. I’d rather hire the person that will get the job done. As Jeff writes:

Employers should be looking for passionate, driven, flexible self-educators who have a proven ability


Next time you go to hire someone…look at what they can do and what they have the potential to do; not what they may have done in the past.

[tags] Hiring, Experience vs ability, Coding Horror, Human Resources, Management [/tags]