Experience vs. Entry-level: Who will be the best hire?

Posted by

In your employee search, you’ve narrowed down your decision to two candidates. While both are equally qualified for the job, the only difference between them is that one candidate has three years job experience. The other candidate is fresh out of college and has no experience on her resume other than some internships. Although each candidate is ideal for the job, do you go with the employee with experience or give the entry-level candidate a chance? Ten years ago, the answer for most companies would be to hire the experienced applicant. This left many entry-level job seekers in a tight spot. Companies wouldn’t hire applicants who didn’t have previous experience. Yet, the only way to get experience was by getting a job in the field. Over the past decade, this attitude has changed. With not enough skilled applicants to fill vacant position, many managers have started hiring more entry-level applicants. Despite their initial misgivings, many companies have been pleasantly surprised to discover that there are advantages to hiring entry-level applicants over experienced employees. They Can Be Taught In today’s job market, most entry-level applicants are recent college students. Many hiring managers view this as a liability since most college curriculum cannot keep up with changes in the field. They fear that what students learn in school is out-of-date before they have their degree. The college graduate would have to go through further training before they could be of use to the company. Hiring former students, however, can be more advantageous that hiring an experienced applicant. During a student’s academic career, they have spent an average 8 to 16 hours a week in the classroom, and another 16 to 32 hours simply focused on studying. As employees, they are likely to be more adept at learning a new software package, acquiring new skills, and researching information that will bring them up to speed with the experienced worker. Over time, they are also likely to be more flexible to trying new techniques or changes in a work process than experienced employees who are set in their ways. In a world where almost every industry is affected by a constantly evolving technology, this makes entry-level applicants a valuable asset to any company. Experience vs. Internships One of the advantages experienced applicants had over entry-level candidates is that they were already familiar with general office procedures and are acquainted with an office environment. Few companies felt they had the time to waste office-breaking an inexperienced employee. These days, however, many entry-level applicants may have a more extensive and diverse curriculum vitae than a professional in the field. While that might sound strange, consider that most college students have been focusing on their future vocation for at least four years. While they’ve been studying in their field, they may have researched their prospective career at their school’s career center, taken part in job shadowing, met with professionals at job fairs, gone abroad to refine a language, or even participated in internships. In the past, many hiring managers viewed internships as short term temporary positions where the intern’s greatest responsibility was collating copies. Yet, internships have changed and hiring managers view these programs with a greater weight. Knowing that companies are looking for experience, many schools are now requiring students to take at least one internship in order to graduate. Many colleges have partnered with companies to create internships that are substantive and collaborative with the college’s curriculum. Some companies have re-thought their internship program on their own. In these programs, many companies have interns actively involved in larger projects and assignments in order to get their insight on the corporate work process. By adding greater responsibilities to internships, other companies use these programs to groom interns for a permanent position after graduation. With millions of students flocking to internship programs each semester, it’s more likely that an intern will have a year or two of diverse real world experience even before they graduate. Most Likely to Invest Despite the applicant shortage, many hiring managers would rather let a position remain empty than hire an inexperienced applicant. Their biggest fear being that an entry-level applicant will only stay for a year, gain the experience he needs, and then look for another job. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that an experienced employee won’t do the same thing. According to Public Agenda Online [www.publicagenda.org/issues/overview.cfm?issue_type=economy], six in ten Americans feel less loyalty to the company they work for. Other career trends show that the average length of time an employee spends at one company is shrinking from 5-6 years to 1-3 years. While the state of the job market makes it hard to determine which group will invest themselves in a company, employees who have 3-5 years previous experience know they have little to lose by staying at a job in the short term and may take a position only to continue to look for a better opportunity. Most entry-level applicants know that three jobs in three years is a black mark on their resume, even in today’s market. Because of this, a hired entry-level applicant is more likely to invest themselves in a company to make the most of the practical experience, as well as build their skills and work record for their next job when they decide to move on. No Longer the Bottom Line One factor that in the past did make entry-level applicants more appealing to companies was that corporations could offer a lower salary to an applicant who had little to no experience. Recent salary trends show, however, that entry-level salaries have gone up in the past several years. This trend means that many companies are realizing the advantages of hiring entry-level over experienced applicants. As the economy continues to change, the gap between entry-level and experienced applicants will only continue to narrow.

Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

  • Beth
    If the choice of people was one for a IT contract with deadlines, we would have to go for the candidate with the most years of experience.  That is what our clients pay for - the years of experience a person has with a given software package.   But like Paul says above, attitude is everything.   It all depends on what kind of deadlines you are facing with the hiring of this person.  How soon do they have to be highly productive?  If the answer is now, who can afford the office breaking learning curve?  Another consideration is if they will have to talk to a client.  I would not trust a new grad with interfacing to my clients.  Let's face it, colleges are insanely liberal institutions where no one is taught right from wrong.  The philosophies taught at college, such as Relativism, do not enable a college student to make basic ethical decisions like, "Is stealing from my employer wrong?" They are taught that what is right begins and ends with themselves and that they are not accountable to anyone but themselves.  This attitude must completely be changed once they take a job.  But how can you set about reteaching these kids that there is such a thing as right and wrong actions when all they have heard for the last 10 years is that it is wrong to impose your values on someone else?  
  • Paul
    when you hire someone the one thing they are looking for is attitude you can teach business but you cannot teach how to have a positive attitude
  • Steven Adams
    Steven Adams
    In my 15 years of recruiting experience I have not found many companies who take the entry-level person over the experienced individual but more and more often things are starting to change. I would like to send this article to every hiring manager I work with!
  • tony scott
    tony scott
    Thanks for this info.

Jobs to Watch