Learning from experience

Employer advice

It's the age-old recruitment conundrum: take on a worker that has been doing the role for many years and knows the territory inside-out, or opt for a less experienced candidate itching to make their mark. Both courses of action entail financial expenditure and both carry their own benefits and risks. When a crucial position needs filling quickly, it's always tempting to go down the experience route, yet many employers could well be missing out on a potential star of the future by overlooking graduates or those with little on-the-job knowledge so far.

The benefits of choosing experienced personnel are immediate they're more than likely to already be doing the exact job you're recruiting for, meaning they're familiar with the role-requirements and can start from day one, getting up to speed with your company processes quickly. They're less likely to require costly and time-consuming training and will be better able to handle the day to day challenges of the role unguided, saving you time and money over the short term.

But what about the impacts over the long-term? If they've been in the role many years, just how motivated are they to continue indefinitely? Is their passion for the daily realities of the job running dry? Will they bring fresh ideas and impetus to move your processes and procedures forward? Will they see any challenge to better themselves with you as opposed to any other employer? Of course, there are no easy answers to these questions but where lingering doubts occur; it may just be time to consider graduates or career-changers.

Choose the right candidate and this individual could invariably bring passion, fresh ideas, a desire to succeed and if mentored and incentivised well, could become a potential future business leader. Crucially, less experienced candidates typically enter a new field with an open mind, free from any notions of doing the role in a particular way or indeed jaded or frustrated by accepted procedures. There are more than likely to be mishaps along the way of their career development, but much can be overcome with desire and a willingness to learn and impress. And if that wasn't enough, they're also much more likely to command starting salaries at the lower end of your budget, giving you the leeway to fund extra training and mentoring where needed.

Having taken the decision to opt for the graduate route, what are the skills and attributes employers prize most? Interestingly, a recent survey of SMEs confirmed soft skills are highest in demand over and above technical capability. Good communication skills have always been important in the workplace, regardless of sector, but especially so today given the popularity of technology and social media in what is an increasingly service-driven economy.

Also high on the employer wish list is the ability to take initiative, team building skills, good time management and creative thinking. While candidates readily possessing all of these attributes may be in short supply, working out the right skills profile of a new starter for your business will enable you to pinpoint the kind of individual you need and make short listing decisions that much easier.

There's no doubt every recruitment decision needs to be taken on its own merits and there will be those times where only more experienced workers with detailed technical knowledge will cut the mustard. Looking at the bigger picture however, the most vibrant, harmonious and indeed successful workplaces tend to comprise a mix of fresh talent and highly experienced staff ready to impart knowledge and ultimately help pass on the baton on to future generations.