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Why you shouldn’t hire based on experience (jasoncrawford.org)
15 points by jasoncrawford on Jan 29, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 17 comments

Agree you shouldn't take experience at face value, but I do think it's critically valuable to explore experience in an interview.

In an interview, I try to ask questions about the job they'll be doing rather than backward looking behavioral questions. But you can still apply what you know about their past experience to forward looking questions: If they fail on certain areas, but just haven't had a chance to work on that type of problem in their previous experience--it's a lot less distressing. But if they're failing at things they "should" know better from their experience, it's a huge red flag. So for example, someone who says their an expert in web development should have no problem deciding on the best way to manage application state given HTTP's statelessness. Someone coming from a C++ background who struggles with exactly what tools to use for this might still grow to be a fantastic web developer.

Yeah, totally agree. That's consistent with what I'm saying here: the key is not how much experience you have, but how much have you learned from what you do have?

I remember a lecturer of mine many years ago decrying so many people who claimed 10 or 15 years experience when in fact (as he said) they had had 1 years experience repeated 10 or 15 times.

Of course, we are all interested in hiring folks that can "do" - experience is just an initial indicator that they might be able to.

Well I think this is common knowledge. Nobody in their right mind would hire on experience alone, but it is a fairly safe starting point that's typically followed by more reliable measurements of skill.

Edit: very misleading title. After reading the post a second time, I realized you were referring to hiring based on experience on a specific platform, which is a bit silly, but yes, it happens.

My point is that people overvalue experience, relative to intelligence, and drive, and other components of raw talent.

Up to a point, but experience does serve as a filter. It's hard to measure intelligence and drive from a resume - it's hard enough to get a picture of actual experience.

An important factor is what kind of experience we're talking about. Take an engineer with ten years of experience. After ten years, a qualified engineer should be fluent in a fairly large number of technologies in various capacities. On the contrary, somebody who has been writing CRUD PHP webapps at the same company for the last ten years might not be your first choice for a hire.

The research mentioned shows that the correlations are close to 0 even within similar work (there aren't many surgeons doing the equivalent of CRUD PHP webapps), which would imply that it's a filter that doesn't actually do you any good. I suppose you're arguing that the correlation is greater than 0 for an engineer and therefore it might be an effective filter. But how much greater? Particularly for industries where skill is important, using a marginally effective employment filter can significantly backfire.

Sure... "in a wide range of fields" experience counts for little, maybe nothing. The author mentions auditors, clinical psychologists, parole officers etc. I bet astrology and water dowsing could be added to this list.

In many other fields, experience counts! I have worked with many young engineering graduates, and seen them develop (I also was inexperienced myself, once). So much of the time in their early career is spent looking for information, making/fixing silly errors and reinventing the wheel.

I have the following semi-quantitative observations to offer: Engineering salaries in my field roughly double between 0 and 5 years experience, and then roughly double again between 5 and 12 years. And in engineering consultancies, one does not expect to make money on engineers with less than 2-3 years experience - we take the hit in the hope of benefitting later.

Of course the experience benefits vary from person to person. Furthermore, there is another factor that tends to offset experience - drive, or energy. The sweet spot - for majority of engineers - seems to be at between 5 to 15 years experience, where the drive + experience combine to deliver a very productive individual. This is of course a generalisation, and I am sure we all know many exceptions.

I think you missed this part: “This doesn’t mean you can’t learn from experience. It means that learning from experience is not automatic. Some people can make the same mistakes over and over again and be none the wiser for it.”

No. I did not miss it. I was responding to the general thrust and the overarching message of the article, which seems to be "you should not hire based on experience".

...and a track record of delivering results.

That is literally the definition of experience.

I'm assuming the point you're making is that the number of years is irrelevant and it's the results that matter. That makes a bit more sense but the title is misleading.

No, delivering results is not the same as experience. Experience is years in the field. Your results are the outcome of that experience.

Results should be commensurate with experience. For a candidate fresh out of college, you don't expect huge accomplishments already. For someone with 10 years, you do.

I'll update the article to clarify, thanks.

I think you are missing the point - he's talking about experience here in specific areas.

I appreciate that. My point is that the title is intentionally sensationalist.

I don't think it's sensationalist, but if it is, it certainly wasn't intentional

Titles often are. I don't think it's a crime.

Really depends on what you want to achieve. For building an MVP experience is really important.

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