Which is Better — Skills or Experience?
The pandemic and this wider period of uncertainty has forced companies across nearly every industry to perform serious reevaluations of work policies and procedures.
Lockdowns, remote work, and digitization have accelerated their desire to implement new technologies and flexible ways of working.
IDC has predicted that global information and communications technology spending will grow by at least 5% annually from 2021 to 2023 as companies and countries play catch up following the pandemic.
This rapid transformation has also changed the way companies are hiring and progressing their staff. Workplaces today will want proof that employees can keep up with the pace of change. And their skills, especially skills to adapt, have taken on more importance than previous experience or job titles.
What exactly is the difference between skills and experience? Although they're both used frequently in resumes and cover letters, there are distinctions between the two.
What is experience?
On a resume, experience means place of employment, position, dates worked and a brief description of work responsibilities. A caveat: experience may not necessarily imply quality. Candidates with many years of experience can bring wonderful abilities to the table, but so can those with a shorter work history. The reverse is also true — all candidates, whether they have worked in the industry —for one year or 15 years, can potentially be poor performers.
What are skills?
Skills are abilities and knowledge gained that allow employees to perform a job or interact well with others. Some HR professionals advocate for focusing on capabilities, not degree requirements. Beyond learning them through your job, skills can be obtained in a variety of ways:
Certifications utilizing online tutorials and training
Working with the IT community at large
Starting a side project
Taking on additional projects at work
Communication, leadership, empathy, and other soft skills can be acquired in a variety of social settings outside of work
The downside? Skills can be less tangible and riskier to quantify than experience.
But these are risky times.
“Companies are hurting badly in terms of updating products and they are so desperate for help they are hiring on potential, rather than experience, said Greg Meyer, MATRIX Regional Sales Leader.
Meyer added that recruiting for experience alone may limit your talent pool. “When you strictly seek applicants who have a minimum or maximum threshold of experience, you risk screening out individuals who are otherwise strong candidates.”
“It’s not realistic to find someone with 6+ years’ experience who will join your team in two weeks. Better to bring in someone with less experience and coach them up. If they have a solid foundation and understanding of what a certain application and software can do that you are looking for specifically, take the chance. If you have learned the basics, you can layer on additional skills later,” he said.
This is especially true for companies who are now customizing so much of their own technology that it becomes nearly impossible to find candidates with extremely niche skills that match their needs.
Here’s an appropriate “take the risk” analogy: If you are sick these days and go to the pharmacy looking for cough medicine and they don’t have the brand you like, you take a chance on the brand they do have on the shelves because it’s the best you can do.
So, what can companies do to fit into this new paradigm?
Require Fewer Skills
Job order write-ups are more important now than ever. “Determine which two or three skills are the most important,” said Meyer. “Then gear your write-ups to those skills. You should be striving to get as much as you can and still make it realistic.”
When it comes to job offers, many clients have not adjusted to the market. “Clients are not moving slower, candidates are just moving faster,” said Meyer. “It is not unusual to interview someone and then find three days later they are off the market."
Spot talent and let them grow. According to LinkedIn, individuals have been doubling down on self-development, spending 43 million hours on LinkedIn Learning in 2020 alone. Another way to look at it is in terms of loyalty and job satisfaction employees want to learn and grow. Nobody wants to stay at the job where they have 100% of the skills to begin with and nowhere else to go.
In the post-pandemic world, increasingly job skills are becoming the new currency. Isn’t it time to invest your resources in this new way of thinking?