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Hiring for Education vs. Experience

Posted by Eric Friedman

education vs experience

One of the longest-standing debates when it comes to hiring is the question of whether education or experience is more important when determining if you should hire someone. To help you target which is more appropriate for your workplace, we’ll take a look at three common situations, so you can decide which approach is best for your organization.

Situation #1: „Book smart” doesn’t equal „real-world smart.”

Most people tend to be either street smart (with real-world experience) or book smart (from academia). In some rare cases you’ll find well-rounded individuals who are both. When you’re hiring, you have to zero in on the type of candidate you’re seeking for each particular position.

If someone is book smart, it means that he or she has succeeded in academia, but this doesn’t necessarily translate to success when faced with real on-the-job decisions. It comes down to the specific requirements of the job. A scientific researcher needs extensive academic training; a sales person doesn’t need as much. Keeping the specific requirements of the job at hand foremost in your mind will help guide your decision making.

Situation #2: Advanced degrees translate into greater knowledge of a particular skill-set, which translates into stronger work skills.

When someone graduates with an advanced degree in a particular field, this knowledge forms a foundation that cannot be easily acquired, even through years of experience. On the other hand, if someone is hired to perform a specific job with four years of experience but no degree, even though he has work experience, he may be constantly in a learning phase since not every possible situation will have come up. Often, when someone obtains a higher degree, the four to seven years of education translates into ten plus years of information encountered in real-world working.

Situation #3: Success in actual work means more than success in education.

Employers love to see real-world results. When a candidate can show a potential employer what she has actually accomplished, you can bet that employer will pay attention. Real-world success carries more value with employers because it provides proof that the candidate has the skills to adapt to situations that arise, and not just knowledge gained from study. When a job entails dealing with real people in a variety of real situations, actual work success is way more valuable then educational success.

Before you hire your next candidate, take a look at their education as well as their past successes and work experience. Depending on the position you are hiring for, you’ll know whether to go for the candidate with more experience or the one with more impressive education credentials.

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About Eric Friedman

Author

Eric Friedman is the founder and CEO of eSkill Corporation, a leading provider of Web-based skills testing for pre-employment and training. With academic degrees in Psychology and Business, and experience with both mature and expansion-stage company growth, Eric has focused on how best to hire and motivate team members to be the best they can be for their companies.

4 COMMENTS Join the discussion
  • Bruce October, 07, 2013

    School usually gives us theoretical knowledge and later we learn to apply them in practice. Depending on the job you might go with this or that kind of an applicant, but I’d rather choose those street- wise candidates who have years of experience over the ones freshly out of college. This way you know that the candidate has practical skills and doesn’t need to be trained from the scratch.

  • Bonny Wellmon October, 09, 2013

    Sometimes education matters more, because you can’t have lived through all the situations and have neither theoretical knowledge nor practical skills for those, but if you hire a college graduate you know that this person at least knows how to sort out the situation in theory, even though they have never faced it in real life before.

  • Carrie October, 09, 2013

    Education lays the framework of knowledge, experience proves they know how to apply that framework. With a person freshly out of school it can be easier to work with as an employer can mold them into the employee that they want. But still everything depends on the position you’re hiring for – you’d like your dentist to have medical education, but your office manager doesn’t necessary has to have a diploma.

  • Tony Hascall October, 10, 2013

    I would hire the person with experience over the person with excellent educational credentials without significant career achievements. However, it isn’t usually that cut and dried. If you have to choose between a certified specialist with a long track-record and the one with years of experience but without proper education in the field, you’ll definitely choose the first one, won’t you?

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Guest October, 10, 2013