Recruitment strategies: should you hire on talent or experience?

Posted on Jun 10th, 2015 | Running a business

Think about your favourite football team. Within that team, there’s a range of experienced players and new talent. The workplace is exactly the same.

Whether you’re signing your first or hundredth player, the process will always throw up an age old dilemma: should you hire a person with a wealth of experience or bags of raw talent?

A 2014 study by Oxford Economics showed that the cost of replacing an employee can reach upwards of a staggering £30,000. The research takes into consideration the loss of output by the absent employee, as well as the cost of setting up a new worker – paperwork, phone calls, logistics etc.

The study also showed how long it takes a new employee to achieve “optimum performance” levels in their new job with the average time length being just over 27 weeks.

With this in mind, chances are you’ll want to hire right and save your businesses money by investing in a long-term, dedicated employee.


Experience can be quantified. When reading through a person’s CV, you can instantly tell how much experience they have – they may have spent twenty years working in their field or even five years doing a similar job with your nearest competitor.

An experienced candidates wealth of knowledge could be imperative to your business. Are they able to come in and educate others, impart wisdom?

When Barcelona signed Luis Suarez, they clearly needed an experienced front-man to strengthen their strike-force. The result? Barcelona scored the most goals in the 2014/2015 season, more than any other La Liga club.

However, those with significant experience tend to be adverse to change and less likely to adapt to new working practices and environments. Experienced candidates can have a ‘been there, done that, got the t-shirt’ attitude and find themselves reluctant to try things they have been through before.

Look at Italian striker Mario Balotelli. He signed for Liverpool in the 2014/2015 season and fans had high hopes – his experience and attitude could have been just what the club needed. However, regardless of his worldly experience (and astronomic levels of pay), his style didn’t fit the team and Liverpool didn’t achieve the results they needed.

With SME’s evolving faster than ever before, do you really want a stick in the mud working for your business?


Spotting those who have a natural aptitude or skill for something isn’t an easy task. But, if you can weed out those with raw talent from your application pool, you know you’re onto something special.

Those who are talented often are incredibly dedicated. They may not be educated in their area of expertise or have received any formal training. A lot of what they have achieved is self-developed and taught – it may not be the polished product but the passion and enthusiasm is certainly there.

Individuals who are talented often work exceptionally hard to prove their worthiness to a business. Without the baggage of decades in the workplace, talented people tend to work smarter, faster and harder. They’re also quick to learn new skills. Could this positive, can-do attitude influence others in your workforce?

Think of a talented candidate as someone who has potential – they can be moulded, developed and shaped into a great employee. They’ll want to retain and soak up information, use their natural flair and skills to impress. With this development will come company loyalty. Sounds a bit too good to be true, doesn’t it?

Take former Liverpool striker Steven Gerrard. Spotted by talent scouts aged nine, Gerrard was developed through the Liverpool Youth Academy with his initial talent and passion helping him progress throughout his seventeen year long career with the club. In this long spell Gerrard was instrumental in Liverpool winning the FA Cup (2001 & 2006), UEFA Cup (2001) and the UEFA Champions League (2005).

The main downfall of hiring talented people is that they may need more hand-holding and guidance. Can they be left alone to get on with a complex task? Also having a gift for something can lead to an inflated ego, which can be troublesome in the workplace.

What to look for

Over the past few decades, behavioural interviews have ruled the roost. They are devised to push the candidate into answering in a way that highlights their behaviour and prior experience. An example of a behavioural question might be: “tell me about a time when you worked well in a team?”

An experienced person may be able to answer this by drawing on their background to give an in-depth and clear answer. Talented people may struggle with this specific interview question, as they may lack the relevant experience that relates to the question.

However, a more general interview question, for example “do you enjoy working as a team?” could allow the talented candidate to showcase their passion and motivation.

As companies become more progressive and look to nurture talent as opposed to experience, behavioural style questions suddenly feel very dated.

How to choose?

Hiring talent or experience really does depend on your business. Think of the team you support – does the manager sign players on a whim? Hopefully not. Do they assess the needs of the team? Are they looking for an experienced midfielder to help strengthen the centre of play or are they looking for a talented up and coming superstar to nurture, develop and become a long-term player and investment?

Hiring works in the same way – where does the candidate fit in with your team and workplace. Sometimes you’ll need experience and sometimes you’ll need talent. Whichever you choose, make sure it’s the right fit for the business – remember, every lost member of staff costs your business big-time.

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Written by Claire Beveridge

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