How Many Years’ Experience Should Recruiters and Employers Ask For?

When recruiting, do you think the most experienced applicant is likely to be the best job candidate?

Most people would believe that work experience has some relationship with job performance. Why else would experience be requested on job descriptions and adverts? If you are one of these people, you may be happy to know that research over the last 40 years suggests there is a positive relationship between experience and job performance.

That said, the results of some experiments (even as far back as the late 80’s) might surprise you.

In 1988, psychologists McDaniel, Schmidt and Hunter published a paper in the Journal of Applied Psychology exploring the relationship between experience and job performance. Their study concluded that jobs with low levels of complexity (defined by the cognitive difficulty of the role’s tasks and responsibilities) typically require no more than three years’ experience for individuals to succeed. For these roles (usually more junior and less technical), more than three years’ experience in a role led to lower correlations with performance.

So, jobs with more complexity need more experience, right?

Not necessarily.

The psychologists found the same trend, in fact, lower correlations, for the more cognitively complex jobs. This is because there are of course more formal higher educational opportunities for people to learn the knowledge and skills associated with more technical positions. The workplace has obviously evolved since the 80s, but this trend has been demonstrated in research as recently as 2016.

This conclusion might feel a bit odd. After all, I did say that research has shown there is a correlation between experience and job performance. But we’re overlooking a fundamental characteristic of job performance that should make us seriously question this statement.

When you are measuring performance at work, you are looking at the impact of technical knowledge and behavioural skill on KPIs and goals. Experience merely means the amount of opportunity someone has had to develop these abilities. The research I mentioned earlier treated experience and skill as the same thing (that’s why there was a positive correlation with job performance). But they are not the same. When we are trying to recruit someone into a role, we assume that someone’s experience tells us something about their levels of technical knowledge and behavioural skills. Our assumptions here could easily be wrong.

Consider this scenario: one candidate for a sales role has been delivering presentations to prospective customers for five years. Another candidate has been doing the same activity (in the same industry and type of role) for just one year. Which candidate is better at delivering presentations and converting prospects into sales?

If you said the more experienced candidate, you are making an assumption about their level of ability for which you actually have no concrete evidence. The person with five years’ experience may have a low conversion rate because of poor persuasive communication skills. She/he may have even delivered fewer presentations in that time (e.g. one every six weeks) than the person who has been doing it for a year (e.g. one every week).

The answer to the number of years’ worth of experience, for which you should look, is therefore simple and obvious. You should not be looking for an amount of experience at all.

Instead, you should be evaluating tangible evidence of technical skill and behavioural competence. Sourcing and application processes can still look at relevance of experience, but you should not treat it as evidence of ability or knowledge. In fact, even relevance of experience may not be necessary if it is easy for someone to learn technical knowledge on the job (in which case, looking for evidence of learning agility is more effective).

So, here’s the practical advice: try using a more valid and less time-consuming method of initial assessment than resume / CV screening, such as a psychometric test. Bespoke or ready-to-use tests of aptitude, technical knowledge and behavioural judgement / preference are options available to you.

This will make you less likely to indirectly discriminate against younger people who don’t have as much experience as other candidates. You also won’t accidentally sift out the best talent purely because they’ve had less specific experience. In turn, you may find yourself recruiting a more diverse workforce, and more accurately predicting performance.

Author: Jordon Jones

Can Reflection Improve Performance?

There are many ways that smart HR / Talent Management divisions approach learning and development, but often the most successful are the initiatives that tailor their methods to the individuals.

For decades, a&dc has created and run development centres to enable an engaging and realistic diagnosis of strengths and development areas for clients.  At the end of a development centre, a vital component of the process is a feedback session where delegates are encouraged to reflect on what they did well and what they could have done differently.  We see similar conversations happening in monthly line management meetings and appraisals.  You may have experienced this yourself.  But why is it deemed so important?

Research into feedback and coaching has established that you are more likely to gain buy-in and commitment to change from an individual if you get them to feel ownership over their development areas.  Psychologists Bouskila-Yam & Kluger (2011) demonstrated the higher efficacy of a coaching style compared to direct, traditional feedback when it came to improving individual performance and personal goal attainment. This helped them to transform the appraisal process in the company where they did their research; the global drinks-machine manufacturer SodaStream.

This implies there is considerable power in personal reflection.  It suggests that people more easily attain their KPIs and goals if they personally reflect on their performance.

This is backed up again by research from Di Stefano, Gino, Pisano and Staats (2014).  They observed the influence of reflection by a group of employees at a technology call centre.  The participants were enrolled in training for a specific customer account.  The training consisted of some knowledge tests at various points.  Some of the delegates went through the training without taking any time to reflect (the control group).  Others replaced the last 15 minutes of each training day with an activity involving writing and reflecting on what they had learned (the experimental group).  After a month, the experimental group performed significantly better than the control group on the final training test (by 22.8%).

This suggests you can enhance personal learning from a training workshop by building reflection into the process.  Practically, it also means that we should provide tools to facilitate regular self-reflection at work.

Monitoring personal performance may already be a key objective.  But remember; not everybody is naturally motivated to do this.  In fact, some are so busy that they prefer (or feel pressured) to just get on with their job.  How certain are you that your employees are taking the time to reflect on their personal performance?

Remember, the experimental group in the training study spent 15 minutes reflecting instead of experiencing a part of the course, and they performed much better.  In stressful times at work, good managers should ensure their teams are still taking the time to breathe and reflect, no matter how much work they have going on.

To facilitate this most easily, it could be a case of simply creating a form or a workbook, where people can spend just 30 minutes once per month reflecting.  It can help you think about achievements in which you take pride, opportunities where you could have done something differently, and what generally frustrated you.  Try it today; it could make a dramatic difference on performance and well-being where you work.

Author: Jordon Jones

The Apprenticeship Levy – An Assessment Perspective

The Apprenticeship Levy is upon us. April sees the introduction of a 0.5% charge on the wage bill of all organisations’ whose PAYE is above £3m. Affected organisations are able to claw back a percentage of this levy for every apprentice they employ and train, with the overall aim being to increase the number of apprentices employed in the UK to 3m. This is a rise of just under 30% from the 2016 number. In short, large organisations will be increasing the number of apprentices they recruit, interview and assess.

Apprenticeships have changed over the years. There are now four levels of apprenticeships; intermediate, advanced, higher and degree.

  • Intermediate level is equivalent to 5 GCSE Grades A*- C and NVQ level 2.
  • Advanced level is equivalent to A-levels, NVQ level 3 or a BTEQ Diploma.
  • Higher level is equivalent to a foundation degree, NVQ level 4 or a BTEQ Professional Qualification.
  • Degree level is equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree.

Within these four levels there are an additional seven sublevels. The breadth of apprenticeships mean organisations will need to think differently about how they attract, assess and recruit. Traditionally, ‘Early Career’ recruitment teams focused approximately 80% of their efforts on graduates and 20% of their time on Apprenticeships. Now they will need to consider four different core levels of apprentice as well as their graduate intakes.

The five key challenges they will face are:

  • The increase in volumes. They will need the infrastructure and the resource to be able to manage this increase. This is not just processing candidates but also assessing and giving feedback. They need to find ways of doing this efficiently.
  • The complexity of the varying levels. They will need to ensure the criteria they are assessing candidates against are a realistic reflection of the abilities and behaviours required at each level. They will need experts to ensure they do this properly.
  • The content of the assessment processes. The materials and content will need to be engaging, fun and current. They will need to demonstrate that the business is forward looking, strategic and ambitious.
  • They will need to use Technology. This is Generation Z, they like things mobile, simple and digital. If the organisations are not using technology as part of the recruitment process, they will be seen as inferior to their competitors who are. Gamification, video and high fidelity are just some of the methods of delivery they will need to consider in both their online and face to face assessments.
  • Return on Investment and Talent Analytics. Proving this increased investment and apprentice recruitment is worthwhile will be vital. This means properly tracking everything from the effectiveness of the online tests, assessment centres and interviews to demonstrating how the apprentices have improved the talent pipeline of the business in 5 and 10 years’ time. This will require proper, real time data collection of their performance, achievements and impact over this period of time.

We can help you align your assessment techniques to enable you to assess and recruit the right Apprentices for your organisation. Give us a call today on +44(0)1483 752 900 or email us.

Author: Peter Burnham