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More experience?

Should employers hire on experience or ability?
Everyplace I go to for an interview seems to hire people with more experience...

Monday, February 9, 2004

ideally both :)  If I cant get both Ill definitely tend strongly toward experience...ability by itself means less than nothing, whereas experience by itself can often be surprisingly useful (and implies at least a degree of ability)

Monday, February 9, 2004

Ability is hard to quantify. So experience often
wins because it has a number attached to it.
The people judging ability may not have
the ability to judge and thus defer to experience.

son of parnas
Monday, February 9, 2004

We should probably replace the word 'ability' with 'talent', and we should also clarify what type of experience we're talking about here.  Age (aka, years of experience)?  Industry specific experience?  Language experience?

> ability by itself means less than nothing

Back that up.

Monday, February 9, 2004

"Everyplace I go to for an interview seems to hire people with more experience"

You didn't say it, but you seem to imply that even though the other candidates have more experience, you have more ability. That may well be true, but you don't seem to be convincing the prospective employers.

Consider going to some interview training, or at least do a mock interview with a friend in the role of interviewer. Something might be going wrong that you aren't aware of.

On the other hand, they are probably interviewing several candidates, so all but one will be turned down every time. It could be that your number just hasn't come up yet, but you should still do everything you can to improve the odds.

Tom H
Monday, February 9, 2004

"Back that up."

:) how exactly?...Im not sure what kind of proof you are expecting...

I am perhaps a good example....I believe that as a neophyte programmer I had 'talent', yet on my first job as a programmer it was a while before I actually earned more than I cost (taking opportunity cost into account of course).

On another level, Ive hired both youngsters with 'talent' and oldsters with experience and, frankly, I vastly prefer oldsters with experience...they _know_ what they are talking about, they are cautious but on the whole fairly accurate in their guestimates, they thoroughly understand the principles of good design, and they have a good idea of when to ignore them.
If properly selected they have a wealth of knowledge about the areas that they develop in, the operating system, the development IDE, the bugs, the advantages, the disadvantages, the best way to solve problems x,y,z

There are of course two types of jobs in any company, lesser jobs for lesser paid youngsters with talent and harder jobs for experienced programmers who earn more...Ive hired both types in the past depending on my needs, but with all else being equal Id easily hire the experienced programmer over a youngster with 'talent'

All of which means that in the situation that the OP described, with both types going for the same job, my preference would be for the experienced programmer without a doubt.
'talent' is fine is a fine thing to have, but unless its coupled with 'knowledge' I neither need it, nor want it....and there is no way it will earn its keep.

Monday, February 9, 2004


What employers should do, and what they actually do, are different things.  Try these two articles to see what employers should do:

Now it's safe to say most employers hire based on experience, instead of ability, because it's the easiest thing for them to do, like what Son of Parnas said.  Also, it takes a well trained manager to spot real talent from all the wannabes.  Unfortunately it takes a lot of effort to train managers to hire like that.

But, would you want to hire a lazy worker?  No.  So would you want to work for a company that was lazy in it's hiring practices, even though hiring (good people) is a major key to the long term success of any company?

The way I see it, I'm glad to be rejected by short sighted companies.  In fact, the faster the better, so I dont' have to waste any more of my precious time with them.  Just as employers want to weed out the thousands of job applications they receive, I want to quickly weed out all the companies that claim they have a "world class" work enviroment and are "market leaders."

Of course, there are a lot of caveats to this attitude.  There are times when you have to lower your standards and pimp yourself out.  Also, you'll need to solve your lack of experience problem by finding creative ways of gaining it. 

I'll leave you with last link.  It's on method to job searching.  It's not easy to do, and takes practice, but you get out what you put in:

I wish you the best of luck with your career, RD.

Monday, February 9, 2004

Successful experience indicates ability, so someone with experience has both.

Ability with no experience is aptitude, but that person is then going to spend 1/3 of their time learning from their own mistakes. Make a mistake, learn from it - that's "experience"

Of course "years of working" does not always equal "experience" - as a friend of mine often says, "sometimes five years of experience is really one year of experience five times."


Monday, February 9, 2004

> ability by itself means less than nothing

This is crap. Are you implying that Microsoft's hiring practices (w/c do hire a lot of very talented young people) are flawed?

Monday, February 9, 2004

I should clarify what I posted above.  My main gripe is with employers who don't hire someone because they don't _exactly_ match the job requirements.  Grant it, some of the requirements are critical to the job, but there can be a lot of frivolous requirements too.

In hindsight, I've gone off on a tanget from the main theme of this thread.  My apologies.

I agree that all "talent" and no experience is a bad sign.  There are many skills and lessons that you have to learn the painful way, that you aren't born with.  There's also no excuse for not gaining experience on your own, outside of the company.  Personal projects, opensource projects, etc.  Of course your little "Hello world" program is a bit different from an enterprise class application.

Good point Philo, about "experience" not always adding up to what you think.

Monday, February 9, 2004

I think for every techie, assuming he is not abused, there is a happy 5-15 year period, where they know enough to be productive, and are not so bitter, set in their ways, or brain dead that they can be productive. Hire them beofre that, and youll get ... "why arent we doing everyting in .NET, .NET is really great, sure we can rewrite it in a week ...." After that you get, well here are the specs, now find someone to code it.

the artist formerly known as prince
Monday, February 9, 2004

"This is crap. Are you implying that Microsoft's hiring practices (w/c do hire a lot of very talented young people) are flawed?"

beats me :)  I haven't heard much to convince me either way as to whether thats a good idea or certainly appears to work for MS, but OTOH as always its pretty hard to know what would have happened if theyd taken the other approach.

Its my experience that it _always_ takes a reasonable period of time before a talented youngster with no experience begins to pay for themselves.  hence "less than nothing" because it costs money to support htem in the short term.

long term of course they gain experience and begin to pay for themselves.

in your experience is this untrue Gamut?

Monday, February 9, 2004

Experience is also a negative. Experienced people are likely to be less enthusiastic than a fresh graduate.

Your window of enthusiasm is probably inversly related to ability however. The more ability someone has, the sooner they'll see how much most IT jobs suck, IMO.

Not that I'm bitter. ;)

Sum Dum Gai
Monday, February 9, 2004

"Experience is also a negative. Experienced people are likely to be less enthusiastic than a fresh graduate."

<g> thats because they have an all around better grasp on reality.

Ill trade enthusiasm for skill without hesitation :)

Monday, February 9, 2004

On one extreme you have large companies that can afford to hire people with no experience, who won't be adding any profit to the company for maybe 3 years.  In fact, for quite a while they will be a drain on profits.  But the advantage is they can mold the person into what they want.

On the extreme you have a startup company that has a very limited budget, who cannot afford to wait for a person to get up the learning curve.  They need to hire highly experienced people who can hit the ground running, on top of probably doing two other jobs that aren't on their offical job description.

Most companies lie in the middle, that have entry level positions and senior positions.  But, you have to remember that right now that there are a lot of unemployed, experienced people looking for jobs.  It's natural for employers to take advantage of this and select only experienced people, because they know there will always be a supply of enthusiastic talented graduates later (I suppose that's debatable for America).

Monday, February 9, 2004

No. What you have are the differences between companies oriented to development, and companies oriented towards profit, regardless.

The first type are small to medium size and value quality and contribution. That's why they try to hire good and experienced people.

The second type are the big outsourcers, who are run by sales people, and see programmers as just a cost. The cheaper the better. They use their bullshit skills to keep getting the work for those young or weak programmers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Seems like everyone is off topic, the guy came back with:

>My main gripe is with employers who don't hire someone
>because they don't _exactly_ match the job requirements. 

and really, all of this is old hat. I saw it back in 1995 when I refused a full-time job and the owner put out an ad to replace me. He put "knows C++" in the ad ... heck ... I was doing tech support and building web pages in between calls ... I asked him why he put the C++ and he said he was reading about it and it seemed like a good thing.

Personally, of course, I think a lot of this outsourcing arises from idiotic job postings. Most Americans (I'm serious) will not respond to an ad they think does not fit them (I said most, talking percentages, I've lived/worked in 4 countries other than the U.S.)  I've seen less scrupulousness in many other places, usually 3rd world countries rampant with corruption and poverty where people will do or say anything (to a degree more so than in the U.S.)  So the morons put out moron job descriptions that can only be "met" by people willing to claim anything. Since few local people respond the morons "identify" a shortage of talent in the U.S. and thus their need to go to India, Russia, Romania etc. where there are programmers who can meet the moronic standards. Right.  Well, did I go off topic or what, but this kind of thread is history, this post should kill it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Responding to job descriptions you don't meet has been highly profitable to at least one American.

Divorced with a child and no job she accepted a job as a typist, even though she had never been near a keyboard. She got the job and hired a typewriter over the weekend and then tried to learn to type. She only had moderate success but did invent Typex, which made her fortune.

Perhaps one of these Indians who gets his job because he claimed to have ten years experience in C# and to have written accounting applications in Assembler, will come up with the next killer programmers app to save his butt if he gets hired. :)

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, February 10, 2004

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