We make it so much harder on ourselves when we focus on experience. Here is my controversial statement for today: experience is no indication of ability or success. Makes sense, right? I might have cooked a lasagna, but it doesn’t mean it is any good. I might have drawn a picture, but it could be awful. And the harder the task, the less likely that experience alone is any indication of success. So, of all the folks who have done a job like the one you want done, most have not been very good at it.
Then why do we only look for folks who have done the job before that we want done now? Is it that we just don’t have the patience, process, or ability to train someone to do the work? Admittedly, if I can find a talented person who has also done the job before, then we have the best of both worlds. Just realize you may not have that option.
The best Manufacturing Engineer I ever hired spent the first part of his career as a cook. The best Project Manager I have ever worked with had spent most of her career as a Manufacturing Engineering. The best Operations Manager I knew spent the last 5 years as a naval officer. You can see, though, that in each of these examples the earlier work developed or built upon a talent that mattered to their next role. As a cook, the engineer learned how to simplify complex tasks, to break things down, and to add some creativity into his work. As a Manufacturing Engineer, the future PM learned to understand tasks, priorities, and milestones as they flowed in the real world. And she did so with attention to detail and discipline that the best PMs would recognize.
So, stop scanning resumes for a narrow set of experiences. You are wasting your time. Instead….
1. Identify the talents, the basic attitudes and attributes, of the very best people doing that job. Now you have a target that matters!
2. To find folks like this, think of jobs where such people thrive. That might be a job like the one you are looking to fill, but there are certainly others as well. Now you can look at someone’s resume and consider experience from the talent-centered point of view.
3. By all means, if there is some critical knowledge or experience you must have, identify it. But don’t go overboard. Talented people learn quickly and adapt.
4. Signs of great talent often include: a positive, energetic attitude; curiosity and a passion for learning; a solid record of doing important things in their chosen field.
5. Absolutely must avoid: any kind of negativity or negative attitude; a tendency to attribute their problems to the fault of others; a solo player – great teams are held together by relationships, no hermits welcome.
Now go forth, and build that great team!