Many of us remember the struggle of looking for a job out of school or college. The classic paradox of 'needing experience to get experience'. As annoying as it was, we all naturally understand why employers prefer experienced candidates over inexperienced ones. Simply put, they know what they're doing and won't need to be trained as intensely.
Experienced candidates have a proven track record of being able to do the role being advertised, which can seem vital, especially for senior roles. Sometimes simply having experience in a different office in a completely unrelated role is often seen as more advantageous than hiring someone straight out of university.
However, Bryan Diller, chairman of IAC (Tinder, The Daily Beast, Angie's list) Firmly disagrees. 'If you hire people at senior positions, you are a failure'. As harsh as this sounds, this is the man who mentored both Michael Eisner, the former CEO of the Walt Disney company and Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber's CEO, both while they were still nobodies. This is also similar to how Diller got his first big break in his career when he was still in his early 20s. He was put in charge of negotiating the rights to films made for TV by former ABC president, Elton Rule.
He was thrust into a position of power at such a young age with nothing going for him but the desire to succeed. This is exactly why he believes in doing the exact same thing with his new recruits. 'When you drop somebody into deep water, and you see they flounder, and they really are gasping — unless that happens, development rarely happens,' Diller explains. 'And then slowly they get above the water line, and then they start to go.'
Turns out there are some very good reasons to hire inexperienced staff, especially for senior roles.
Build your ideal employee
Everyone points to a lack of experience as a reason not to hire green staff but rarely consider all the baggage that comes with an experienced worker. Bad habit, office politics, pessimism... these are not the traits you want more of in your company. It is very likely you already have a surplus of these in your office already. What you really want is to be able to mold your ideal employee before the world sullies them, while they are still malleable.
An inexperienced employee has no real understanding of office politics and is filled to the brim with optimism and passion to do the best job possible. Having not worked in another role like that also means you are in a better position to sculpt the specific role you want them to take on. They are more adaptable because they don't have a work history to reference and have much more to prove.
One of the biggest advantages of hiring inexperienced staff is the ability to hire the best and brightest straight out of school and test drive them via internships. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), over 97% of large employers will hire interns this year. It is also predicted that about half of those will be unpaid internships (which is illegal in America). This gives you an idea of how hungry graduates are to get into the job market. These are the leaders of tomorrow; you can cheaply test run them and easily transition them into higher positions if they show any promise.
They are the future, and the future innovates.
The other massive benefit of hiring young, hungry employees is, what they lack in experience, they make up for in new ideas. Innovation is the biggest propeller of industry right now and every company is constantly looking for an edge over the competition. So having one employee with an idea of what might happen in the future can be worth more than a score of people telling you how things worked really well in the past.
Younger employees also tend to have a natural affinity for new tech. This means they can offer valuable insight into the mind of the most economically influential demographic right now, millennials. The inexperienced think of new ideas to tackle old problems and are much less risk-averse, which means they are more likely to find that particular innovation your company needed.
To top that off, they tend to be very productive as they have everything to prove and nothing to lose. They generally don't have mortgages or children, so when given a real opportunity to prove themselves, while they might flounder at first, they tend to give all they have.
Any investment has risks
It is not all roses when it comes to hiring the young or inexperienced. A lot of the cliche millennial stereotypes are exaggerated, but there are some very reasonable concerns which naturally come with it, especially when hiring to senior roles. Experience offers more than just work history in the technical sense, one also learns how to deal with the stress of high-pressure situations. A failure to handle pressure can lead to frustration and demoralization.
Young staff are also more likely to have discipline issues and are generally less stable employees because many of them are still trying to decide on a career path. So that freedom from social responsibilities, which can garner intense commitment to a role, also means they are more likely to change jobs more often. Millennials on average have twice as many jobs before the age of 30 than the generation before.
However, these are the general criticisms that come with hiring younger employees and certainly aren't the rule. Most recruiters are already aware of these flaws, which is why young people have such a problem gaining good employment. When confronted with a candidate who, whilst young, shows ambition and a hunger to learn, don't consider their lack of experience as an inherently bad thing - it might be exactly what your enterprise needs.