by Jamie Mercer

Talent vs. experience: What matters more for a job in technology?

Aug 01, 2017
CareersIT Leadership

Are technology hiring managers looking for raw talent or an experienced head?

“What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work” —Stephen King

Raw talent vs. experience is an age-old conflict, but it has never been more of a hot topic than in the tech industry right now. The number of people with college degrees has grown by over 5 percent in the last decade. Qualifications expire faster, skills become out of date, and adaptability has become king of the jungle. Does this mean experience has to move over to make way for natural talent?

When it comes to recruiting in the tech industry, there are typically two schools of thought: those who prefer exciting new talent and those who prefer the security of white paper qualifications and experience in the field. As there is no strict data to say which one works best, employers must make tough decisions to determine if they value one above the other.

Talent is more likely to adapt

When the proverbial **** hits the fan and you find yourself in a high-pressure situation, it is often those with natural talent who prevail. Drawing from their inner fight or flight response, they have made it to where they are in life now because they knew how to adapt and survive. Scrappy and tenacious, they often feel like they have to prove themselves compared to those with an academic background.

When a technology company is looking to make major changes to processes and procedures, someone with more experience from a more formal background will be more inclined to stay true to “by the book” practice, whereas someone with natural talent from a self-taught background might be more welcoming of risk and change. People with less experience also have the potential benefit of not being as jaded by failure and may not have had the chance to form bad habits. However, with experience comes the benefit of hindsight and learning from mistakes.

Leadership roles are an exception

Technology-based or otherwise, for positions of leadership and high management, the tables flip completely. It may appear like a tempting or even logical idea to give the talented and inexperienced a chance at leading the pack, but, in this case, experience is valued much higher. If an employee is a talented people person or crowd controller, for example, this may be very tempting indeed, but with no real experience managing others, and with others’ positions and workflows reliant on them, it could be considered too big a risk.

It isn’t impossible to promote someone to leadership roles with little experience but they will require significantly more support, advice, and guidance. If you’re comfortable with that level of commitment to this staff member then it can pay off for you, but be aware that recruiting this way is a far more hands-on approach.

Training is paramount

Hiring managers may see a priority in experience despite all of the above points, and not without reason. It is also important to remember the significance of in-house training. Even an experienced and skilled software developer will have redundant skills thanks to the incredible speed in which technology grows.

An experienced employee will begin the role at the top of their game, which is potentially when some hiring managers decide they are satisfied and stop observing their progress. This is a textbook mistake; investing in training and keeping an eye out for change will make all the difference to both employee and employer.

Regardless of talent or experience, get the right person fit

Training and experience only goes so far. As an employer, you have to make a real effort to create the perfect working environment where staff are motivated, listened to, and celebrated for their victories.

Getting the wrong person in a role can lead to several issues such as friction and a lack of harmony between your team as well as staff feeling unmotivated and distracted. This could be an issue for productivity. A recent study revealed that workers can take 23 minutes to refocus after being distracted and, as we know, time is money. It just goes to show that a poor hire can lead to unnecessary expenditure and decreased productivity, so find the right person to fit the role and create a better working environment.

Talent is invaluable

Finding a talented member of staff is a little bit like finding a diamond in the rough—it won’t happen too often, but when it does, you’ll to pick it up and value it.