The Big Debate: Should I Hire for Potential or Experience?

By November 4, 2021 March 6th, 2024 Building a Better Team

Last Updated on March 6, 2024 by Dave Schoenbeck

It’s a dilemma that many agency owners and CEOs face: should you hire for potential or experience? On the one hand, an experienced, higher-paid creative can perform immediately. But on the other hand, someone with less experience but high potential might be more affordable and have a higher long-term career trajectory.

An experienced woman is teaching a younger employee

Hiring Talent vs. Experience

It can be hard to tell whether you should hire for potential or experience. Of course, as a business owner, you want to fill a role with someone who will do a great job and hopefully stay in the position for a long time. But how can you know who will do the best job before you hire them?

Here are a few of the benefits of hiring experienced employees

  • Although not guaranteed future success, past performance can give you a good idea of what you can expect, primarily if the candidate has previously worked in your industry.
  • Previous industry experience means you can save a lot of training time and cut down on many new hire mistakes that someone brand-new to the industry might make. 
  • A candidate with a long work history likely has many valuable references that you can consult. From there, you can get a good idea of the candidate’s personality and predict their success. 
  • More experience lends itself well to more specialized work. Sometimes it’s best to hire someone with a history of doing what you need them to do rather than taking the time to train someone from the ground up and hoping they can handle the higher-level work. 

On the other hand, here are some reasons to hire someone with no experience

  • Almost all job duties can be taught and learned. We all had to learn new skills once upon a time. Attitude and personality, on the other hand, cannot. So a person with the right attitude but no experience can better fit your team dynamic. 
  • When wondering whether to hire for potential or experience, many worry that a lack of experience will mean a person is clueless about the world’s ways. However, many with little work experience have abundant life experience to compensate for it. In contrast, those with work experience might not have learned anything from it. 
  • Someone with much experience is likelier to be set in their ways than someone without it. Conversely, an employee with less experience will be more receptive to hearing how you want things done and adapting to your company’s policies. 
  • The obvious benefit: a person with less experience can usually be hired for a smaller salary than someone with a long work history. Ideally, this person will be motivated by regular raises to do their job well and go above and beyond. 

When hiring for potential or experience, the best long-term solution is hiring less experienced employees. As long as you choose a candidate with genuine potential for growth, you’ll have an employee you can shape to suit your company’s needs while giving them the resources they need to thrive. It’s a win-win. 

Should you hire for potential or experience? It depends on your business, but a coach can help you figure it out. Please fill out my contact form and discuss your agency’s talent needs.

Coach Dave 


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