Expert Commentary

Don't Dismiss Inexperienced Candidates

When hiring for a job opening, companies often make the mistake of overlooking inexperienced candidates. This blind spot is based on the assumption that just because a candidate does not have experience, the individual is not capable of completing the tasks and assignments for a particular role. So, a more experienced candidate is hired.


Employee Hiring, Development, and Retention
June 2018

However, many companies discover after the fact that hiring the most experienced candidate was not the best decision. This problem is compounded by overlooking a candidate who lacked experience but may have been the best fit for a particular role.

The key is understanding how to objectively measure an inexperienced candidate's core competencies to determine whether the individual is the best fit. First, though, we need to define who these inexperienced candidates are.

Who Are Inexperienced Candidates?

When thinking about inexperienced candidates, many employers limit the scope to recent college graduates or interns who are new to the workforce. However, inexperienced candidates extend beyond a pool of recent college students.

Companies should look at a universal picture of the available workforce. A common example is an individual who changes industries and is seeking a new line of work. This candidate may have decided at the age of 35 or 45 to transfer their skills from the industry where they started their career to a different industry. Now, this person is seeking a new work opportunity, but they lack experience in the role they are applying for.

An objective measurement will unlock whether this candidate's core competencies and past behavior in a similar context make the person the best fit for your opening.

How Do You Evaluate an Inexperienced Candidate?

Employers are often unsure how to evaluate an inexperienced candidate's past behavior in a similar context. This can be solved in the following two ways.

  • During a behavioral interview with the candidate, identify and evaluate situations from the candidate's past work experience that relate to your job opening. Common examples include universal job tasks, such as working within a timeline, working on a team, and working on projects with other people. This requires preparation to evaluate the candidate's work history, find a connection to the role you are hiring for, and prepare questions that unlock past behavior in a previous role that relate to the role they are applying for. The preinterview preparation may seem time-consuming, but it is vital to properly evaluate each candidate to achieve the objective of hiring the best fit.
  • When evaluating the candidate's background, identify situations from outside of a work setting that relate to your job opening. Common examples include looking at a candidate's volunteer work or even sports, activities, and hobbies they participate in to evaluate their behavior in task-oriented situations.

For example, a candidate lists on a résumé that he or she manages an adult softball team. If you are looking to hire a manager for your customer service team, ask specific questions that unlock the candidate's past behavior managing the softball team to discover whether the candidate's past behavior aligns with the role you are hiring for. This removes subjectivity from the process by identifying and evaluating an actual situation, the task that was required, what action the candidate took, and the result of that action.

There are many things in a candidate's work history and nonwork history that can help unlock past behavior to indicate whether the candidate is a good fit for the role. It is important to follow a process to evaluate inexperienced job candidates.

Implementing a Successful Process

Employers should remember that just because a candidate does not appear to have the required skillset because of what's on their résumé does not disqualify them from having the necessary skills. Your job is to look beyond the lack of experience and probe for those skills to discover the candidate's core competencies. Following this process will also eliminate groupthink or a status quo mentality in your company.

The traditional thinking is to focus on experience as the driving force when making a hiring decision. However, implementing this process of objectively measuring candidates will ensure that your team focuses on the best candidate for the role, independent of their work experience.

The ZERORISK Hiring System provides an objective evaluation of each candidate's core competencies and core motivations. This hiring system also provides behavioral interview tools to evaluate a candidate's past behavior as an indicator of future action. This will allow your organization to look past the blind spot of inexperience to discover the best candidate for your job opening.


Opinions expressed in Expert Commentary articles are those of the author and are not necessarily held by the author's employer or IRMI. Expert Commentary articles and other IRMI Online content do not purport to provide legal, accounting, or other professional advice or opinion. If such advice is needed, consult with your attorney, accountant, or other qualified adviser.

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