I am a big fan of experience. I think it holds innumerable lessons and deserves to be chased after like a thief in the dark. I also believe that number of years is an extremely poor indicator of experience. One could fit in a variety of experiences into a single year and another could live through fifteen years with too few. Yet, how many times have you come across a job posting that mentions the number of years a candidate should have? No matter how broad the range, organizations worldwide, still have a standing belief that the number of years one spends in the profession is directly proportional to capability.
There are three instances I came across this year (and it has been only 3 months) that showed me just how strong this belief is.
In a recent exercise that involved drafting job role guidelines for a few job families, I realized just how dearly business leaders hold on to the notion of experience being a key indicator of whether an applicant is eligible for a role. These leaders were willing to forego any mandatory education requirement but held on to the number of years required. While I was pleased that we no longer needed an applicant to hold relevant educational degrees, I was surprised that the leaders believed that someone with less than x years of experience would not make for a good entry-level software development manager. Or that there could be such a thing as ‘too many years of experience.’
My second not-so-surprising glimpse at the obsession with years of experience took place when a friend called me to rant about the ‘terrible HR policies that your profession has’. She had been excluded from a list of potential applicants to a job, as she did not have enough experience. When she asked the recruiter why she her resume had not been selected, the simple answer was, ‘I am sorry. We are looking with someone with more number of years of experience.’ When she grilled him as to what ‘experience’ or skill-set did they thought she did not currently possess, she failed to receive an answer. I could relate to the fury as I had been through similar experiences in the past.
The last one that I commonly come across is when managers get concerned over their team members, superiors or reports having more or less number of years of experience. I have met innumerable young bosses who say, ‘My team members consist of people with many more years of experience. They find it hard to work for someone who has just joined the workforce.’ I have heard many other comments that relate to years of experience granting or restricting access to jobs.
This obsession with numbers of years of experience has to stop! I have peers who are both younger and older than I am. That does not make me less or more successful. Everyone’s measure of success varies. Stop publishing years of experience on job postings. Replace it with what you hope that an individual will bring through those years of experience. When I examine job postings, the years of experience feels redundant, irresponsible and archaic. Let’s stop doing something just because we have always done so. If there was ever a time to be progressive and throw that line out, it is now.
Tell me, do you expect a certain number of years of experience as mandatory for a role. If yes, what are the ‘actual experiences’ that you expect that number to represent?