Talent At Work: Recruitment and Career Blog

How to Decide Between Two Great Candidates

Posted on September 5th, by Henry Goldbeck in HR Management, Recruitment. 1 Comment

This question comes from our “Ask Henry” online FAQ series.

“How do you decide between 2 applicants – one with industry experience but no formal training and the other with formal training but no industry experience. ”


Over the years I have encountered every variation on this question from a recruiting assignment many years ago where the client, who manufactured wire, insisted that only candidate from the wire industry would ever be able to understand the uniqueness of the wire industry, to a client that insisted they wanted a hire from outside their industry in order to bring some fresh thinking to the role.

For us, as 3rd party recruiters, it is very important to understand what our client, the hiring company, is demanding from us and then to work within those parameters. So we really get to avoid that question for the most part as the client is hiring and paying us to find what they want. We do advise, though, and present options outside of the narrow client specs at times.

7 Key Questions for Employers to Consider When Hiring:

  1. How difficult is it for a newcomer to the industry to learn the technology and how important is a strong understanding of the technology to the position?
  2. How important are the industry contacts that affect the position? Are they strategically placed across the continent, or all local and easily accessible.
  3. How stable or fragile is the employers position in the market that the new hire will be involved in? If they perceive themselves as vulnerable they are less likely to accept a learning curve from an outsider.
  4. What resources does the company have in the position’s location. If the person being hired is close to Head Quarters and will have access to training and supervision it is easier to hire without experience. If the position is remote, as is often the case in Vancouver, with the nearest manager in Toronto then there will be less appetite for someone requiring more training and a longer learning curve.
  5. What is the employers perception of its competitors in the marketplace? If the client believes that its competitors do as good a job of training and development and has respect for the caliber of the competition then they will be more likely to want to hire from them. If they consider the industry to be unprofessional in general then they will be more likely to hire from outside the industry.
  6. What type of training program does the employer have. If they train formally and want employees to be rigorous in following their systems and procedures then they will be more likely to want candidates who are a blank slate with potential.
  7. When interviewing, what is the overall caliber and performance upside of candidates within and from outside the industry, as perceived by the employer.

The decision will rarely be between industry experience and education only. If the position is not perceived as an entry level position the employer will rarely hire someone with no experience in, at minimum, the function being hired for. The decision will be between functional experience, with or without industry experience. Functional experience will almost always trump formal education unless the position is specifically seen as an entry level or junior role. If you are going to bridge that gap you need to be prepared to prove to the employer that what you are offering them is outstanding enough for them to take a risk on, that the upside will be sufficient and the downside minimal.

The good news is that most employers want to be convinced. They want to his a home run and hire a star. To be perceived as a start, you need to tell them how you will solve their problem, reduce their headaches and make them look good. You will need to be prepared in terms of research and planning and presentation as relates to their company, industry and the position. You will need substance and guts to present it. Recruiters have all seen examples of candidates who were the least qualified on paper but by their preparation and presentation won the position. Remember ,the employer, and the job market, do not care about you getting an opportunity, or about the catch 22 of needing experience but not being able to get experience. The employer only wants to what you are going to do for them. Never forget that!!!! That is the most important thing to learn in your job search.

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Henry E. Goldbeck, President of Goldbeck Recruiting Inc, is a Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC) and founded Goldbeck Recruiting in 1997. Since then, Henry has built the company's reputation as a leading headhunter and recruitment agency in sales, marketing, operations, engineering, and executive level positions across a variety of industries.

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