How do you hire? Experienced or Potential?

I always struggle with company’s low budget with hiring the right candidate - Experience vs Potential?
Experienced people cost too much.
Folks with potential just don’t have the right experience in the industry or the job.
I’ve seen experienced people coming and performing immediately but we almost got lucky with them.
How do you handle that?


If you can’t pay and your vision isn’t compelling to drive experienced, performant people, you have to commit to coaching.


Agree with @KaranTrivedi on this. I think it’s a matter of organizational design as well. If you are experienced people are convinced that their primary role is as technical / subject matter contributors, then you will always be short on the coaching resource. It’s hard work, but you need to get the experienced people to understand that the primary thing they should do is focus on coaching and training. If they can do that, you can fill out the bottom of your hiring pyramid. Part of this is organizational, part of this is personality. Ask pointed questions in the interview with the experienced hires (or your existing ones). Are you okay spending 80% of your week mentoring and growing new talent? That’s certainly what it will take.


If you think of hiring as another sales/biz-dev exercise…


+1 to what @AhmadBashir is saying.

I come from a marketing background and a little investment into ‘company brand’ goes a long way into getting talented staff to agree to work for you even if the pay/benefits might not quite be there.

Could be as simple as a well designed ‘careers’ page that shows the team and why it’s so great to work for you, getting a few current happy employees to leave reviews on Glassdoor, applying for one of these ‘best workplaces awards’ (most of them are pay-to-play).

I’ve had a ton of luck with encouraging staff to host meet-ups and work events like peer-to-peer groups. Tell them the company want to A) give them some work time to prepare (it’s only a couple of hours and you could get a great hire out of it) and B) a small budget for coffee, donuts, pizza (like $150 is usually all it takes to feed a 15-20 people group and way less expensive than a recruiter or a referral fee).

It’s more of a long-term effort but well worth it.


@Karan & @Michael, not everyone has learned to coach - how did you solve that?


@Natasha, It’s a bit of the professional version of nature vs. nurture for me. There are three buckets into which I would place people (potential coaches):

  1. Stern individual contributor. Is frustrated by coaching’s demands and often resents it.
  2. Half and half. Not a natural coach, but sees the benefits and could be taught.
  3. Natural coach. Always mentoring without an official ask.

#1 is not going to do it. If your team culture requires coaching at their seniority, then they may need to go. If you can segment, then these people are excellent for heads-down, high-risk projects.
#2 Needs your coaching. I see this a lot in junior developers that have a knack for the craft. They work fast, but they don’t mind getting the rest of the team to move that way. If their smart and introspective, they understand there are great career prospects for those that can instruct and delegate.
#3 Is a rare and excellent bird. They have a reverse problem. They will need help to coach more efficiently. These people will have disciples all over the place. Members of former teams, former interns, and tertiary colleagues will fill up their calendars to no end. If they are smart and introspective, they will work on creating efficiency here, but I’ve often seen this type as motivated by personal relationships, which are harder to add efficiency to (by definition). I would channel their skills into formal avenues for training. Also worth asking: who (of their disciples) is a natural coach? This kind of person tends to have a very good sense, and can pinpoint others within the organization that may be undervalued for this work.


@MichaelYoffe, thanks for taking the time to explain. On the half-half - do you have any specific way how to get them there?


@Natasha, You may have just asked the hardest question in leadership :sunglasses:.
Can’t say that I’ve cracked the code on this one yet. I’ll probably be working on this one till the end. That said, here is what I know so far:
Understanding motivation is critical. Some of the worst leadership I have seen is where the leader is trying to inject their values into the subject without any regard for the subject’s interests in the matter. If you have charisma, it works for a period, but it ends with frustration on the part of the subject. There’s the old adage, “People don’t quit their jobs they quit their boss.” Keep an ear to what people say on that day they leave, they will often complain about the fact that they enforced on acted on a value system they did not share.
So what kind of motivations could a subject have in regard to coaching. Some sample ideas:
Ambitious: Wants to get promoted grow in the organization.
Productive: Wants to do more and move faster.
Conscientious: Sense of duty, amiable, service-oriented.
In my experience, most people are a mix of the list. There should be a dominant motivation though. If you can find that and speak to it, it’s your best lever.
One note on #1, this only works if you have a company structure that incentivizes and rewards this behavior. I have been part of organizations where it is acknowledged, but probably not rewarded as I would hope. Personal opinion, but I tend to find that organizations in the habit of rewarding “raw charisma” can be very poor at this. A good example would be sales organizations. The “big closer” is not likely to be the one very focused on coaching and mentoring. Time spent on this is time not spent with customers, and needs to be compensated in another manner.


@Michael, Thanks again for explaining.

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Thank you all for your insights

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