01 February 2021

Can the best candidate for a job be the one with no experience?

Building a great team is the most challenging part of running a great business. As owners, CEOs and hiring managers, we’ve honed the interview questions we ask as part of a formula to help determine whether a candidate is suitably experienced and qualified for a position. However, there’s only really one key question we need to answer: “Who is the best fit for the job?” Sometimes, that person is a total wild card.

Experience is a key factor in making hiring decisions, yet the type of experience that makes a candidate the right choice isn’t always so obvious. If you look around, there are examples of this in all industries and companies.

Recently, we were recruiting for someone to head up our Queensland region for PERSOLKELLY. We are a leading recruitment company across APAC and therefore, as a hiring manager for our business, I should know how to hire someone by now (or so you think I would!). During the process we received more than 60 applications; 90% of these applications had recruitment industry management experience and 80% were local to the Queensland market. We also received some internal applications given we are a Programmed Group company, part of the leading provider of Maintenance and Operations in the country.

Jodie Mott was one of our internal applicants, she had been working for our Programmed Facility Management business for the past six years. A well-respected leader in our business, Jodie is a Senior Executive with 15+ years’ experience in facilities management, utilities, tourism and not-for-profit sectors in Australia and the Pacific – but she didn’t have recruitment industry experience like those who she competed with for the role.

After learning that Jodie was on the market for a relocation back to Brisbane, despite feeling that she may be an unconventional hire in comparison to what we set out for from an industry experience level, I felt it would be negligent on my behalf not to interview, understand and assess Jodie’s suitability for the role.

Someone with Jodie’s background normally wouldn’t have been a target for us. Yet, once we invested the time, we saw her as a strong candidate. Jodie may not have had the direct industry experience we expected we’d be looking for, however, she was already familiar with our business, culturally aligned with proven customer centricity behaviours and a people focussed leader with highly trusted reference checks. More specifically, we knew she would bring unique insight to our team that didn’t yet exist.

Given Jodie was responsible for a facilities management portfolio including large client contracts with Curtin University, University of Western Australia (UWA), Transperth, Water Corporation, Ronald McDonald House and Medical Research Fund, we knew that our customers would be in great hands. Prior to this Jodie was ultimately responsible for the management and service delivery of the Facilities, Utilities and Support Services on Western Australia’s Rottnest Island. She led a team of 120 people with all the skills required for our vacancy including general management, compliance, budget and forecasting, sales, service, commercial negotiations, contract management and so much more. It became obvious to me that she was the person we needed.

What made Jodie a desirable candidate was not only her management skill set, but rather the valuable insight, experience and knowledge that she cultivated while working with a different part of our organisation.  She had also successfully proven her capability multiple times by stepping into an entirely different role than she’d ever held previously. As Jodie was already familiar with our organisational background and knew some team members, there was also less of an onboarding process.

Ultimately, the decision benefited all parties – Jodie quickly secured a new job and a relocation with a company she knows and loves, and we gained a team member with a distinct skill set and perspective.

Finally, as I do with all my hires, I can confidently answer YES to my final three questions:

  1. Can they do the job to the level I need? YES
  2. Will they love the job and our culture? YES
  3. Will I be able to tolerate working with them? YES!

An individual may not have experience in a similar role or industry, but due to their background, be it an internal applicant, a customer or a good person with transferrable skills and excellent cultural fit  – he or she may already know your language, live and breathe your values, uncover new gaps or have a unique outlook on what is and isn’t effective in order to be the right fit for your next hire.

I would love to hear your stories of the best candidate for a job being the one with no experience.