It’s an old, old question, which may never be answered to some people’s satisfaction, and recruiters have been scratching their heads over it for years.
You have two candidates before you: one is fresh out of college and this will be their first ‘real’ job, while the other has been in the industry for years but their actual qualifications are lacking.
Education, or experience, which is more important?
While there is no easy answer, this article should help you to figure out which should be kept in mind more on a case-by-case basis.
Education Doesn’t Always Mean Common Sense
This is one of the more well-known stereotypes, but it is often true. Well-rounded, book-smart and street-smart people are very rare to come by, and even rarer to be able to hire. Often, people are one of the two, which isn’t great for this debate.
You could hire someone who knows everything about the relevant skills for your industry, but have to watch them have a break-down on the job when presented with a difficult situation that ‘school didn’t prepare them for’.
However, an experienced candidate might know how to get out of sticky situations, but find themselves alienated during company meetings and conversations due to not being up-to-date with the latest information and research in your field of work. Both situations are important to consider.
But Education Does Now Mean Some Experience
It will be difficult for someone who has gone through both college and high school to not have experienced the world of work during their education. Work placements are common in both high school and college - where it is necessary for some courses - and ‘vocational’ courses are becoming more and more popular choices.
“Some candidates who appear to have no ‘experience’ will have actually been training for the exact job role you have for years, and have all the relevant skills - just enquire about their college course, and watch the information spill out. The education system is changing day-by-day, so don’t dismiss someone just because they don’t appear to have any work experience,” explains Ashley Adams, an HR at OXEssays and State Of Writing.
Active vs. Stale
However, if you work in an industry that is constantly evolving and changing, then classroom studies can quickly become outdated within a two or even one year period. In this case, people who are experienced and have been working recently in your industry will be a better and more reliable fit for your job role.
Experience often trumps education just because of relevance, since these technical industries need insiders who don’t need to be trained and baby-sat for their first few months: they need professionals from the start, who can get the job done and don’t have to be lectured on the latest updates and innovations every few days.
But again, if you work in an industry which is more centered on knowledge and deep understanding, then someone who is highly experienced in the wrong areas (i.e. lots of jobs, little consistency) just won’t work in the role.
“Education and qualifications are needed for some careers, such as teaching. If you go down the teaching pathway as a candidate, then there are many qualifications you will need to gain along the way - you can’t just rock up to a school and get an interview without any qualifications whatsoever, like you could with some other jobs,” says Gabriela Smithson, a career coach at Paper Fellows and Academized.
With many specialized, especially academic, jobs, this is the case, and candidates who don’t pursue qualifications will find themselves losing out at the end of the day.
Something which many employers don’t even consider is how the candidate will interact with others in a work environment. Experience in a workplace means that the candidate has been exposed to a working environment, and presumably knows how to behave in one - although, of course, this is where references are important, because the reason that they’re finding a new job may be quite revealing!
Someone who has only been in an academic environment is a wildcard; you can’t be sure of how they will act in certain situations, like under stress or with antagonistic colleagues. You just can’t be sure of how they’ll act, and sometimes that makes for a tense workplace, because your other employees will feel this as well.
Aimee Laurence works as a professional writer at UK Writings and Top Essay Writer, which has led her to become involved in many projects all over the country. She enjoys travelling the world and reading extensively. She also blogs at Essayroo.