Experience Vs Attitude – What’s More Valuable When It Comes To Hiring Juniors

A few months ago, I invited a recent graduate to the HorizonOne offices for a meet and greet. As soon as this person arrived, I could tell they were extremely employable. Highly qualified (having spent the past few years gaining their Master’s Degree), well-presented, respectful and very articulate, I knew the moment they secured an interview they would be snapped up.

Getting them an interview however would be the hard part….

When I sent out their CV to a few clients recommending they interview my candidate, I was not surprised by the responses I received: “Too inexperienced!” said some. “Hasn’t worked in the APS!” exclaimed others. Sadly, this is not uncommon – even in my area of recruitment speciality (junior roles in administration and office support).

But how does someone get experience when no one will give them a go? And in this talent short market, can we afford to so easily dismiss based on specific experience alone?

Fortunately, one client did agree to meet with this candidate and as expected, were so impressed they hired them right away.

In a similar recent example, a hiring manager asked me to present candidates for an administrative role, they advised the candidates would require experience in the APS, coupled with experience working with a particular financial management system. When I asked if they would be open to an enthusiastic graduate or candidate with a transferable administrative background, they politely declined saying they would look elsewhere.

Not more than a month later, the manager came back and told me their search had been unsuccessful. They were now willing to broaden the scope. I presented a very capable candidate who did not have APS experience however was not only highly qualified with a Master of Business Administration, but had also accumulated many translatable skills in other roles. As soon as they met, the manager was thrilled and hired the candidate right away. Later when I called to see how they were going, the manager told me that the candidate was “advancing so fast they’re probably more suited to a higher-level role” and “keeping them busy and engaged is our biggest concern”!

All from a candidate that just a month earlier they wouldn’t have been open to interviewing…

Challenging assumptions about juniors

Canberra’s widely recognised skills shortage is not the only reason to consider hiring a junior or graduate for a role where you would normally require a few years of experience.

“We were looking for a unique combination of skills, but to no avail. After this approach was unsuccessful, we shifted our focus to find someone who had a great attitude and willingness to learn. Almost immediately the team at HorizonOne were able to provide several excellent CV’s for review and we made an offer within a week.
If you are experiencing challenges in finding the skills you need, think outside the box and consider someone who demonstrates a great attitude and ability to learn quickly and you will reap the benefits almost immediately”
Director (Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment)

Juniors regularly exceed hiring managers’ expectations – both in how they perform in an interview, and how quickly they learn on the job.

Many of today’s graduates are clever, critical thinkers who are passionate about making a difference. They take to technology like a duck to water, and learn new systems incredibly fast.

They may have volunteered or held part time roles, been part of societies or committees, or even travelled and learned translatable skills such as:

  • Time management
  • Communication
  • Relationship building
  • Resilience

Time invested is time well spent

Often these candidates aren’t given a chance because busy managers believe they don’t have time to train someone new. But when you hire someone who is doing the exact same role in another organisation, you have to ask: “Why would they leave to join you? What are they getting out of taking a job they can already do and that doesn’t offer any real challenge? Are they really a high performer? And what are the chances they’ll get bored in a few months and want to move on?”.

The monumental amount of time spent looking for a qualified candidate, onboarding them, and then finding someone to replace them after they leave, is likely a lot more than what’s needed to train a keen graduate.

In addition, giving a graduate or junior candidate their first opportunity often leads to a level of loyalty not easily cultivated in other employees.

Why not meet a graduate or junior?

The next time you go to market with a new role, even one that you firmly believe requires some experience, say yes to at least having a chat with a graduate or junior candidate.

Sometimes all that’s needed is to meet them. It may help you challenge your own assumptions about age and experience and let the person demonstrate their true qualities.

As we’ve seen with some of my clients, you may find that they’re exactly what you were searching for.

Sarah Tamasi
Manager – Administration and Office Support Recruitment

02 6108 4878

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