The job candidate’s professional experience is one of the most widely accepted screening criteria.
Work experience not only reduces the need to train new employees to carry out the job, but also allows those doing the hiring to find the right candidate based on past performance in similar positions. Thus it comes as no surprise in most job notices experience is listed as a mandatory requirement, or at least preference is given to candidates with experience.
A random sample of recent job notices revealed a number of interesting findings.
El-Op is looking for system engineers with at least four years’ experience developing electro-optic systems. Intel is looking for engineers and technicians “with at least three years’ job experience in each field.” And E&M Computing is looking for software engineers with at least three years’ experience in relevant fields.
Not just high-tech companies are on the lookout for experienced job candidates. Castro is looking for managers and assistant managers with proven experience in sales, Leumi Card is searching for an attorney with managing experience to head its collections staff, A. Dori is scouting around for plumbers with at least three years’ experience and a large hotel in the North is looking for an events manager – experience in hotel work and sales mandatory.
Still, employers do not always insist on experience as a hiring prerequisite, but merely as an advantage. They don’t want to pass up a good candidate just because of a lack of experience.
Based on a random check we found Shahal gives preference to candidates with experience in sales and/or medicine. In its job listings 012 tells prospective sales representatives experienced candidates will be given “substantial preference.” The Aravah Local Council is looking for an inspector and it too prefers those with “successful, proven experience.” Duty Free is on the lookout for salespeople and there, as well, candidates with “face-to-face sales experience” are preferred.
And in some professions getting hired requires no prior experience, but these are very specific kinds of jobs. Not surprisingly the job notices we checked showed customer service via telephone to be the field least likely to require previous experience. Bezeq and Cellcom do not ask for experience, nor do Leumi Card and Internet Zahav.
Neither does the public sector fail to come through with opportunities for inexperienced workers: at Ben-Gurion Airport experience is not required for those interested in security jobs.
It is probably no coincidence these jobs all have a short training period and a high overturn rate. The vast majority are occupied by young people just beginning to make their way in the job market. Most view these positions as temporary jobs until they complete their studies or save enough money to reach their goals, e.g. a trip abroad.
We spoke with three employers and asked about the role of job experience and its significance.
Shuli Shaharabani-Yishai, Deputy Director of Human Resources, Nice:
“The importance of experience depends on the type of position. For some jobs we consider job experience very significant and critical to the success of the task. On the other hand there are many positions, especially in the field of development and testing, where we actually prefer to recruit candidates without experience. In such cases what is important to us is to locate candidates with high potential for development and a strong ability to learn. It’s also important to us these candidates were graced with creative thinking, ambition and the ability to work as part of a team.
“For some positions prior experience is desirable, but not mandatory. In these jobs we give preference to candidates with relevant work experience, but we also advance inexperienced candidates through the selection process.
As a general rule, academic education is of great importance at Nice, particularly among inexperienced candidates, since it provides knowledge and develops their thinking ability."
“Our approach to human resources management at Nice places great emphasis on the latent potential of a candidate for a job at the company. Great importance is also attached to suitability for the organizational culture at the company and the candidate’s motivation to become a part of the company.
If these characteristics (potential, a “cultural” match and motivation) are located in a job candidate they will overshadow his lack of experience or lack of relevant experience. We will favorably consider hiring him and allowing him to develop within the company.”
Orna Segal, Deputy Director of Manpower Israel:
“The basic task in Manpower’s worker staff is employment consultant. What’s important to us is that the people are high-caliber and ambitious. Experience is definitely an advantage, but in most of these cases they are young people so they’re not going to have a lot of experience anyway.
As far as we’re concerned experience includes military service in related fields such as training, or even work at other organizations, even if it’s not related to the profession at Manpower.
Exposure to other organizational systems, even through student jobs such as waiting tables or working at service centers, is considered part of the candidate’s accumulated experience."
“People who have acquired work experience have more information about what they want to be and what they can carry out well and more enjoyably. This makes the process of job matching easier.
“For our clients, those organizations where we execute worker placements are very different from one another in terms of the experience requirement as a precondition for recruiting workers. It depends on the organization and the position being filled.
A clear guideline is the position of the job in the hierarchy of the profession. If employees are being recruited for a very low-level job in the field, then experience carries less weight, but if someone is being sought for a top-ranking position, the importance of experience increases proportionally. This can be in academic professions such as engineering, or non-academic professionals such as warehousing."
“The necessity also varies according to the profession. Among secretaries experience is very important. On the other hand in the case of customer service representatives, which most organizations need today, experience carries some weight, but most organizations will tell you academic education is more important."
“Today there is more flexibility, more readiness to be flexible, even with the basic requirements. Therefore even if organizations list in advance experience as a prerequisite, they will be willing to forego this requirement if they come across a candidate who seems suited to the organization. If they meet a good individual who seems likely to tie his or her fate with them for an extended period of time they will not necessarily insist on experience."
“It should be noted the way experience is acquired is significant as well. Five years’ experience at an organization is considered advantageous for the candidate, but if he acquired five years’ experience at four different organizations it could be seen as a lack of dedication and stability.
On the other hand, today if someone points to eight years’ experience, but the kind of experience gained only through one task at the organization, he may be seen as the type of person who gets stuck in place and is not dynamic. The optimum is 3-5 years’ experience per task at the organization. This shows a combination of stability and openness to change.”
Shlomo Yehudai, Operations Manager of the Human Resources Department at Tnuva:
“The importance of experience as part of the candidate’s sum total of qualifications for the job varies from one position to the next. In high-level positions the matter of experience has much importance and cannot be overlooked.
But when it comes to positions in which the management component is not dominant, experience may not always be necessary, even in the case of a professional task such as economist, technologist or engineer. Sometimes preference will even be given to recent graduates."
“In such cases the lack of experience in an impressive, able candidate will not be viewed as an obstacle and he could very well be preferred over a candidate with experience who is not so impressive.”
Most of the job notices that listed the amount of experience required, as well as the remarks made by some employers, revealed a minimum period of experience ranges from three to five years.
The requirement for prior experience presents a dilemma some job candidates do not know how to overcome, for in some cases experience is important in performing the task well, but sometimes this requirement is overly draconic.
In such cases the organization unnecessarily harms not only a suitable candidate’s chances but also cuts itself off from worthy candidates. They never enter the screening process simply because they do not meet this prerequisite.
One way to overcome this obstacle is to get a foot in the door by occupying a post that does not require prior experience or special expertise. For example, an engineering student can join the ranks of the customer service workers at a communications company. Once he has completed his engineering studies he can become an intern in the area he studied. In such a case chances are good an organization that employed a worker who demonstrated himself to be hardworking and able will waive the experience requirement and will be happy to take in someone they already know.
One of the reasons employers often require experience is that it allows them to evaluate the candidate based on his performance under his previous employer. The organization obtains this information by asking the candidate about his previous job and requesting recommendations from his former employers. In such a case the experienced recruiter does not rely on written recommendations alone, but will also try to speak with former employers (generally by phone). Familiarity with the worker reduces the level of uncertainty regarding his chances of succeeding at the organization later along the way.
Another reason the organization is inclined to man the post with a worker from inside the company is the fact his conformity to the organizational culture there has already been tested. This is an important part of every recruitment process and it is no coincidence it was mentioned above by the deputy director of human resources at Nice.
The operations manager of Tnuva’s human resources department noted in some cases they prefer to hire recent graduates without experience.
This approach is generally motivated by two primary factors. One, the desire to hire an employee who arrives with the latest information academia has to offer. In professions where current information carries substantial weight, sometimes an inexperienced candidate is more up-to-date than a veteran worker with a wealth of experience who is accustomed to more traditional working methods.
The second factor is the company’s desire to recruit workers who have not yet fallen into a pattern of work that can be hard to break free from. These companies prefer to invest in training a new worker and providing him work tools better suited to the organization because it can be easier to teach new working methods to a newcomer than to change old habits.
Nor can one overlook the fact an inexperienced worker usual commands a lower salary than an experienced worker, based on the laws of supply and demand.
In conclusion, you should keep in mind you can point to experience acquired not just in the framework of a normal job. For example young people, who typically lack experience, can note they have organizing experience as head of a Scouts tribe, public-speaking experience as an activities director in the local community, technological experience gained by developing a computer project while still in high school, sales experience from a summer job, etc.
And of course many military jobs provide an inexhaustible source of experience that can be relevant in the civilian job market. Discharged soldiers who served in teleprocessing units receive tempting job offers, and some companies equate military experience with regular job experience. Experience in army logistics also carries some weight and even former combat soldiers have experience that can be considered relevant for positions that require abilities such as leadership, operating under pressure or quick response time.
For the Hebrew Article