The Hiring Dilemma: General Experience or Special Expertise


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If you were faced with two candidates for the same position, one with years of general experience and the other with a more focused professional background…

Who would you choose?   More importantly, who should you choose?

Our consultant-like answer? It depends.

It all depends upon the growth stage of your organization…there are times when you need broad experience and there are times when a more narrow experience base brings you better value.

Think of the process of choosing the best talent for your company’s situation as similar to launching a journey by car. The more challenging and unknown the route, the more experienced the driver should be. You want someone who can do everything from repair a flat tire to read a road map to find the nearest gas station when running on low gas.  You may even want them to be able to handle a possible speeding ticket with finesse. In other words, if you are at the beginning stages of company development and your future is uncertain, you need an experienced driver at the wheel. You don’t know if you will need someone to design a new plan or build an enterprise to scale. Perhaps you will need someone who can find new markets, has experience with funding, or can sweet-talk early investors into being patient. Someone with versatile and general experience can adapt to whatever competency is needed at the time to succeed.

So when is the focused talent the better choice? As your organization matures and your needs for expertise in certain areas become obvious, then it may be time to invest in employees who are experts in an area you know will be critical to the future of your company. Back to the car journey analogy…with the route determined and most passengers aboard, you know you will need someone with specific knowledge of how to keep your engine running smoothly. You will need an employee who is a professional in the area that will determine the success of the organization. Until now, you have managed with employees who can, in general, oversee the operation in a particular department. At this point, you need a specialist who can take that function to the next level.

As you interview for your start-up or your growing company, consider the kind of experience that would serve you best…general or specific…and make your job offer on that basis.

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