Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.
A common staple of the recruitment process is to scour over the candidates past work experience for signs of their competence and suitability for the job. It’s a practice with a long history, but it’s one that new research1 from Florida State University suggests has little practical merit.
“Previous work experience generally is not a good indicator of how well employees perform in a new organization,” the authors explain. “Our research found a very small relationship between the amount or type of experience that employees possessed when they came into a new organization and how they ultimately performed in that job. There’s almost no relationship in most cases.”
The researchers examined over 80 previous workplace studies that had been conducted in the last 60 years. The papers were chosen to provide an insight into the pre-hire experience of people, with a focus on whether the recruiters emphasized their work experience, the number of jobs they had previously had or whether their past experience matched the work they would do with their new employer.
Birds of a feather
It’s fairly well known that recruiting managers tend to hire people that are like them, and so it’s perhaps no surprise to learn that the data showed that organizations prefer candidates with similar experience where possible.
“That approach is very intuitive,” the authors explain. “You would think prior experience would be really important. Employers always ask, ‘Does the candidate have experience?’ The idea is that experience helps people develop knowledge and skills relevant for work. But the types of experiential metrics used by many organizations generally are not valid indicators of someone’s potential and whether that person will perform well if hired.”
Did this result in a better recruitment process? The team assessed whether employee turnover was lower when candidates were assessed based upon their prior work experience, and it transpired that it had virtually no impact whatsoever.
It all points to the fact that recruiters are focusing on something that appears to have little impact on the future success of that person. The authors hope that their findings prompt the recruitment sector to look afresh at how they go about finding the best candidates, and the criteria by which they assess those they find.
“We’re not saying experience is not important in every situation,” they conclude. “But we think there are better ways to measure pre-hire experience that may be more productive. Don’t ignore experience, but the way employers measure it now does not appear to be very effective.”
Article source: Past Work Experience Is A Poor Predictor Of Future Performance.
- Van Iddekinge, C. H., Arnold, J. D., Frieder, R. E., & Roth, P. L. (2019). A meta‐analysis of the criterion‐related validity of prehire work experience. Personnel Psychology. ↩