For passion or experience: the hirer’s conundrum

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For passion or experience: the hirer's conundrum

It’s a common spiel: passion is everything, and employees who are passionate will do better in their careers. The question is, does this oft-uttered truth hold up to real life?

Yes. Sometimes.

In today’s working world, where turnover rates are on the rise and the working masses commonly ride the ‘talent carousel’, employers are becoming increasingly desperate to find employees that will stay. The increase of job-hopping has led to a dearth of experience, as older employees move to greener pastures and leave a gap to be filled by fresh faces with little training.

As a response to this unusual situation, employers are beginning to change the focus of their candidate screening. More than experience, passion is now the ultimate hirer goal.

This is because passion can fuel several desirable candidate traits: a willingness to make sacrifices and to compromise; receptivity to training; openness to flexible compensation and reward plans; an ability to deal with unfavourable work locations and hours; and a higher tolerance for less-than-perfect working conditions and mediocre leadership.

Passion is an undeniable driver. But employers must be careful in hiring passionate candidates, as passion is not necessarily an indicator of a good work ethic or capability. A passionate candidate is likely to become one of your best employees; but there’s also a chance that they could become overwhelmed and jaded as they understand that passion is not enough to get the job done – that, even in a job they love, the work is hard and the hours are long.

Passionate candidates can also become victims of toxic workplaces. Fellow colleagues may view them as desperate, gullible and easy to manipulate; new, passionate candidates will often get thrown the assignments nobody else wants, simply because they are willing to try.

Is experience over passion the answer then? The expectation is that, although it will cost more, there is a higher chance that this employee will be able to manage their workplace relations and deliver their work as required.

However, there really is no guarantee that the experienced candidate will always deliver. The fact remains that there is no proven best ratio formula between passion and experience when hiring; the key lies in a fine balancing act. Talent with experience but zero passion may get the job done, but they are seldom movers and shakers. They tend to play safe and are not interested in making a difference. So, while they make the cut, the bare minimum is all that can be expected of them.

Passionate employees, on the other hand, take pride in their work. They will stay as long as their spirits remain intact and they are not burnt out. It is also crucial that the work culture supports learning and new ideas, and that those in leadership roles remain active and interested.  

For the best results, employers must be able to look at the candidate as a whole. Ideally, your workforce should consist of a mixture of the two for every role within your organisation; only then, will you start to see the positive results you want.


Further reading: 

[Infographic] Filipino employees top happiness survey in Asia

Tips for hiring middle management for the first time

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