12th November 2020

“You have too much experience”


We’ve heard that line from a couple of people lately. They had applied for vacant roles with high profile companies and were screened out early in a recruitment process. The feedback they were given is that they were ‘overqualified for the role’.

Good people hit the recruitment market all the time through no fault of their own. Corporate downsizing, technological change, restructuring and the like all impact jobs, often without regard for talent. Smart recruiters (and smart hiring managers) know this and are quick to pounce on high quality, experienced talent who hit the market looking for a new role.

However ‘smart recruiters’ are about one poomteenth of the market (that’s a small number by the way).

One of the people we met with recently related the following feedback from a recruiter “this role calls for someone with 8-12 years’ experience. You have 18 years’ experience”.

Not long after that we were meeting with the HR representative of a client presenting candidates for a role they needed to fill. The talent pool included a very experienced candidate, a mum returning to work after a baby, with a background doing the same role in blue chip, multinational companies in India. The feedback was “looking at her year of graduation she will be more than ten years older than the peer group and most of her experience is outside Australia, I don’t think she’d fit in . . . . now, let’s keep moving I have to get to a meeting of our Diversity and Inclusion Council.” I couldn’t help but reflect on the irony of these two statements.

So, are you a smart recruiter? Well, if you define your open jobs in terms of obsolete factors such as a maximum amount of experience, then, I’m sorry to say you are probably not a smart recruiter. But, if it’s any consolation, you are probably in with the majority of recruiters.

Now let’s focus on the bigger question.

What’s wrong with having a 50 year old Brand Manager? If she or he has a track record of finding ways to ensure a brand beats the market and beats the competition, and they are willing to work for a Brand Manager’s salary, why wouldn’t you hire them or, at the very least, put them in the mix? Older workers are probably more financially stable, are less likely to have school aged kids and the pressure that comes from balancing up demands, and will have been ‘down the road’ before, and perhaps have made and learnt from the mistakes other are yet to make.

The challenge that may be more relevant is about learning and change; can the older employee continue to learn new skills and technologies and adapt to the pace of change? But isn’t this relevant for people at any stage of their career. In fact, people in their fifties have probably lived through more changes than a millennial; the telex machine, the fax, first emails, first mobile phones, the rise of the internet, green screens, yada, yada.

By comparison, Millennials may have seen the demise of Myspace and the Ninja Turtles in their time.

To state the obvious, the recruitment and talent landscape has changed dramatically in the last ten years. People are working longer, some because they choose to, and some because they have too. We’ve been in a low inflation environment for some time now and, as a result, compensation growth is no longer on a fast, upward trajectory. A mass equalisation has occurred – there are lots of people who can do your roles if you are willing to rewire your thinking.

Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t hire young people. Young people are great! But, we should be including and hiring people with the right experience, regardless of their age.

Justin Miles

Justin Miles

Manager Partner, Melbourne at Generator Talent
Justin is the Managing Partner of our Melbourne office, an outcome focused leader with a track record of driving business performance through proven talent and organisation development practices. Justin’s methods and skills have been shaped by working with performance oriented leaders in great companies including PepsiCo, The Campbell Soup Company, Diageo, Rip Curl, Fonterra and Wesfarmers, in Australia, the USA and Latin America.
Justin Miles

Categories: Finding Talent

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