Human Resources Blog - Spark Hire

Qualified Job Seekers With Little Relevant Work Experience

As hiring manager or employer, going for the ‘under-qualified’ candidate is generally not your first choice. At the same time though, those overqualified job seekers are difficult to work with as well. Ideally you want to find job seekers and candidates that fit into that sweet spot right in the middle: qualified and with adequate experience to back them up. You don’t always get that though. Especially with the skills gap that a lot of employers are experiencing. And sometimes you’ll come across a candidate that is highly enthusiastic and seemingly qualified but has little past work experience behind them. Do you stick your neck out for these candidates or toss their resume in the can for someone with the right experience?

Well, like so many other situations in the hiring process it really just depends. The job interview, be it a video interview or an in-person interview, will tell you most of what you need to know about a candidate. That is why engaging in a video interview right from the start can really help you make a sound and adequate decision about a candidate sooner than if you simply used a phone screen. Take a look at some of the things that can compensate for a lack of experience, and decide whether or not it’s for you to take a risk on this candidate.

Look at Transferable Skills
This candidate may not have the precise skills you are looking for because they haven’t been in the industry for a long time. They may be a new graduate or someone that is looking to change careers, so work experience is something they seem to be lacking. However, they may have a slew of transferable skills that will help them to excel in any position they work in- regardless of their experience. They may have great communication skills, which may be why you are even considering them as a candidate in the first place. If they are lacking in experience but you think they would still be a great fit for the job then look for skills such as teamwork skills, leadership qualities and other transferable skills that apply to the position.

You see, you can have a candidate that is qualified and has tons of relevant work experience but they may not have those communication and teamwork skills that the under-qualified candidate possesses. Most times these skills are way more important than some skills that are gained through work experience because these skills cannot usually be taught- and why would you want to waste your time on a candidate that doesn’t already possess these skills anyways? Keep this in mind before ditching the under-qualified candidate for the experienced.

Company Culture Fit
If you are attracted to this candidate but are worried they do not have that experience you so desperately seek, think about why you were attracted to them in the first place. Perhaps you have invested some time in them already- even though they are seemingly under-qualified- because they would be a great company culture fit. If you are an avid Spark Hire reader then you know how important it is to find a great company culture fit. Much like we discussed in the above tip, more times than not company culture fit cannot be taught. You may feel that the candidate with more experience is a safer bet, but the under-qualified candidate is a way better company culture fit.

Remember that if you hire someone and they don’t fit into the company culture they likely won’t last too long. So if you have a candidate that doesn’t have as much work experience, but has those transferable skills and seems like a great culture fit you may want to take that risk. Skills can always be taught, but company culture fit cannot.

Consider Their School and Internship/Unpaid Work
So they may not have the most work experience, but what have they been doing- and what have they done in the past- to push along their career? Have they had a number of internships but very little actual job experience? Have they volunteered in their industry while they were searching for a job? Have they taken additional courses or moves to advance their career and stay ahead of the curve of industry trends? These are all really important things and show you that they possess that drive and desire needed to succeed in your position. Furthermore, an unpaid internship still builds valuable work experience. Be sure to ask this candidate about those past experiences in the job interview- be they volunteer or internship- and see what they learned and took away from those experiences. Just because it is not an experience where they were being paid for their work does not mean it is irrelevant.

Taking a bet on an under-qualified job seeker can be really nerve-wracking. However, if they possess some of the most important things that make up a great employee then they may be worth it. Feel them out in the interview, but don’t be afraid to consider them just because they lack that work experience.

What do you think? Do you think you would take a gamble on a candidate like this? Share with us in the comments section below!

IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by MrB-MMX

Nicole Nicholson

Nicole is the Content Editor for Spark Hire and mainly writes for and edits the work for the Spark News blog. She graduated in 2010 with a BA in Journalism from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. She has a passion for writing, editing, and pretty much anything to do with content. In her free time she frequents the Chicago music scene and writes reviews on shows for her own personal blog. Connect with Nicole and Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter

Weekly hiring insights to your inbox! 🔥