Experience does not predict job success

Experience does not predict job success
Last Updated: July 4, 2022

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A number of job adverts, apart from emphasizing the required qualification, usually fancy emphasizing the need for the candidate to have a certain number of years of experience. Most organisations believe that prior work experience in a similar role or organisation can in some way guarantee that the candidate will perform better than someone without the relevant experience. Research has shown that work experience does not translate into good work performance. In his study, Schmidt (2016) projected that job experience (years) predicts job performance by only 2%.


Work experience has been described as one of the most frequently used assessment methods when selecting suitable hirers for a particular position. Professor Chad Van Iddekinge from Florida State University together with his colleagues also conducted a study to investigate the link between an employee’s prior work experience and his or her performance in a new organisation. In their findings, they found no significant relationship between the two variables. The study went on to show zero correlation between work experience with earlier employers and retention or the likelihood that a person would stay with his or her new organisation. Having prior experience does not guarantee that the person being considered gained the relevant skills required for them to succeed in the next job. In some cases a person would have failed or stagnated in their previous jobs. One must be mindful that organisations operate differently and have different cultures.

So you might now be wondering, what best predicts job performance? According to hiring Lou Adler, hiring managers should consider adopting a Performance-Based Interview approach whereby you firstly conduct a work history review. In this case you are not only focusing on the number of years of experience but looking at the candidate’s ‘Achiever Pattern’. Here the interviewer or hiring manager assesses whether the candidate was in the top 25% of his or her peer group. This can be seen by the following:

  • A track record of promotions
  • Being assigned the more challenging tasks compared to the person’s peer group
  • Volunteering for projects no one else wants, and/or those that accelerate the person's growth
  • Being rewarded in some unique way, e.g., a bigger bonus, earlier raise, special recognition, assigned to high potential group, or awarded prize or fellowship.

Furthermore, Adler recommends interviewers to ask the candidate to describe their most significant accomplishments per job. This will assist in assessing whether the person is an Achiever or not with evidence.

Secondly, another way of predicting job performance is through Conscientiousness. Most employers prefer hiring someone who can be trusted to get work done, meet deadlines, organized and plans ahead. Research has shown that Conscientiousness is the only major personality trait that consistently predicts job success. Conscientious staff members are likely to perform well across any job. Conscientiousness can be assessed using the Big Five Personality assessment.

Cognitive Ability is another predictor of job success that has proven to be reliable over time. According to Schmidt (2016), General Mental Ability is the highest predictor of job performance (65%). Cognitive Ability can be assessed using psychometric tests (standardised tests that measure characteristics that are relevant to occupational success). Psychometric tests are scientifically based, objective and valid and are therefore able to predict success in a particular job. Testing enables a candidate’s characteristics and abilities to be compared objectively and fairly with those of other people.

Identifying the best candidate for a job is never easy but when done using the objective interview methods can assist in finding the right person for the job. Whilst focusing on work experience only, your organisation is potentially losing out on possible suitable candidates. Job experience alone is not enough but when coupled with other screening tools can assist in predicting job performance.

Tatenda Sayenda-Havire is a consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources consulting firm. Phone +263 4 481946-48/481950 or email: tatenda@ipcconsultants.com or visit our website at www.ipcconsultants.com 

Tatenda Sayenda
This article was written by Tatenda a Guest at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

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