Can't Find and Retain Great People - Forget Hiring for "Experience"​ - Hire For These Reasons











Do you recognise these three men? They are the co-founders of Apple - Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne. “But wait a second,” I hear you ask; “Who is Ronald?” Well, Ronald Wayne is the man who, in 1976, sold his 10% stake in Apple for just $800. That’s right, $800! Why? Because at the time, he was worried about being the only founder with assets that could be seized by creditors.

In essence, Wayne feared that Apple would go under, and when it did, he would go with it. Quite clearly, he didn’t share his co-founder’s ability to envision what Apple could become; if he had, this fear simply wouldn’t have existed. This lack of foresight might lead one to question his ‘experience’.

At the time of founding Apple, Jobs was just 21 years-old, Wozniak 25, and Wayne 42. In a world where people measure professional ‘experience’ in terms of capability and the number of years worked in an industry, Wayne would be considered of far greater experience than his co-founders - and therefore, much more capable and competent of understanding the positive potential of Apple’s future. Interestingly, Wayne was brought into the founding team as, in his words, “adult supervision”.

In this example, neither age nor time in the industry had little bearing on Wayne’s ‘experience’ when it came to high-level decision-making. If it did, he may still hold his 10% share of Apple (which in today’s market would be worth approximately $90 billion USD).

Yet even today, we continue to see management and HR staff regularly judging a potential employee’s capability, competence, and impact potential on ’experience’ (aka, how many years they’ve worked in that industry). It is a perception that is deeply ingrained, and even I have made the same mistake when hiring personal.


The reality, however, is that true career experience is something much more profound than age or time in an industry, especially when casting judgment on an individual’s ability to perform professionally or personally. Conversely, experience is really made up of practical interactions with the subject matter, cultural engagement, commitment, attitude, will, beliefs, mindset, ability to think unconventionally, unique perspective building skills, and self-esteem. The understanding and measure of these are far greater indicators of someone’s potential to excel in a career or in everyday life. These are what you should look for in your hiring decisions.

Within my network of company owners, directors, and leaders, one of the key frustrations I often hear stems from their difficulty in attracting and retaining the right talent, finding someone who can alleviate their workload (to a high-quality standard), and the perceived underperformance of staff. I would be willing to bet that each of these businesses most likely advertise available positions with a ‘pre-requisite’ of possessing a certain number of years ‘experience’, and then judging applicants by this same process.

But as I’ve touched on – age, and popular perceptions of industry ‘experience,’ are not always an accurate way of finding, and retaining, the best staff for the job.

I invite you to challenge your current perceptions and opinions around this topic, and instead, to try looking at staff ‘experience’ from a fresh angle. More importantly, I encourage you to try something different in your own business and see what value it brings. Who knows, better outcomes may just arrive!