Experience; Does it Really Matter?

I was  having dinner with friends and family and discussing  the recent election of Donald Trump when the question came up; does experience really matter?  My response was that experience never matters. I got immediate push back by almost everyone. “Of course experience matters”. My reaction was to suggest that research has confirmed that experience doesn’t matter. Plus Donald Trump won with no experience it politics. In fact, he broke all the rules and still won. The comeback was that Clinton won the popular vote so experience does matter.

What the Pros Say

Herbert M. Greenberg and Jeanne Greenberg  did a study of over 300,000 individuals across 14 industries reported in “Harvard Business Review Vol. 58, No. 5.” Their results showed that experience was not a factor in determining success. The study said: “Yet we found little difference in performance between these experienced individuals and those with no experience. The person with no experience, given training and supervision, is as likely to succeed as the person with two or more years of experience.” What mattered was how well a person matched the job.

Job Match

To successfully match a person to a job businesses need to focus on the factors that impact performance. These factors are skill set, behaviors, and capabilities.

Skill Set

A skill set is about a set of learned activities. They are tools that can be used in situations to deliver results. If we stay job focused and zero in on the skill set we need, we are in a much better position to know if a person can do the job.


Behaviors are about organizational cultural and the manner in which work is expected to be accomplished. What is the pace of work?  How risk averse is the team or organization? What is the level of trust? How are mistakes handled?


Capabilities are about how a person processes information. If the work is dynamic and ever changing, in needs a person who can think, work, and adapt. If the work is routine, it needs a person who is comfortable with consistent processes.

Hired With Experience Fired Because of Fitness

The idea that experience matters is a myth that has been burned into us over time. Every time someone is hired onto a position experience is always mentioned.  It is never mentioned when the relationship is terminated. We hire people based on experience and fire them because they didn’t fit in and couldn’t produce the results needed.

 Donald Trump  and Job Match

Do we know whether Donald Trump is well matched to be President of the United States?  We won’t know until he has the job.  Will his Skill Set, his Behaviors and his Capabilities serve him well? Who knows, for him as well as us we are on a journey of doscovery.