For years now, many industries have been biased towards those with experience. Many job applications have notoriously required candidates to have previously worked in the sector they’re applying for, even for jobs that have otherwise been considered entry-level.

With the current crisis seemingly coming to a close, workers are in high demand. While this might be a great time for a prospective employee, it’s been difficult for businesses. A credible solution to the problem that many are now adopting seems to be considering younger, less experienced candidates to fill the gaps. Rather than viewing this as a compromise however, it seems there are many benefits to youth over experience for many businesses and with unemployment amongst 16-24 year olds steadily decreasing with 4% less being unemployed than the previous year in 2021, it might be time to utilise the benefits of younger workers before they’re off the job market.

In this entry of our Let’s Talk Talent series, in partnership with Give A Grad A Go, Cary Curtis, founder of Give A Grad A Go, Ben Towers, founder of Tahora and James Taylor, founder of Superstars and an entrepreneurial advisor, come together to discuss the benefits and potential downsides of hiring youth over experience.

Pros and cons

Thrust into the discussion, the panel wastes no time, with our three experts diving into the immediate pros and cons of hiring a younger candidate over one that’s more experienced in their field.

“I think there’s a huge amount to be gained by bringing youth in,” says James, drawing from his extensive experience in business and entrepreneurship. James brings up the general energy, freshness and potential for a more innovative and cutting edge attitude as some of the outward benefits seen from hiring younger candidates.

Though more importantly, James says, “My view has always been regardless of age, what I’m looking for is a great attitude and a fantastic personality that fits our business culture, whatever that might be.”

“I think if you’re good enough, you’re old enough.” – James Taylor

James’ mentality seems to be an increasingly popular one, finishing up by describing skills as “secondary” to him, he stresses the importance of a business having what he describes as “a culture of reward and recognition”, highlighting that it’s much more important what’s going on day to day, rather than where you plan to be at the end.

Using his own analogy, Ben adds on to James’ points, describing hiring a younger employee as “only bringing your hand luggage on a plane” to save costs.

Elaborating on this, Ben then describes a more experienced worker as having a full suitcase, saying “It may take them a longer time to get set up, but when problems occur, they have the experience to tackle that.”

Ben’s analogy humorously points out one of the primary reasons for many preferring more experienced employees over younger, less experienced ones. Many companies may not have time for their employees to simply learn on the job and the more important the role, the more important it can be for someone well equipped and prepared to “get off the plane” and have their skills and experience, their “luggage”, ready to unpack.

“I think you’ve got both sides of it, the caveat is orchestrating your team to ensure you have someone who has that experience to guide, and put people in the right direction,” adds Ben.

Losing importance

With all the emphasis placed on hiring younger, less experienced employees, could experience be becoming less important? Many businesses hands have been forced due to recent events though with things returning to pre-pandemic levels, will we be seeing less time invested in finding those who have more years in their industry over younger, more malleable employees that can merge effectively with the work culture?

Cary has his own opinion on this matter, “I don’t think it’s losing its importance,” says Cary, rather elaborating that a middle-ground needs to be found between the two.

“You need to find the balance of youth and experience, but it’s a really tricky thing to get right, having that balance throughout your team,” he says.

Giving some personal insight into the matter of balancing the two, Cary says that his own business has even suffered in the past from having too many “fresh” employees. “There weren’t enough people around to hold their hand a little bit as they were getting off the ground,” he tells the panel.

Cary finishes up his piece by elaborating that while it can be nice to have a few fresh faces, “you do need that support” of a more experienced employee. Getting the culture instilled into the new hires alongside teaching them on the job can be a difficult task, one that you would have trouble with if you tried to tackle it by yourself without a few experienced individuals to support you through the process.

James himself agrees with Cary, but adds on that experience can be defined in different ways: “No, I don’t think it’s losing its importance,” he says, “one thing we’re looking at as employers is what experienced young people have exposed themselves to, not necessarily what certificates they have.”

Tantalising talent

We’ve all heard about the benefits of acquiring younger talent, but how do we actually acquire the less experienced, yet innovative and culture-considerate workers discussed in the session? Considering youth unemployment is at a steady decline and there’s much more focus on hiring the less experienced side of workers in that category, it could be a task that requires some innovation on your own part to get the candidates you want.

“What’s been accelerated the past couple of years has come out favourably to early employees looking into new careers,” says Cary, “a lot more use of video, a lot more use of social media etcetera for them to go job hunting.”

Addressing whether or not these developments are enough, Cary adds “I don’t necessarily think these practices need to change that much, I think we’ve already seen companies adapt incredibly well, very quickly into the new way of working.”

Work practices have certainly changed, the new adoption of working from home among a more culture centric business model for many has been a natural development for many companies, with the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating businesses embracing these practices to a huge degree.

“When you’re recruiting for a younger person, you’re not looking at the CV.” – Ben Towers

Ben mentions the developments he’s witnessed himself in hiring practices, “What we generally do when it’s more of a ‘personality role’, for example something in the community team, something that’s not necessarily all about experience” he continues, “we actually get them to do a video, saying why they want to work with us and what they could bring to this role.”

Ben finishes by outlining that through a method such as video, a rather new form of hiring practice, “you can really get across” why that person might be interested in the company, how they’re planning to train themselves and generally how they think.

New hiring practices can be a valuable tool, especially for younger hires, where a CV might not look so good at first glance, a video interview or appropriate application through different social channels can show the personality behind the candidate, which can in some cases exceed skill in certain roles.

Speak to Give A Grad A Go Recruitment for more information on hiring graduates in the UK.