How Important Are Those Years of Experience?

A significant number of job postings include years of experience as a hiring criterion. Is this a best practice?experience
Your company may routinely include this information as part of your job ads, with the thought that it screens out unqualified candidates. Unfortunately, you may also lose qualified candidates.

How It’s Presented

Interestingly, years of experience doesn’t always follow information about skills for the job or what the job entails. It’s often the lead requirement for the position. Sometimes it’s even in the ad headline.
As examples, here are details from recent postings at job site Indeed:

  • HVAC Installer with a minimum of 5 years experience (headline); HVAC Installer with minimum of 5 years experience in residential/light commercial new installation, replacement, and repairs (first sentence).
  • Sale professional with minimum 5 years’ experience (headline).
  • Coil Tubing Supervisor 6 years of experience minimum (headline).
  • SPLUNK Developer 10 years’ experience (headline).
  • Project Manager—Corporate Interiors 10 to15 years’ experience (headline).
  • Architectural Project Manager—10 years documented experience required (headline).
  • Director of Admissions (headline); Eligible candidate must (first sentence): (first bullet item) have at least 3 years working experience as a Director of Admissions in a proprietary school setting; (second bullet item) have 3 to 5 years’ experience working in admissions.

Other times, years of experience is a category in a section called something like “Required Experience” or “Summary of Qualifications” that appears elsewhere in the ad, or the information is simply in the body of the job posting, as in ads for these jobs:

  • Director of Experience: To apply, you need at least 5 years in customer service, experience managing a team of customer experience reps as they assist customers in a high-volume B2C online store with live chat (first sentence in the ad’s fourth paragraph).
  • Director of Sales and Marketing: Healthcare sales and marketing: 2 years required (under the heading “Experience,” in the middle of the ad).
  • Digital Health Experience Coordinator, Spanish: At least 2 years of editing experience for website/mobile applications and publishing content (first bullet item under the heading “Qualifications and Education”).
  • Employee Experience, Inclusion and Operations Director: 10 plus years (progressive in nature) of work experience in the Human Resources (HR) field that includes managing HR professionals and Administrative teams (second item under the heading “Experience”).
  • Director of Communications: Minimum 6 to 8 years in relevant communications/marketing position(s), with at least 2 years supervisory experience, preferably in a nonprofit environment or higher educational institution (second bullet item under the heading “The following qualifications are required”).

How to Interpret

Is there a difference between job postings that include years of experience as part of the headline and those that list it elsewhere? Do words like “requirement” suggest that a certain number of years are a must, as opposed to a softer heading like “experience”?
Why bother dissecting such matters? Because job seekers, especially savvy ones, are scrutinizing your ads in an attempt to determine if they should apply.

Knowing What You Want

And about those years of experience … Is there something magical about 6 to 8 years, as opposed to 4 or 5 years, when an employee had an opportunity to learn and grow and took full advantage of it?
Moreover, are you looking for years of experience, or are you looking for specific experience and skills? Most likely it’s the latter. Therefore, why not say what it is you want, instead of including arbitrary numbers that turn away otherwise qualified candidates.

Paula Paula Santonocito, Contributing Editor for Recruiting Daily Advisor, is a business journalist specializing in employment issues. She is the author of more than 1,000 articles on a wide range of human resource and career topics, with an emphasis on recruiting and hiring. Her articles have been featured in many global and domestic publications and information outlets, referenced in academic and legal publications as well as books, and translated into several languages.