The Role of Experience in Predicting Job Success

By Posted in - General HR Topics on February 20th, 2014 0 Comments

Work experience has long been an area of interest for HR professionals in reviewing candidates for open positions but surprisingly little is known about its exact role in predicting job performance. Certainly, internal and external recruiters target individuals in competitor organizations that have performed the same role as the role they are sourcing with the belief that the knowledge and skill that has been acquired in similar roles will allow those individuals to easily transition to a new organization and immediately become productive.

However, while some HR professionals have declared highly successful results using this strategy, other HR professionals have lamented that individuals hired from competitor organizations have often been the least successful performers on the job. Scientific research on the relationship between work experience and job performance also has yielded mixed results. One has to wonder what contributes to these mixed findings.

Mixed Feelings Regarding Work Experience and Job Performance

There are a number of areas to point to in explaining the findings. First is how experience is measured. For many researchers and HR professionals, experience is measured by the number of years in a role. However, two individuals with equal years of tenure in a role may have drastically different histories in terms of the nature of tasks performed, challenges faced, or the diversity of experiences provided. So it seems clear that to understand the relationship between experience and job performance, we must measure experiences in a more granular task oriented manner than simply tenure.

Another area that contributes to confounding results is the potential presence of negative baggage collected in competitor organizations. While acquired knowledge and skill should contribute to a positive relationship with job performance, there are certain aspects of long tenure in a competitor environment that could bring negative outcomes:

  • Work may be performed very differently in a competitor environment and cultural differences could bring certain behavioral patterns that are hard to unlearn in a new organization
  • Long tenure in a given role without promotion or advancement in responsibilities might indicate a lack of motivation or mediocre performance. There is also the possibility of burnout in the role.

Summary research on the relationship between experience and job performance reveals an overall significant positive relationship (e.g., McDaniel, Schmidt, & Hunter (1988)) so it stands to reason that measures of experience should be a component part of the selection process. The question is how to measure experience. Higher validities have been shown using task based measures of experience. We know experience matters but which experiences?

Measuring Experience and Job Analysis for IT Professionals

I think we need to answer this question separately for different target job groupings. OMNIview has already developed an experience inventory for leadership positions but professional positions such as IT will need to be studied separately. A job analysis strategy using successful IT professionals is needed. The job analysis would focus on identifying those experiences that have been most important in building skill and knowledge. The results of the job analysis would be used to construct an experience inventory. The inventory would be administered to an adequate sample of IT professionals and correlated with job performance measures to build norms and a predictive equation.

The validated experience inventory could then be used in conjunction with behavioral interviews to evaluate the level of skill and knowledge acquired from experience and also to evaluate motivational and cultural aspects of performance. I believe this is the best way to maximize the predictive power of experience.

Contact OMNIview to learn more about how to incorporate experience measures into your selection process.

Patrick Hauenstein, Ph.D.

About Patrick Hauenstein, Ph.D.

Patrick Hauenstein is the President and Chief Science Officer for OMNIview. During his free time Pat likes to cook. He is particularly fond of traditional southern cuisine. Pat is also an animal lover ...
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