Do you hire people who fit a narrow range of experience to fill a specific position, or do hire people who have great skills in a variety of areas but that might not match the specific experience or training you’re looking for in a particular position? I’d lean towards the latter. Sure, for some highly technical positions you need people with very specific experience and training. But most of the time the technical skills are secondary to attitude and work ethic. You can train someone to do a job, but you can’t easily change someone’s attitude and work ethic.
I’ve hired both ways, but I find it’s better to hire someone with people skills, who’s willing to learn, and who will work to make the organization successful. Someone who will not only fit in with the organization, but will act as an influence on others. In one of my interviews with the former president of a successful high-tech company, I was told how they hired many people who were either not technically qualified for a position they were filling, or who were very overqualified. But all the employees possessed a desire to learn, grow, and help the organization succeed. They trained the unqualified people, and kept the overqualified people engaged and interested in the job.
In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins makes the same point. Hire talented people, then let them make the organization great in their own way. Too bad not every organization thinks this way. I’ve recently spoken with a couple of people who are fixated on finding someone who meets a strict and narrow set of work experience. If you don’t fit exactly, you’re not considered. I bet they’re missing out on some very talented people who could help them move their organizations forward and upward. If they would only open their eyes to the possibilities.
The same thing can be seen in rugby. With many teams, if you don’t have experience playing in a particular position, you’ll never get a chance to play in that position. A good athlete can learn the specific skills required in a particular position. It’s not as easy to take someone who happens to have experience playing in one position and turn them into an all-around athlete who might provide a much needed spark.