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"Number of Years of Experience" in Technical Recruitment, is it right?

22/07/16 David Philpott Manager, Electronics & Technology

The average Job description contains many examples of “years of experience in….” as a measure of what employers think they want in candidates searching for their next technical careers. There are many reason why job seekers, hiring managers and recruiters should recognise that ‘X years’ experience’ is a highly unsatisfactory gauge of an applicant’s skills, capabilities and suitability for a role.

  • Firstly, it is illegal from an age discrimination perspective as it dictates a minimum age applicants must be
  • Secondly, it allows no measure of the transferable skills an applicant may possess
  • Thirdly, more of something is just more, it’s not necessarily better quality
So why does the technical / technology recruitment industry continue to see this method to describe what type of technical candidate clients are looking for? Surely there is a better method? ‘Hard’ skills are often the most sought-after attributes in the technical recruitment industry. Considering engineering and technical candidates are mostly ‘left-brained’, should we be using such an ambiguous, vague and unreliable method to evaluate candidates for engineering jobs?

Alternatives to the ‘Number of years’ experience’ method

A Rubric process is an objective scoring tool used to evaluate and assess a set list of criteria during an interview process. Rubrics take up-front time to determine and design, but are far better at giving a comparative result across different candidates and are not subject to a hiring manager’s personal feelings, prejudices or interpretations of a candidate.

The Rubric approach is used during the interview process to determine where a candidate currently stands in their profession, to determine what they want to learn and how they want to progress with their career. This is valuable to determine what type of work assignment would be the best fit for a candidate.

For example, you can grade each skill and end up with a total score, e.g. this is done by figuring out where a candidate stands in the following technical areas:
  • Software Test
  • Verification
  • Version Control
  • C Programming
  • C++ Programming
  • Algorithm Development
However, in an interview situation, a simpler method could be used to evaluate whether bringing a candidate on board would be mutually beneficial. The key indicators to look for are as follows:
  • Does the candidate show a history of learning new technical skills and implementing those?
  • Does the candidate show a history of learning additional technical skills advanced of what they already know?
These indicators are not to be mistaken for the candidate having the core technical understanding in certain areas, they are a complement. For example, if it’s a start-up software engineering team, you will need engineers who are willing to move fast, especially on the front-end; development process and willing to learn whatever it takes. Recruiting a candidate who is willing to learn above and beyond the minimum amount of knowledge and technical skills to finish the tasks is an equally important factor as evaluating specific technical skills and accomplishments.

Those with 5-10 Years’ Experience

More specifically, the most difficult engineering experience level to recruit is that of 7-10 years. Why is this? Engineers have invested several years within companies. They want stability. They've established seniority at their current organisation and are not looking to start over at a new company. They’re also often the employees who hold the most intellectual IP within a company so are often highly valued by their current employer. Therefore, a company looking to hire a skilled senior and principle engineer with this level of experience must ‘sweeten the deal’ in order to get the engineer to move to a new design job.

Should We Get Rid of “Number of Years of Experience” when Hiring?

Yes, absolutely. In addition to being discriminatory, there are much more sophisticated and accurate ways of evaluating the skills, competencies and attitude you need to complement the core technical skills when approaching the technical recruitment process.

For impartial advice on recruitment matters and how candidates should be assessed, please contact us on + 44 (0)1582 450054 or email

Redline Group is a specialist Contract & Permanent recruitment consultancy sourcing and selecting professional & qualified Management, Technical and Sales staff for the European technology market.