Potential Is More Valuable Than Experience

Talk to the unemployed and many will tell you that experience isn't helping them get a job. A new study may help to explain why: your potential to do great things is more valuable than what you've done already.

Photo by Lightspring (Shutterstock).

Ideas and productivity blog 99u points to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that asked participants to play the role of people in deciding roles. The results favoured those with potential more than those with experience in their field:

They found that people playing the role of basketball coach preferred a rookie player with great potential over an established player with a great record. They were also willing to pay more for the promising rookie, and they thought his sixth season would out-shine the experienced player's sixth season.

Other participants playing the role of recruiting manager preferred a candidate with a high score on a leadership potential test, and thought he/she would perform better in the future, as compared with an equally qualified candidate (both had MBAs from NYU) with a high score on a leadership achievement test. These effects weren't due to a bias for youth — the pattern held in a similar experiment that took into account the perceived age of the candidates.

When we don't know someone's capabilities but they seem promising, we're intrigued to find out what will happen and are filled with hope about what they'll be able to accomplish. These results suggest that when you're going out and looking for a job, you should focus more on showing what you're capable of doing and talking less about what you've done.

The Undeniable Allure of Potential [99u]


    Doesn't your experience show your potential? (first time job seekers not included).

    What a load of bollocks. I could have the potential to be the next civilisation-changing person in history, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to be.
    There is one word for this theory... SPECULATION.

    Capability and potential are two completely different things too btw. Don't mix them up in the same sentence.

    completely agree.
    Work politics come into this alot too.

    If someone is experienced authority clash is inevitable . Strong authority is important in the workplace.

    So for example, some one looking for an Engineer would prefer someone fresh out of uni with lots of potential over another candidate that is already an accomplished engineer with 10 years experience......

    I don't think so.

    Lots of startups run by the 17-to-29-year-old crowd seem to hire this way. No use for someone with more experienced... they present a threat that a newbie the hiring manager can claim to have "discovered" does not.

    and how many times have you heard, you do not have enough experience??

    Bull. 95% of employers (outside of fast food and low-level retail perhaps) won't even give you an interview unless you're experienced. Take a look at any career section of any newspaper, or any online job board. Almost all of them will list experience requirements of several years in the industry.

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