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Qualifications vs. Experience – which is best?

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 There has long been a struggle in the recruitment process and it is one that many a candidate has suffered from – the lack of experience, and yet they have all the skills needed. Catching that lucky break in some industries and sectors is incredibly tough. 


But, as well as providing an almost insurmountable dilemma for the candidate, it also presents a tough decision for the hiring company too.

Qualifications Vs And yet, in recent years, there has been increasing emphasis and trends on the experience side of the candidate, borne out of the need for cultural fit. The congruence between the candidate’s values and those of the company is increasingly sought after and thus, you would think at this point that every company is looking for experience, over qualifications.

However, the solution is not as easy as this. Striking the right balance between qualifications and skills sets, coupled with experience is more important than ever.

No longer the elephant in the room – the importance of personality

The interviewing process at one time could be described as a rather staid affair. In the pursuit of getting the best person for the job in terms of skill set, the notion of personality and cultural fit was not mentioned.

With the need to be open and transparent, with discrimination frowned upon, and rightly so, appointing anyone on the merit of their personality became lost.

The tide is turning again and whilst it should not be the sole basis on which to base any decision, there is a need to understand the importance that personality plays in people applying for vacancies.

Work is not just about food and lodgings. If it was about the money, who would care where they worked, or what they did? But we do, because work is multi-dimensional; it defines who we are, underpins our self-confidence and self-esteem. When work is going great, we are in love with life. It provides the stability and the routine that we need and crave.

When work is all going wrong, it has a massive impact on us, and our emotional well-being. From work place harassment to ‘just not getting on’ with colleagues, when work turns bad, it colours every aspect of our lives. Work is hard to get away from, more so when things are not progressing well.

Thus, ignoring personality is at your peril when it comes to taking on new employees. Remain singular in your vision that it is only hard cold facts that matter, could see you make the mistake of employing people not suited to your industry, business or team. From applications to dealing with work place angst could be a process that happens within weeks, or months.

And so, with personality firmly on the list of ‘must-haves’, now is the time to look at skills and experience. What does each say about the candidate?

Skills & qualifications 

Qualifications are one thing, an important factor in the recruitment process. A basic smattering of high school qualifications, all to a good standard are a good foundation on which to build.

Skills are something that come with practice and many acquire them with many years’ experience. Others acquire a certain skill set in the pursuit of qualifications. Some people gain all kinds of skills from a variety of places, such as hobbies, volunteering and so on.

For highly technical jobs, some employers prize skills over and above anything else.


The esteem in which experience of candidates are held will vary from industry to industry and once again, the sway it holds in the shortlisting and interview process will also vary. For some, the accumulation of experience speaks volumes over and above qualifications.

For some industries such as the hospitality sector, experience can count for almost everything. Understanding the needs of guests is not something that can be wholly taught in the classroom but, in the real life setting of a busy hotel, understanding the importance of guests and the functioning of the hotel is everything.

Which is better? Qualifications or Experience?

The answer is balance. The balance between the two and the balance that your industry or sector demands is essential. In some cases, more weight may be held with academic qualifications, whereas for other sectors, experience may hold sway.

And so the answer is that it will vary from one sector to another. Candidates looking for their lucky break will need to do their research and, alongside formal qualifications, actively seek opportunities to practice their skills, and hone their experience.

Employers will need to decide not what they value more, but what can they teach candidates, what is learnt knowledge and what can be put down to experience