In Hiring, Don’t Overlook Young and Inexperienced

by Steve Cassaday, CFP®, CFS

Our company approaches hiring and training in a new and different way that has allowed us to attract and retain outstanding people. It has engendered employee retention and satisfaction levels that have led Cassaday & Company, Inc. to win multiple Washington Business Journal Best Places to Work awards and a Washingtonian Great Places to Work award.

The concepts associated with it are simple and easy to implement but will cause many to recoil because of the unusual approach. What’s unusual about it? We like to hire young people, preferably directly out of college, with little or no experience in our industry. Three of the 19 employees at our company, are over 50 but the average age of the remaining 18 is 29. Most have been with the company since college.

Although experience may bring task-related knowledge, it can also be a double-edged sword. As a mentor of mine once told me, some people have 1,000 experiences and others have the same experience 1,000 times. More importantly, I have met too many “experienced” candidates I would never even consider hiring. I have had much better results hiring people with innate characteristics that I believe will make them successful in certain positions. We look for outstanding people we believe have traits and qualities that cannot be learned or taught. We then build positions around them, making sure their passion is considered in crafting the job description.

Some employers point out that the ramp-up time for inexperienced hires is significant and that is why experience is important. My view is this: If I can hire the next superstars in a particular position, develop the career that they really want around them —thereby more fully assuring that Cassaday & Co. will be the company that they retire from —then I am willing to deal with a little ramp-up time.

Interestingly, our system sets the new hire up with a more experienced employee who will assign tasks that have a less-high payoff to the newbie. This frees the experienced employee to concentrate on more productive activities and allows us to assess the new hire’s abilities while making sure that training equals working. The long-term objective is to, within reason, build the position around the new employee based on what that person really enjoys doing. The benefits of that approach have been huge because the employee feels like a stakeholder and is involved in creating the job description. However, the outcome must have a benefit for the company that makes economic sense.

Well-adjusted young people who have courage, self confidence, motivation and interpersonal skills and can communicate clearly orally and in writing are often much more valuable to a company than someone who has experience but may also have bad habits, baggage or personality flaws. The combination of these qualities is very rare to find in an individual —and candidates with the right mix can become very valuable employees if cultivated correctly.

We prefer to find outstanding people and train them from pups to do what they are best at and love the most, while immersing them in the company’s culture of client service. As a result, we have employees who are hardworking and have a sense of clarity of purpose, making them best of breed in our industry.

As seen in the 4/5/2010 issue of Washington Business Journal


Contact Michelle Tigani

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