Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Will Companies Invest In and Train High Potential, Low Experience Candidates?

I want you for the Navy promotion for anyone e...
I want you for the Navy promotion for anyone enlisting, apply any recruiting station or postmaster: United States recruiting poster for women to enlist in the Navy, World War I. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The economy is coming back (right?) and qualified people are looking to either trade up for a better job or just get a job for the first time in a while.  How do you get the job, be rewarded appropriately for your experience and get the training you need to be successful in your new position?

The real question you need an answer for, however, is: will a potential employer recognize the opportunity you present as an experienced worker with many skills that may not be directly relevant to the position?  Will they invest in you, train you and help you to help them succeed? (Remember... this is really about what you can do for THEIR business, not the other way around.)

I think that some companies do invest in candidates with high potential but low experience.  Not all companies will, especially if they have recruiting processes that are over thought and set in stone.  Some, though, will realize that high potential, low experience candidates offer considerable benefits, especially when candidates have experience in a related position that doesn't necessary directly transfer but with skills that could add real and lasting value.  It comes down to risk and reward for the employer though.  If a candidate is too high of a risk they won't be interested at all.  If they are a medium-risk candidate but are asking for a top salary then it may still be too much for a potential employer.  To get hired, the candidate probably needs to lower the employer’s potential risk and ask for less salary.
Salary is a reward and when you come in with less transferring experience but asking for a higher reward you become a “high-risk” candidate.  There’s an assumed higher rate of failure among candidates with less experience.  When combined with a higher salary ask it’s just too much and you’ll price yourself right out of a job.  It doesn’t matter that you have relevant but not directly transferring skills to them, they can find someone else that fits their cookie cutter mold better and at a price they are more comfortable with.
So, consider more creative options if they're open to it.  Rather than demanding a high salary up front, ask if they'd be open to a bonus after three or six months.  You could also ask for an early performance review.  These things cost a perspective employer little, and in the meanwhile they get access to someone with your phenomenal skills at a discount.  Agreeing to a bonus is a one-time cost for your employer… and if you don’t perform they don’t have to give it to you.  Asking for a higher salary is potentially a multi-year commitment though.  Same thing with an early performance review… it costs them little and if you don't make the cut you won't get a raise.  Think outside the box to meet your up-front salary goals and create a plan for how to get from your initial salary to your desired salary over time.
This is where training comes in.  If you are going to take a personal risk on a lower salary, make double sure you have all the tools you need to train up and get the experience you'll need when it comes time to make the case for your bonus and / or raise.  This may involve asking for additional training or learning materials.  You may need to shadow someone more experienced.  Since you are coming in with extra skills but at an average salary level you should have some leverage to ask for training.
Half-Dollar-Rev (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Want to know what happens when you come in at a high salary?  Your employer will expect you to outperform everyone with a lower salary (makes sense, doesn't it?).  These are people who potentially have less overall experience than you but that have much MORE experience in a role that is entirely new to you.  You just cut your own leg off and made it much more difficult to advance and succeed by coming in too high.

Instead, use this as your chance to come up to speed quickly, hit the ball out of the ball park and show off your skills.  Yes, you'll be earning a wage that is lower than you would like, but it’s more important to out-perform in a sub-par salary range than it is to get top dollar and have super-high (and unrealizable) expectations.  Knock their socks off, get your bonus and ace your review.  You'll be on a much healthier salary / increase path.
Patience, grasshopper!
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