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Experience vs. Education: Who would you rather hire?

experience vs education in hiringSomeone with excellent educational credentials yet no signifiant career achievments or someone with just the basic education yet a track record of ecellent execution in positions worked in and significant achievements? 


Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

Basic education but excellent track record. The following quote captures my opinion fully - "Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."
Calvin Coolidge

Jim Holloway
Title: CFO
Company: Contract Lumber, Inc.
(CFO, Contract Lumber, Inc.) |

My experience is someone with basic education but an excellent track record. Interestingly the worst luck I have had is someone with a basic education, limited track record, but then obtains their CPA certification to "improve" their skills. These have been some of my worst employees and they are often advised to seek new employment. Some of my best employees have spent the first few years of their career in public accounting and then transition to private industry. But ultimately I will take a motivated and hard working person every time regardless of their formal educational achievements.

Michael Bagdonas
Title: Financial Consultant
Company: Ariba
(Financial Consultant, Ariba) |

Without question hire the person with the "average education" that has the track record in business. As an old friend who was Dean of Students at R.I.T. in Rochester, NY once told me the biggest things one learns in college is how to communicate, how to get along in society and most importantly how to solve problems. That said, give me the experienced person who's practiced and learned those lessons.

Jerry Vendola
Title: Commercial Finance Manager
Company: Luminus Devices
(Commercial Finance Manager, Luminus Devices) |

Most definitely someone with the proven track record. Academic success is not necessarily a precursor to success in a dynamic work environment.

Title: Manager, Financial Systems Architecture
Company: CITGO Petroleum Corporation
(Manager, Financial Systems Architecture, CITGO Petroleum Corporation) |

My experience is that it depends on the position. If the position is technical in nature, and requires a skill set that can be taught effectively in an academic (university) program I will first consider the person with the academic credentials. However, if the position requires significant management or busienss analysis skills I will focus on the person with experience.

Anders Liu-Lindberg
Title: Regional Finance Business Partner
Company: Maersk Line Northern Europe
LinkedIn Profile
(Regional Finance Business Partner, Maersk Line Northern Europe) |

The main reason I ask is that I constantly see all these discussion about whether or not someone should get a CPA or a CFA or if CPA or MBA is the best path to becoming a CFO etc. I think we can all agree that continuous education is important, but actually delivering results, in my opinion, would always prevail over having one certificate or the other.

The next relevant question is then why many employers are so focused on the specific certificates when hiring. Is it because its too general just to say that they want some with a proven track record and the ability to execute?

Keith Johnson
Title: Principal
Company: Keith E. Johnson CPA PA
(Principal, Keith E. Johnson CPA PA) |

I would hire the person with the magic 80% of the job qualifications who has been unemployed the longest. Were in an exonomy where people need to move from taking to paying taxes. By hiring a qualified unemployed person, you added one taxpayer that can contribute. Maybe when we get down to 6% on the U-6 unemployment, we cam think about best or well educated. Until then, we need to get those on the sidelines back to work. Thats fairness

Ken Stumder
Title: Finance Director / Controller
Company: Ken Stumder, CPA
(Finance Director / Controller, Ken Stumder, CPA) |

Track record trumps educational credentials.

Just a note, I would say requiring a CPA is synonymous with requiring a specific type of experience more than it is requiring the certificate itself. Some companies specify "Big 4" as they are known today. The time I spent in public basically established the foundation for my career.

Peter Harper
Title: Founder and CFO
Company: CFO's with Private Equity Experience
(Founder and CFO, CFO's with Private Equity Experience) |

I agree with the majority of the respondents who would hire the person with experience over the person with excellent educational credentials without significant cereer achievements. However, it isn't usually that cut and dried.

Interestingly, recruiters and screening software for job postings seem to emphasize the education/credentials over the job experience as it is a "yes/no" decision criteria versus a judgment call based on reviewing the resume.

The more the HR professional or recruiter has to "think" about your ability to meet the job requirements, the easier it is for them to screen out your resume.

The potential "undesired outcome" of this fact is highly successful executives with proved record of delivering results that lack the "CPA/CMA/MBA ... " designations will lose out to lesser qualified, unproved candidates.

Allan Marson
Title: Attorney
Company: Ishimaru & Associates
(Attorney, Ishimaru & Associates) |

A profit-driven enterprise presumably would always hire the person with the proven track-record. It is a reasonable gamble that such a person will hit the ground running and won't use valuable time in training or (even more destructive to productivity) use another employee's valuable time to train him/her.

Aside from a natural emotional response (feeling good about hiring someone with prestigous credentials), isn't the credential requirement driven by the "lemon" problem in economics? You may be sitting across from the best candidate for the position, but how can you know it? A proven track-record is the best indicator. Credentials, recommdations and the candidate's own representations about himself/herself are all next best.

(Agent, JKS Solutions, Inc.) |

Depends on the level of the position and the type of position. Education lays the framework of knowledge, experience proves they know how to apply that framework, achievements show they are potentially promotable.

If you are hiring a higher level, then you will be seeking depth in all those categories and with the ability to translate those foundations into new areas. The question being can they apply all they have learned to new things and achieve a fantastic result.

Education and credentials mean nothing without proven application.

Topic Expert
Dana Price
Title: Vice President, M&A
Company: McGraw Hill Education
(Vice President, M&A, McGraw Hill Education) |

Credentials mean nothing, but on the other hand, how do you know the track record is correct- so I always go with my gut. I have hired both types and have had issues, I always prefer to see how they answer certain questions while being interviewed. I am usually inclined to hire the one that looks me in the eye. Sounds silly, yes, but you would be amazed.

Topic Expert
Randy Miller
Title: Partner
Company: CFO Edge
(Partner, CFO Edge) |

Like others above, the type of position is a key factor. The more technical the position, the more important advanced and current education is. Experience and personality play a bigger role in positions where adaptability and team play are important.

(Agent, JKS Solutions, Inc.) |

I'm sorry Keith but what are you smoking. Hiring somebody based on being unemployed the longest? Yes there are qualified people unemployed. However, when a company announces they are cutting back by 10%, are they laying off the top 10% or the bottom 10%?

Topic Expert
Malak Kazan
Title: VP, Special Projects
Company: ERI Economic Research Institute
(VP, Special Projects, ERI Economic Research Institute) |

I prefer to hire someone "smart" and that includes a balance among experience education, continuous learning, as well as personality traits like curiosity, passion, and tenacity, open communications, confidence, team player. When faced with an unexpected business problem, I would you rather work with someone that gets ignited by the challenge of the problem at hand than one that responds like a "deer in headlights" and likely "freezes up" from the unknowns related to the situation.


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