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Which is more important when hiring for a startup: passion or experience?

Jeff Andrews's Profile

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Topic Expert
Mike Caruana
Title: Director of Financial Services
Company: Diamond Resorts International
(Director of Financial Services, Diamond Resorts International) |

Although each weighs differently depending on the role you're trying to fill, they both should be present to some degree. If you're talking about a cashier, then experience is less necessary. If you're talking about your bookkeeper, however, then you'll obviously want more composite weight to fall into the experience category. But here again, if you're only talking bookkeeping for candy bar sales, then you're really talking about a clerk -- and that can be trained.

Perhaps you can expand your question so the role to which you're referring is more clear.

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |

I'm a big fan of hiring people that are actually interested in the job/work as compared to those who see it as simply a means to an end. A paycheck.

One only has to look around at the "dead wood" in their own organization to realize why this matters.

I've seen very few people fail by lack of experience. I've seen many more fail because they lacked any commitment or interest in the opportunity which could be equated to passion.

On the other side, I've seen more people succeed who were passionate than I have those who have experience.

The last time I looked, Elon Musk had no prior experience running an auto manufacturing company. But the world's largest auto manufacturers were quick to dismiss the passionate upstart you can be sure.

Jeff Taylor
Title: CFO
Company: Communications Co.
(CFO, Communications Co.) |

I would say passion and intelligence, on average, will get you farther than experience. Experience can be an accelerator or a drag. If acceleration matters b/c you need someone to take a role immediately and be productive, then there you go. Experience can also bring you technical knowledge that's hard to come by (specialized accounting) and experiential knowledge that's even harder to come by (like running an IPO). However, if you need new ideas, experience can be a drag that just brings you old ideas.

Passion plus intelligence is incredibly powerful. People who are excited to be there and intelligent can figure out most things. And I find passion breeds creativity, which can bring you new ideas and really help you move forward.

Of course, the best of all worlds is passion, intelligence and experience. There are plenty of experienced folks out there just waiting to land in a role and at a company they can be passionate about. Startups have a whole host of financial and survival traits which can make affording experience difficult, but many experienced professionals are hungry for something that makes them really excited to go to work every day and those folks may find some flexibility in compensation requirements that can make it easier to get all 3 traits.

Jerry Goldberg
Title: Principal
Company: Strategic Capital Corp
(Principal, Strategic Capital Corp) |

Clearly you want a combination and as others have pointed out, it depends on the position. Look also for related experience not just direct experience that might show the correct passion even if a different yet somewhat related business. If you have the right culture and working environment you can more often create the passion much more easily that creating the experience.

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