A manager interviews employees and narrows down the candidates to two: one with experience and one with potential, intelligence, and high motivation. Which one would you choose? The experienced employee may ramp up faster and bring in knowledge that will help make the process better. But he or she may also have baggage that could interfere with the work.

The employee with potential may bring enthusiasm and energy into the job and go the extra mile to accomplish tasks beyond expectations. Of course, this type of employee won't get up to speed as quickly.

Current Marketing Challenge

Hire marketing experience or potential?

My business partner, Susan, and I will soon add staff to our marketing consulting firm. We have different ideas on the qualifications required. Susan thinks we should only add people with marketing experience. I believe that highly intelligent and motivated people without marketing experience can be molded to use our methodology.

Even though I think training fast learners about our and our clients' business is a better way to go, experience also has some benefits. What do your readers think—marketing experience or willing and able?

—Peter W., Partner, company name withheld

Before anything else, write down the position's core competencies. Those should drive hiring the right person. So how do you decide? Might as well flip a coin. Readers evenly split the vote:

  1. Stick with experience

  2. Go for potential

Next Marketing Challenge

Training sales to sell services—what's best?

Click here to offer your advice or here to ask a question

Stick with experience

Norman Lieberman believes what the person has done matters, not the background:

Nothing determines future success better than past success. So if you desire someone "highly intelligent and motivated," determine what that should look like and see if the person has demonstrated those talents in the past. So if you want a marketing person from a universe of candidates who don't have direct marketing experience, determine if they have demonstrated out-of-the-box thinking and creative ideas in past positions.

Remember, this is a consulting firm, but any organization should consider its clients when choosing the right person for the job. Do your clients want consultants with "been there, done that" experience, or do they prefer geniuses who can look at things in a different way and provide a fresh approach?

Another reader says loud and clearly, "Clients usually want experience."

Go for potential

Although experience may be desired, it's not a guarantee. Candidates with potential but less experience may bring fresh eyes, perspectives, and energy to the company. Furthermore, employees can always get new knowledge, but they can't be trained to change their attitudes and personalities.

Employees new to a position may have the ability to quickly find problem areas and solutions, whereas experience breeds familiarity and that could hold the person back from exploring beyond the familiar.

While experience rarely fails a company, how well a person performs depends more on the person's personality and capabilities. After all, what good is experience when a candidate has a bad attitude?

An anonymous reader says, "If clients want creativity, potential has an advantage over experience. Clients needing knowledge prefer those with experience."

So study up on your clients and what they've gotten from your company. Also, think about current employees. Do they all have experience? Maybe it's time to balance your staff by adding someone with potential, and vice versa.

In the end, remember the client when making your decision.

Next Marketing Challenge: Can You Help?

How do you train sales to sell services?

 I just suffered a big setback when I tried to train my product sales force to sell services at my company. We did a pilot in Texas, and the consultant we used had no hands-on experience selling services and tried to teach a 10-day course in two days, using old field-training, basic-sales stuff. The feedback on the course was horrible! How could I have handled this differently? What experiences have readers had selling services, when you previously have only sold products? What is the best way to train your staff to sell services?

—James, VP of professional services

If you have a general situation or question needing a few hundred brains for ideas, 180,000 MarketingProfs readers are ready to deliver their thoughts to resolve your challenge. Share your question, and you'll get a chance to win a complimentary copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing.

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Hank Stroll (Hank@InternetVIZ.com) is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.