Hiring Engineers: Should You Hire for Experience or Growth Potential?

The question we’ve chosen to address with this post is one that most engineering hiring managers have grappled with at one point or another – is the most important quality to look for in a new hire the ability to make a big impact now, or a larger impact later? The answer to that question is not an easy one, or absolute, but there is a growing sentiment in the engineering community that suggests hiring for growth potential makes more sense in both the short and long term. Here’s why:

Experience Comes with Cost

It’s not unrealistic to expect that the most experienced, best-qualified candidates will also command the highest salaries. They have put in the time, demonstrated their effectiveness, and are now reaping the reward. For startups, or companies that simply can’t afford exorbitant compensation packages, attracting these candidates is typically unrealistic. Attempting to do so forces companies to make risky fiscal decisions, or to suffer through a long and ineffective recruitment process.

Growth Potential is Unpredictable

The most experienced candidates have already hit their professional peaks. They will probably remain effective throughout their careers, but they are largely known commodities. Candidates with growth potential, by contrast, have no established ceiling. There is no telling how high they will rise, what they will dream up, or how large their impact will ultimately be. Hiring them might be a little riskier at the start, but the potential reward makes it worth it.

Experience can be a Liability

Experienced candidates have done it before, and might have a long track record of success. That doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t have a negative attitude or bad habits they need to break. And since they often have an easier time finding a job, they have little incentive to change the way they do things. Candidates with growth potential are fresh, grateful for the opportunity, and eager to make a contribution. You can then mold them into the engineer you want them to be.

Growth Potential is the Same as Agility

When you recruit based on experience, you prioritize your immediate needs. That suggests the way you do things now is the way you will always do things. Growth potential candidates can grow, change, and adapt as your company does the same. That focus on the future is a mark of highly successful companies and always a smart recruitment strategy.


If you are still uncertain about which type of candidate to prioritize, partner with a recruiter that can supply you with both. Access a vast and varied candidate pool that can produce experienced candidates when there is no room for mistakes, and growth potential candidates when you can afford to be more flexible. At Selectek, we focus largely on recruiting engineers, and we are committed to finding the best fit for all parties involved. Speak to one of our experts the next time you need to make a hire.