Hire Someone With No Experience

Last Updated Aug 17, 2009 12:51 PM EDT

If your company has plenty of hiring resources you have my permission to skip this post. But, if your operation runs on a shoestring, this may be the ideal time to get a a cheap (read free) but talented hire.

The key: look for someone with no experience.

I began to think of this idea as I read Larry Stybel's blog post on Harvard Business Publishing, How to Get a Job Without Experience. His counsel is pretty much what you would expect: find a company with a great idea and no money, offer your services for free but be specific about what you want in return (a title, perhaps), and have an end date in mind.

All great advice. But I wondered, if there are talented job seekers out there who are looking for opportunities such as Larry outlines, shouldn't companies be actively looking for these people?

If we turn Larry's reasoning around a bit, here's what you do.

  • Advertise your "no experience required" position, but be specific about what kinds of skills are required.
  • Be up front about what you pay: nothing. But let applicants know you can reward them with other things, such as introductions to business associates or promise of a job when you are ready to hire.
  • Emphasize the limited time requirement. Maybe its one or two days a week, 15 hours a month, whatever. Applicants must still have time to look for full-time work even as they earn the experience they want at your shop.
Obviously you won't be hiring a staff surgeon on this plan. But you might find yourself someone quite a few notches above intern to work in marketing or other areas where hustle and smarts can overcome lack of experience.

Is this a crazy idea? Have you ever hired a no experience candidate? How'd that work out for you?

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.