Raw Talent Vs. Experience: You Decide

Here’s the scenario. You’re looking to recruit, and you have a couple of likely candidates lined up. One is straight from university with a great degree, a positive attitude and oozing ‘raw talent’. The other is older, a bit more mature, with a few years’ experience in a similar organisation under their belt and a glowing CV.

Raw talent is seen as natural and forceful, something that comes naturally without formal training or education. Experience is viewed more formally, building up from past work experiences, education or training. Both have their place in an organisation.

So which one will you hire? The simmering raw talent or the quietly confident experience?

Well, the answer really lies in the circumstances of the vacancy.

Experience should win when:

You are hiring for a leadership role

Don’t be tempted to put that promising raw talent straight into a leadership role. Excelling at leading a team is very different to excelling as an individual. You need someone who has experienced the type of work their teams do, so they can understand the challenges and who has been trained in how to motivate the individuals in a team to get the best out of them.

The job demands specialist knowledge

These are roles that can take a while to fill and it’s tempting to default to someone with bags of enthusiasm. But if the job is really niche in its requirements, with very specific and in-depth knowledge needed to fulfil it, and very few, if any, other team members who can share their knowledge, then you should wait to find someone with the right skills and experience.

When introducing new processes or divisions

Put a priority on experience for jobs that the organisation currently doesn’t do or doesn’t do very well. Experienced people will add value with their skills, but also bring knowledge of best practice in processes and procedures.

When you need to hit the ground running

If you just can’t afford to spend eight weeks in the training and development of raw talent, you may be better to hire an experienced candidate. They can start contributing from the very first day and be accountable for project delivery, something that’s unreasonable to expect from someone who is inexperienced. 


On the other hand, go for raw talent when:

You’re looking to grow an established team

If you have your processes honed, your team motivated and delivering, and a great manager or team leader in place, then someone with raw talent is ideal. They will bring new ideas and energy, and will quickly pick up what is needed from the existing team members. 

When change is in the air

Young, raw talent is adaptable. If you are recruiting for a position where the criteria may well change over the coming months, a young and enthusiastic person is more likely to take this in their stride and relish any new challenges it brings. They won’t default to a comfort zone determined by their experience.

If loyalty is important

In terms of being genuine and loyal, it’s been shown that raw talent does best. They feel gratitude for having been given a chance and for the experience and training they have received. You’ll probably find they work extra hard to ensure they meet or exceed your expectations.

In jobs that require high productivity

It is almost always best to hire raw talent if you are looking for high productivity. Raw talents are limitless in their natural abilities. They are quick to learn and thrive on new challenges. Because they have no work experience to fall back on, they will fight hard to survive.


So, both experience and raw talent have their place. The key is to make sure you make the right decision for the business. That way you minimise the cost of staff turnover.