A little while back, I was asked this question by someone looking for their first design job: “why do companies fear
That’s a tough one. Both because “fear” is a strong word, and because yes, a lot of teams don’t want to hire junior people.
Putting aside whether “fear” is too strong a word, here are the areas of concern I’ve seen raised about hiring someone without experience.
Junior people require more time
This is the underlying theme for all of these answers. Time is a precious commodity, and junior folks require a lot of it from their managers and colleagues. That’s not a bad
Given the workload and overall team resources, there may not be enough time to invest.
Training is an investment
Hiring anyone to fill a role is already an investment in time and energy from a lot of people on the team. No matter the new person’s experience, they’re new to this team, it’s shorthand, processes, and tools. They have to learn how this team works.
Someone kicking off their career significantly compounds that effort. Colleagues and managers have to fill in the gaps between what the new hire was taught and the reality in professional life.
In this situation, one manager plus one new employee doesn’t equal two. You’re pretty lucky if it equals one and a half for the first three or six months.
It’s an upfront investment by the manager that she hopes will pay dividends down the line.
It will be significantly longer before they produce at a high level
Hiring tends to happen when a team is overburdened. Either they lost someone they need to replace, or they have so much work that adding a new person justifies the expense.
In those situations, a manager is pretty motivated to get someone in who can hit the ground running and make an impact. As noted above, that’s not going to happen with someone lacking experience.
Reviewing and coaching them on their work
We all need another set of eyes to help us with our work, no matter our experience level. But, people new to the field need a lot more as they have yet to build a foundation of experience. Terms that are easily understood after six months are new concepts. Why something is done in a specific way has to be explained, even though it’s shorthand for the rest of the team.
Most new people will get there, but it takes time and effort for all involved.
Having to teach them how to have a job
It may sound odd, but sometimes a manager ends up having to teach someone the basic expectations that come with the professional world:. what it means to be dependable, how to communicate, how to present oneself or even that showing up on time matters.
This doesn’t happen often, but it’s a huge amount of effort and frustration to have conversations that frankly, most managers don’t feel like they should need to have. If they’ve been down that road before, they may be less likely to do so again.
It’s hard to judge past work when it all comes from a classroom
Add to the time investment, a portfolio that is made up of class projects or conceptual redesigns doesn’t provide the same level of insight as one filled with professional work. When hiring for a junior role, the manager is looking for someone with the potential to grow in the manner the team will need over time. That’s a big bet to place with so little information.
Sometimes a team needs experience
A manager’s job revolves around serving her team well. A key part of that is ensuring it has the right makeup of skills and levels of experience. The workload that they’re facing may well require that a new hire comes in with experience, possibly very specific experience.
Alternatively, she may recognize that the current team is unbalanced, requiring someone with more experience to ensure it functions smoothly. There may well be a gap in the middle of a team, which has some junior people and some senior people, but few, or no people in the middle.
So, how do you work with this reality..?
This post is not meant to discourage you; quite the opposite in fact. Knowing and acknowledging these fears can help you improve your odds. Demonstrating that you know how to have a job and that you’re aware that you’ll need the team’s time can set you apart. Taking the time to build a portfolio with real client work will have an impact as well.
So, think about the fears people have when hiring someone new, just as you would think about the challenges and goals when building a product, or designing a brochure for a client. Shape your conversations, resume, and portfolio to address the concerns and you could well move further ahead of the pack.
- New designers: here’s what you can do to stand out— How to improve your odds of being noticed by hiring managers when you’re starting out.
- The Branching Career Path— Great people should be able to build their skills to receive the recognition & compensation they deserve, whether they wish to focus on their craft or on managing humans.
- Interviewing – Up, Down & All Around—How I interview people for my team, peers in other teams and my potential boss.
- “You Don’t Have the Experience for this Role…Let’s Talk!”— Embracing Junior Designers Who Apply for Roles that Require Experience.
- What it Means to be “Senior”— A “Senior” title isn’t earned in years, but in experience and outlook.
- T-Triple-C— four traits that matter above all else when hiring.
Original photos by Mimi Thian, rawpixel, Monica Melton and NESA by Makerson Unsplash, modified by me.