Interesting discussion over the weekend with my buddy Andrea (@andrealauder) as we talked about friends and PR colleagues looking for new jobs (sorry to those thinking this was a RENT post).

Traditionally when a company is hiring, the posting will list required experience; it has historically been identified based on number of years (i.e. “Minimum of 3-5 years in PR”).

However, with more and more practitioners working on contract, changing jobs every two-to-three years and increasing the breadth of their skill set, is “number of years” still a valid qualifier when hiring/applying for jobs?

Here’s a scenario we were posing:

  • Practitioner A graduated just under three years ago. While she has been working for a corporate organization doing mainly media relations, she has also been taking volunteer contracts all through university and alongside her current job. These contracts have allowed her to gain skills and experience in everything from event management to government relations.
  • Practitioner B has been out of university for almost seven years. She has been with the same company since her last semester and has only been working in the media relations team – she is in charge of the daily clippings and monthly reports, liaising with journalists and writing press releases.

They are both applying for the same job, and the posting asks for 3-5 years of PR experience. Practitioner A knows she’s not quite there in terms of number of years, but is hoping her breadth of experience/knowledge will put her in good standing. Practitioner B thinks in terms of the number of years of experience she is almost overqualified for the job, but applies anyway.

If you were the hiring manager, who would you rather have on your team – the candidate with a breadth of knowledge but not quite the physical count of days, or the candidate who might have the years but has likely been doing one year’s worth of work and skill set six or seven times over?

I don’t think there’s a concrete answer, and there are arguments that the candidate with more years under their belt better understands how to manage an office environment and the politics that come with it, but with the changing nature of PR and the skill sets employers are looking for, it’s interesting to consider if we need to redefine how we identify “experience”.

What do you think? Let’s get the discussion going.

(pic via http://www.tdcpeople.com/content/images/theStandard/2012_Q3/Years_experienceG.jpg)