When hiring, experience matters.
But not so much.

April 11, 2011

Hire and promote first on the basis of integrity; second, motivation; third, capacity; fourth, understanding; fifth, knowledge; and last and least, experience.

Without integrity, motivation is dangerous; without motivation, capacity is impotent; without capacity understanding is limited; without understanding, knowledge is meaningless; without knowledge, experience is blind.

Experience is easy to provide and quickly put to use by people with all the other qualities.

– Dee Hock, founder and CEO emeritus of Visa in The War for Talent.

ValuesExperience does matter. But it shouldn’t be the first quality you look for when hiring. In fact, it ought to be pretty far down the list. Let me be clear, I’m not saying that competence and skills don’t matter. They do. But they’re not everything. All the competence and skill, and experience in the world won’t make up for a lack of integrity, shared values or cultural fit. You know what I’m talking about. When you have someone on your staff who lacks integrity or doesn’t share your firm’s values, it will make you and everyone else in your office miserable. You’ll begin to dread having to talk to the person, regardless of how productive they may be. And they’ll bring down the morale of your whole office. Maybe this has happened to you.

So, if shared values and cultural fit are so important, why don’t more law offices consider these things when hiring? – Because it’s not that easy. But you can do it. In a recent article from the Harvard Business Review online, Alan Lewis, the owner of Grand Circle Travel, a $600 million international tour operator explains how his company assesses the cultural fit of every hire.

1. Don’t just ask candidates to tell you how they espouse your company’s values; let them show you. Observe candidates through all phases of the interview process. How do they react when asked to take skills assessments? Are they nice to your receptionist? Use a group interview process, and get feedback from everyone on your team about each candidate.

2. Be crystal clear about your culture and values. If you’re not already crystal clear about your firm’s culture and values, now’s the time to get clear. According to Lewis, hiring someone who doesn’t fit with your values, means you’re hiring someone who is destined to fail.

3. Don’t combine skills interviews with values interviews. If you focus first on skills, then someone with less experience will likely be eliminated. You might overlook someone who has the integrity, motivation, capacity, understanding and knowledge to be a perfect fit for your firm.

Read the entire article at Harvard Business Review Online.


  1. Brian Frolo says:

    Right on, thanks. After that distaster of a summer intern back in ’09 I learned to value teachability over talent. Note to summer interns: after two days on the job don’t move your boss’ desk because you “think it looks better that way”.

  2. Oy! Yep, I think everybody’s got at least one horror story!

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