Unpacking Prior Experience: How Career History Affects Job Performance
Gina Dokko, Steffanie L. Wilk, and Nancy P. Rothbard
Organization Science, vol. 20, no. 1
Human resources professionals may be surprised to learn that placing emphasis on a job candidate’s prior experience can be counterproductive. According to this study, although prior experience helps new hires perform their specific job tasks, these employees often come with habits, routines, and expectations picked up from their prior company that inhibit them from fitting in well at their new firm. The authors examined career data — specifically, employee applications, resumes, and subsequent performance reviews — for thousands of workers at two call centers of a major U.S.-based insurance company. They found that experienced employees often struggled to adjust and in many cases under-performed in their new role because they were unable to move beyond old habits. Worse, the study revealed, employers often use experience as an excuse to avoid training new hires, which can exacerbate the problem. The authors propose that hiring managers pay close attention to applicants’ career histories, and institute mentoring and training programs to help indoctrinate new workers to the firm.
Hiring managers may place too much value on prior experience as a predictor of future success. Experience can be valuable, but it can also make it difficult for employees to drop old habits — which could hurt their overall performance.