Employer Career Zone

Asking for previous experience

Setting minimums, maximums or bandwidths of experience can discriminate on grounds of age. Most graduates are around the age of 21 when they graduate. If a role then requires an additional 2 years’ experience, the net result is to make it highly unlikely that anyone under the age of 23 can apply for the role.

In addition, such minimum periods are entirely arbitrary and have no objective justification. For example, if challenged in court, it would be very difficult to demonstrate why someone with 24 months experience is more competent than someone with 18 months’ experience. This is even more problematic if you consider that the candidate with 18 months’ experience may actually have more relevant experience than the candidate with the full 2 years’.

There is nothing wrong with asking candidates to demonstrate a successful track record or experience in a particular area but each candidate’s experience must be assessed on its own merits, not on the basis of arbitrary minimums.

A better strategy is to give thought to the specific skills and experience a candidate may need to fulfil the role. For example, depending on the role, you may want a candidate to have experience of supervising other members of staff, managing a complete project lifecycle, etc.

In a similar way, you should avoid setting maximums. By setting an arbitrary ceiling on experience, you are effectively excluding older candidates. This may also include mature students who may have gained significant experience before studying their degree.