Employers often expect candidates to have some prior training or work history in their industry. Some industries require a potential employee to have years of relevant experience or connections in the area, whereas others need a candidate with a certain level of education or certification. You may have more experience or qualifications, depending on your field and employment history, but both have a place in the search for a new job. In this article, we explain what experience and qualifications are and how they’re different.
What is experience?
Experience is the work you’ve completed that helped you learn and practice the skills and knowledge you have in your field. You could consider experience as the work history you might list on your resume. When you tell employers about your experience, you list projects you’ve completed or positions you worked in previously, along with the duties you had and the day-to-day tasks you completed. You might include personal projects or internships as experience as well because both show employers you have real-world experience in your profession.
Someone applying for a position as a marketing manager may have experience working as a customer service representative, then a social media manager and, finally, a marketing associate. The candidate likely has a history of working in positions that helped them learn about marketing firsthand, along with how to communicate with customers and provide targeted advertising.
What are qualifications?
Qualifications include the training or education you have that prepares you for a position in your field. Many fields require in-depth knowledge of technology, mathematics, history or science. Common examples of qualifications are a university degree, certification, licensure or high school diploma. Employers may expect candidates to have a certain level of education or another type of qualification before they apply for a position.
Consider someone applying to be a surgeon at a hospital. The hiring manager expects a surgeon to have completed a university degree, along with medical school. Surgeons also require a license to practice, so a potential employer may check for this qualification when considering which candidate to choose. These qualifications ensure the hospital hires a surgeon who can perform operations on patients safely.
Experience vs. qualifications
Many candidates have both experience and qualifications, and both contribute to their ability to perform their job well. Qualifications show that you have the knowledge necessary for your profession, whereas experience proves that you’ve practiced working in your field. Employers can verify your work history by contacting companies you worked with previously, and they can check qualifications by contacting your university or the licensing board for your field. Someone with experience might require less training than someone who has more qualifications and less experienced, but a candidate with specialized qualifications may have more up-to-date knowledge of a specific field.
Companies can benefit from hiring candidates with experience, qualifications or both, depending on the industry and the role the company offers. Some industries, such as construction, prefer someone with practical experience and reliable work history, whereas a company hiring a theoretical physicist might need a candidate with extensive university education, such as a Ph.D.
Importance of experience and qualifications in a job search
Here are a few reasons both qualifications and experience are important in a job search:
Why employers want someone with experience
A candidate with experience has skills, training and knowledge that could result in an easy transition into their new role. They may be able to start work faster with no need for lengthy training. In addition, experience means that a candidate knows people in their industry, such as potential customers or suppliers. In marketing or sales, this kind of experience and network can help the company grow and find new clients.
Employees with experience may also have transferable skills or soft skills that develop through practice, such as communication, leading teams, training other employees or managing their time. If you have years of experience in a particular field, you often have a number of references who can provide examples of why you would be an excellent candidate. Some employees even have a widespread, positive reputation in their industry if they’ve worked in it for a significant period.
Why employers want someone with qualifications
Someone with qualifications often invested a significant amount of time into learning about their industry. This kind of dedication proves that the candidate has ambition and drive, which means they are likely to exceed expectations on projects or tasks. If you have more qualifications, particularly recent ones, you may know more about new technology, regulations or breakthroughs in your field. Additionally, employees with qualifications may not have preconceived ideas about how to do something assigned to them, which allows for more innovation and experimentation in the company’s processes.
Candidates with several qualifications typically have a fundamental understanding of their chosen industry and spent years studying how to resolve problems specific to their profession. They may have learned from a range of professors and experts who present a variety of information and points of view. Companies often benefit from employees who have new information and ideas, which may come from a candidate with qualifications.
Why you may need experience and qualifications
While experience and qualifications are different, both are important for your job search. A candidate with years of experience can benefit from updated training in their field. Someone with years of education can apply their knowledge through projects or internships and gain real-world experience. Employers typically like to see a candidate who includes both in their resume, and you can gain the benefits of experience and qualifications by pursuing education or work opportunities.
You have the chance to gain new skills during education and new references while working with different companies. Experience helps you understand the nuances of how an industry works and some of the unspoken rules a classroom setting may not teach you. Completing a certification in a new piece of equipment or skill may allow you to apply for a different job with additional responsibilities, and it might also provide new insight on how to approach a task differently.