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Industry Experience? Who Needs It!

The co-founder of Kayak.com explains why he prefers to hire travel industry virgins rather than people with more targeted experience.

You have a position to fill and a bunch of resumes to look at. What's the first thing you scan for? For many of us the answer is the candidate's previous experience. Did she do a similar job previously and demonstrate the ability to succeed at it? This isn't exactly rocket science: making sure that your newest employee can do their job sounds about as basic a business rule as you can imagine.

But at least one successful executive is breaking it. At Fast Company's Innovation Uncensored event last week in New York City, Paul English, the co-founder and CTO of popular travel site Kayak.com explained that when it comes to staffing his company with techies he prefers to hire folks with no travel industry experience who have shown exceptional ability in another area--say, Olympic-level athletics.

"One of my unwritten rules at Kayak has been I wouldn't hire anyone for the engineering team who had ever worked in travel before," Business Insider reports he said. Why?  "I believe that the top creative people are at their peak when they see something for the first time," he said, offering examples of his unusual hires. "I hired someone once because he had an Olympic medal. I hired someone once who was an international chess master," said English.

Check out his comments in the video below get a sense of Kayak's unusual approach to hiring, as well as English's thoughts on the travel space and the impact of mobile on his site.

When it comes to hiring, are you too focused on a narrow definition of "experience?"

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Last updated: Apr 23, 2012

JESSICA STILLMAN

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in Cyprus with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.




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