What is the hiring paradox and why does it matter?

What to do when you are looking ahead to your next challenge, but the recruiter is looking backwards at your experience. Think about what you can do rather than what you have done.

When you’re applying for a job, you’re looking towards your future. You’ve probably outgrown the role you’re in and are ready for a new challenge. On the other hand, those hiring you are looking to what you’ve done in the past to know if you have the skills and experience to perform the role.

This creates what we call a hiring paradox.

What is the hiring paradox?

The hiring paradox is the gap between how you want to progress in your career and the experience an employer wants to see so they have confidence in a new recruit. It’s essentially the catch-22 of knowing you are ready for the next challenge and balancing it with your current work experience.

In order to gain experience, someone needs to believe you can take that next step. And in many cases, we humans are risk-averse. So without the experience, you don’t get the job.

If you find you’re feeling that you are no longer stretched in your current role – you may be experiencing the hiring paradox. You are looking forward to career development and future employers are looking at what you’ve achieved in your past.

Looking for growth

Taking yourself out of this cycle means taking positive action in your career. It means taking on personal development to gain the skills you need to make that next move in your career.

There’s a couple of options here. You can look at what personal development is available at your current organisation. Doing this may open up doors within the company that were previously closed to you.

A study found that 37% of employees leave their jobs because of a lack of personal development. And employees want soft skills, like communication to be part of this.


Another option is to find a role suitable for your skills and experience in a company that does offer you the learning and development that you want. This may feel like a sideways step, but knowing what your goal is will help any future team leader understand what they need to put in place to retain your talent.

A third option is to go for a role that is a step up anyway and be able to demonstrate how you can meet certain job criteria. More on this in a moment.

Looking back

Employers will look at your work history to understand if you have the experience you need to do the role. But they will also want to know that you have the skills and critical thinking to thrive within it. 

So if you’re looking for a job role that is a step up from your current position, a way to tackle the hiring paradox is to demonstrate how you can leverage your skills now to adapt to a new challenge. It’s about showing you how quickly you can pick up new skills – and having the right mindset to do so. Find examples in your current role where you’ve exhibited this versatility.

For example, you may have taken on some mentoring that demonstrates your willingness to develop leadership skills.  Or that you are the kind of person who looks at how their job fits into the bigger picture within the organisation. It’s about being curious and having an analytical mind. 

Perhaps you are the kind of person who comes up with suggestions on how things can be improved. Or have set up programmes to help support others within your company.  This is about looking at the contribution you have made outside of your job role. 

It will give future employers the confidence that you have what it takes to make a step forward in your career. 

Why the hiring paradox matters

While it’s tempting to believe that how long you’ve spent in your current role equates to moving onto that next challenge, there is a lot more that employers take into consideration. How well you fit in with the team, your ability to critical thinking and communication skills, plus how you cope under pressure all have an impact. 

These are skills that you learn over time. And when applying for new roles, these may not be immediately identifiable. 

Recognising why you may not be making the forward progress you want is crucial to changing the situation. This is why the hiring paradox matters. It’s easy to become disheartened when you’re in this catch-22 position but taking positive actions can create the shifts you need.  

It is also one of the reasons why Zigzag is different, as we can help you overcome these barriers to the next step in your career.  We know that your job is more than your ability to perform tasks. When you work in a company that you’re passionate about – whose values and culture are aligned with your own – and where your skills fit within the team, then you are more likely to thrive within that role. 

You bring your best work when you feel like you’re part of the company-family rather than it’s something you do for a payslip at the end of the month. And this is why it’s important to address the hiring paradox because no one likes to feel stuck in a rut when it comes to their career. 

By taking positive action, you can move those barriers and take your career forwards in the way you want. 

Take the first step and create your Zigzag profile here

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