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Paper vs. Real-World Experience: Which Holds More Value?

By Rini Malo

The Importance of Experience-Based Hiring

The hiring process for any company can be a very tedious (but, important) process to endure. Finding that right person to join your team is essential to having a good culture and having the machine work correctly. Finding prospective employees with a balance of real-world experience and paper-experience, is obviously preferable…but, which one do we, as a society tend to value more?

The marketing industry is competitive, setting higher standards for creativity and experience (both in the field, and in life). It is now more important than ever for an interviewee to come into an interview ready to speak on different situations they’ve experienced, rather than rattling off their resume.

This is where the question arises for most employers and future employees: which holds more value, paper experience or “real-world” experience? I’m here to provide some pros and cons to each side and allow you to make that decision on your own.

The Benefits of Paper Experience 


Paper experience is exactly what its title says it is, experience that is shown on paper (your resume).

This type of experience is one that shows the employer that you have years in the field and have plenty to fill up your resume to fit the quota of how many years are needed for the position that you are applying for.

This holds great value because it shows the employer that you have been in the field for some time and that you have familiarity with what exactly is happening/trending within that circle. This is also provides the employer with some safety because if this resume in front of them was able to work in this field for so many years, then they must have been doing something right and know what they are doing.

Now you might be saying, “why exactly do I even need to hear about the other option when paper experience sounds so great?”.

Well, if you work within the corporate/marketing world, then you’ve heard the saying, “It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.”

That works perfectly into knowing that a resume filled with years doesn’t always correlate to knowing what is happening in the world you work in and being good at what you are hiring for.

Plenty of employers run into the problem where they interview someone who has resume filled with “experience”, which causes them to have a clouded judgement.

The employer will decide if this is the right fit basically off of how many years they have on their resume and not off of what experience the future employee had experienced during those years.

Real-World Experience


On the other side of the debate, the idea of “real-world” experience is a really vague idea or description of what type of experience the employee has.

This term correlates to the idea of not having worked a lot of years within the field that you are attempting to get a job in and advance your career, but having the knowledge and skill that should help you stand out from the bunch–so, why isn’t it that easy?

If you have the skill, why aren’t you being called into that interview you applied for? Or (for employers) why are you not bringing in that potential employee to come work for your company?

Well like I stated earlier, there is an unwritten rule for the hiring process that the amount of years someone has worked within a certain field holds more weight in value for the employer.

You can’t completely blame the employer for believing in this method, because is there really a way to measure “real-world” experience when looking for a candidate?

It is a lot easier to look at how long someone has been in a field to know that they should have picked something up along the way that would make it crucial to hire them.

This isn’t always the case though, and this is why the idea of “real-world” experience should be taken into consideration when you are looking to hire someone.

If you are currently looking for a new adventure in a field that you don’t have as much paper experience as most candidates will, here is why you shouldn’t detour in your goal of trying to land this job: loving what you do, working hard, and respecting the industry hold as much weight as years in the field do.

Coming out of college and all the jobs in your field require at least three years experience for even an interview—does that sound familiar?

Well that is the fate most college graduates face when leaving school. This is one of the biggest reasons why “real-world” experience should hold more value than paper experience because it’s extremely tough to even get a chance for someone who has better skills than most people that currently have jobs or are given the opportunity.

If you are looking for a designer to join your team and he/she doesn’t really have the amount of years that you are looking for for that position, are you going to turn them away even if their work within their portfolio is some of the greatest work you’ve seen?

Some of the cons of only having “real-world” experience is that this potential candidate doesn’t really know what its like to work for an agency or company like yours.

Yeah, being really good at what you do is amazing, but are you able to deal with clients or the constant amount of work that is being pushed through you day-in and day-out?

Do you know what it is like to juggle multiple deadlines and be able to produce the highest quality work you have made?

It’s important to compare these answers across the board to understand the value.

Which Experience Holds More Value?

Your opinion on this argument might be completely different, depending on your stance. It’s a debate that often divides employees and employers.

And there isn’t a “right” or “wrong” answer. Both hold valid weight in value when it comes to who you should hire.

In my opinion, I would say that “real” experience is very valuable because having the desire and skill to work in your field are irreplaceable. BUT, having the paper experience is just as valuable because it shows that you know how to work within the environment and that is vital.

Our culture is vital to our company, and we work hard on maintaining our values through productive hiring. Learn more about our company, values, and employees here! And, comment below with your thoughts on workplace experience. I would love to know more perspectives on this popular debate!

*Fist Bump*
Rini Malo