The low unemployment rate paired with the growing skills shortage has made employers feel like they're trying to pull off an insanely complex heist alongside Brad Pitt in Ocean’s Eleven rather than just their typical everyday recruiting. As the market evolves, however, companies need to exercise flexibility and adopt new hiring strategies to remain competitive and avoid feeling like they're backed into a corner.
So, what's the secret sauce in today's modern recruitment landscape? Focusing your hiring efforts on potential versus experience.
Soft skills, like problem-solving, communication, and adaptability are good indicators of a candidate's potential, as they signify that the individual has the foundation needed to successfully develop as a professional. Personality traits also provide insight into someone's level of unrealized ability and raw potential.
Think about it. Can you imagine if Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, who also dropped out of school at the mere age of 16, was solely evaluated on his past experience versus his potential? He wouldn’t have built the empire we know today.
The truth is, a candidate’s prior experience and performance does not necessarily translate into future success; yet, many employers put all their cards in this one basket. When an emphasis is placed on hiring for potential, you’ll broaden your access to talent (and untapped markets), improve retention by hiring loyal employees, and discover individuals who better align with the company’s values, mission, and goals. Here's what to look for.
Posing the Right Interview Questions
A resume is one-dimensional and can only provide a certain amount of insight on a candidate’s potential. The interview provides the perfect environment to drill down further and unveil where the individual’s strengths lie. Are they ambitious? Driven? What are they passionate about on a professional level? Asking the right questions will help you to gauge how the candidate could contribute to the success of the company and what their skills could bring to the table. Here are some examples:
Stand-Out Experiences: “Tell me about a time where you took ownership of a project or task that resulted in a positive outcome.”
Questions Surrounding the Company: “How does our mission statement align with your career goals?” Or, “Of our company values, which resonates best with you and why?”
Questions Specific to the Industry: “What are some of the publications or sites you follow to stay up-to-date on industry news and trends?” Similarly, you can ask if they attend any industry-specific events or belong to any industry groups.
Forward-Looking Questions: “If we waved the magic wand and were sitting across from each other a year from now, what would you have liked to accomplish?”
Don’t forget, asking the right questions goes both ways. The interview isn’t meant to feel like an interrogation, but rather, a two-way conversation between you and the candidate. Candidates who exhibit high potential are the ones that express curiosity and ask thoughtful questions that show they are not only interested in the position, but the vision and direction of the organization as well.
Do They Have Transferable Skills?
While a candidate may not have proficiency in a particular application your company uses, if they possess an arsenal of expertise with similar programs, don’t be quick to rule them out. When a candidate has skills that are easily transferable, they will likely need minimal training to master the new tool or software. Yes, this will require more guidance from you as an employer in the beginning, but by investing in their potential, you are demonstrating that you place value in the development of your employees. This will not only cultivate a loyal worker, but the individual will be motivated to prove themselves and are likely to go the extra mile to demonstrate their worth.
Character-Centric Focus & Assessments
Although a candidate may lack a bit of experience in a specific area the company is looking for, remember there are other areas that are equally, if not more, important to measure, such as an individual’s character. Programs and certain skills can be taught, personality can not. It’s imperative to identify candidates that are driven to develop themselves professionally and are a strong cultural fit for your team.
This is especially true if the candidate will be working in a highly collaborative environment, as they’ll mesh well with the team, leading to a higher success rate on projects. Ambitious individuals who want to learn are also highly moldable, meaning you can easily train them on your workflow and processes and supply them with the resources they need to advance within the company.
If you’re still on the fence about a particular candidate, you can take the interview process one step further and ask the individual to showcase their skills through a presentation or assessment. Really want to see the candidate in action? You should consider inviting them to an upcoming team meeting, having them shadow another employee for the day, or inviting them to an approaching industry event. Candidates who are hungry for knowledge and highly motivated will quickly hop on any opportunity you throw at them that’ll allow them to get involved with the company.
The Undeniable Payoff of Potential
Sure, your employees may have the right skill sets and experience, but the real question is, do these individuals have the potential to develop new ones? Spotting talent is evolving; just like we are seeing with technology, the modern workplace, and what candidates’ value in a potential employer. Let’s not forget, sometimes a shorter time in the workforce is beneficial as the candidate has yet to inherit some poor, hard-to-reverse habits.
Additionally, recruiting in today’s challenging marketplace means getting creative, and there’s certainly a greater reservoir of candidates who possess potential over experience. What does that mean for you as an employer? Adopting this strategy will reduce costs, help you build a stronger pipeline of talent, and accelerate growth, as there will be more bodies in the office rather than empty seats.
As modern technology and market needs continue to shape hiring, it creates more opportunities for employers to harness untapped pools of talent, giving more individuals the chance to illustrate their worth. Don’t discount personal attributes. Brains and experience look great on paper, but it doesn’t necessarily equate to a successful hire. While focusing on potential still requires taking a risk, it can yield incredible payoffs in the end.