Hiring For Potential: 8 Keys to Success

Hiring For Potential: 8 Keys To Success

We have all heard the modern-day philosophy about hiring for attitude and training for skill, but it is far easier said than done. After all, it is hard enough to hire ‘the right person’, especially when you are choosing from candidates who may not have the exact skills and experience you are looking for – but may share your company’s values and passion. As such, we are sharing our top 8 tips for hiring for potential; we hope these inspire you in how you view your candidate pool and refine your hiring criteria.


  1. Start with YOU.

    Building a strong employer brand has been shown to reduce employer turnover by 28%. In addition, 69% of professionals are more likely to apply for a job if the company has active brand management (i.e. responding to employee reviews, updating company profile information and sharing about the work environment). Those whom are capable of meeting your expectations may have high expectations themselves; quality attracts quality.

  2. Identify your success stories.

    Once you are firm in who your company is and what you value, look for internal examples. Are your top-performing, long-term employees all self-starters with liberal arts degrees? Analytical introverts? Fearless collaborators? We are generalizing for the purposes of simplicity but look for patterns of experience and behavior behind your most productive and engaged employees.

  3. Match personalities to positions (not just skills).

    Customer-facing roles may require more empathy and patience, while data-based roles need fewer soft skills but perhaps greater focus. Establish ways to measure strengths and preferences, not just skills and experience.

  4. View candidates in context.

    Much can be learned from talking to a person out in the field rather than from behind a desk. Take potential hires on a tour of the grounds; what questions do they ask? Are they interested in how things work, curious about their team?

  5. Share a meal.

    Carol Smith (Publisher of Harper’s Bazaar) has called dining “the microcosm of life”. Consider how the candidate treats the wait staff and the fellow diners. Do they lose patience over wait times? Can he/she comfortably keep a conversation going (rather than just answering interview questions)?

  6. Consider compatibility.

    When checking references, be sure to ask not just about accomplishments, but about professional relationships with clients and with peers. Also, ask the potential employee to cite an example of an interpersonal conflict or challenging work situation and how they overcame it.

  7. Look for commitment.

    There is always something to be said for a person with a history of loyalty. Even if the applicant is new to the working world (such as a student), has he/she demonstrated loyalty to a club, organization or volunteer cause? Needless to say, it’s worth noting any frequent job changes which may indicate a lack of commitment or a constant desire for a ‘better offer’.

  8. Be relentless in being better.

    Keeping your hiring processes stagnant isn’t likely to propel growth. Hiring for potential often means redefining what you value and how you are going to find it within someone. Re-assess intern programs, refine expectations and redistribute responsibilities. If your current practices aren’t driving enthusiastic, dedicated and integrity-driven learners… change them It’s far easier to inspire others to grow if you and your company are willing to do the same.

As you can see, hiring for potential means looking deeper than a resume or a degree. While it may require some unconventional evaluations such as contextual experiences, strengths assessments, and more extensive reference checks – the results could become your company’s best kept secret.


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