How to Hire an Employee Based on Potential

Categories: Advice for HR Professionals, Advice for Start-ups and Entrepreneurs, Recruitment Advice, Trends and Learning


HR personnel and recruitment firms should not only focus on a candidate’s qualifications and experiences, but also consider the candidate’s potential to grow into the perfect fit for the position and your company.

In today’s highly globalized and volatile economy, a candidate’s past experiences don’t guarantee their future success, as digital trends evolve and new technologies are innovated every single day.

According to a recent survey, 56% of executives see critical gaps in their company’s ability to fill senior management positions in coming years. This shows that a person’s professional experience is no longer the sole determinant of competency and skills, but their potential to learn new things and grow with your organization.

While it’s easier to measure a candidate’s qualities using their professional history and experience, there are ways to evaluate a candidate’s potential. Here’s how.

1. Observe candidate’s curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination.

According to Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, author of “It’s Not the How or the What but the Who: Succeed by Surrounding Yourself with the Best,” the hallmarks of potential include curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. These four values cannot be assessed independently, as they’re interrelated most of the time.

During the interview process, you can tell that a candidate is engaged and passionate about what he does with the way he talks about his work, and the questions he asks (about the work, not just the benefits).

A person’s curiosity can tell you that he/she has high potential to learn new things and adapt to different environments and evolving trends. So, who will you hire? A candidate who tells you that they’re very good at what they do, or a candidate who admits that they have a lot to learn?

2. Ask the relevant questions.

Engaging the candidate in a conversation will let you examine their body language and observe how they carry themselves. Asking the right questions will help you determine whether they have a high potential to adapt to new environments and grow along with your company.

  • Company-specific questions like “Which of our company values appeals to you the most?” doesn’t only help you assess culture fit, but also help you evaluate the candidate’s engagement, and check whether he/she read up about the company.
  • Strategic questions like “If you get hired, what do you plan to do for the next three months in the company?” can help you determine the candidate’s goals, and evaluate their potential to become a leader.
  • Industry-related questions like “What do you do to update yourself with the latest trends in the industry?” can tell if the candidate constantly seeks learning opportunities, and has high potential to become a great leader. It also tells you the candidate’s level of interest in their chosen field.
  • Personal experience questions like “What is your greatest accomplishment? Describe a time when you made something happen?” can give you insight into the candidate’s interests, motivations, and ambitions.

3. Take note of how a candidate describes his/her experiences.

When people are passionate about what they do, you can see it in their eyes and how they talk about their work. There’s an almost tangible emotional connection between the person and their craft.

Delve deeper and look beyond a candidate’s skills, experience, and aptitude. More often than not, it’s easier and better to work with someone who has a positive attitude. They may lack in experience and skills, but they are more willing to learn.

Listen and observe how your candidate talks about his/her experiences. This will give you a glimpse about their general outlook on life and work.

Find the right balance of skills and attitude to ensure that you’re hiring the candidate with the potential to become a future leader in your organization.

Consider your employees as a great investment that can help your business surpass its goals and achieve its vision. Assessing for potential requires recruiters and HR professionals to adopt a shift in mindset.

Hiring for potential will give your company long-term benefits. You will have an employee who can answer immediate process needs while grooming them to become one of your top executives who will drive your company to success.



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