Should I Hire for Potential Over Experience?

The workforce is shifting every day. In fact, research from the World Economic Forum (WEF) shows over half of employees around the world will need to upskill or reskill by 2025. The rapid rise of digital literacy, automation, and new technologies will quickly supersede businesses that don’t train ahead of the curve. With the dire need to invest in training, it’s evident that hiring someone with experience isn’t that much different than hiring someone without it.

Of course, someone with experience has a better chance of being a good hire because that candidate has “been there and done that”. However, at the end of the day, both candidates will likely need retraining or reskilling to be ready for company and industry growth. So, hiring for potential isn’t the risk that many business owners think it is. In fact, there are certain instances where hiring for potential is more beneficial.

When Would I Hire for Potential?

You Are Already Upskilling and Reskilling Your Workforce

The rapid adoption of technology and the threat of displaced jobs have driven companies to re-skill their workforce. If you plan to retrain parts of your workforce, now is a great time to hire for potential. It’ll give your new hire a chance to go through the training process with their coworkers, which is a great way to quickly build relationships.

You Don’t Have the Money

What comes with hiring an employee with years of experience? A salary that reflects that. If you are a start-up or a medium-sized enterprise, you may not have the budget to pay for the experience. However, investing time and effort into training an employee is often cheaper in the long run. This is especially true if you already have skilled employees in your workforce who are willing to help bring your newbie up to speed.

You Want to Focus on Culture Fit and Loyalty

With the craze of hiring for culture fit, there are reasons you’d aim to hire for potential instead of experience. It is rare that you’ll find a candidate that is a seamless culture fit and highly experienced. But if you find a great culture fit with high potential, that is the next best thing. Consider bringing a high-potential candidate into a work environment that they love and you commit to developing them professionally. Your employee loyalty will skyrocket because your employee will see how much you value them and are willing to help them grow.

You Need a New Perspective

When you aim to hire candidates based on their potential, it opens up doors for new skills and perspectives. These candidates may be coming from different roles or industries, and their transferrable skills make it possible to bring new insight into your products and processes. Using this method to diversity your workforce will drive innovation and creativity.

Advantages and Disadvantages

How to Hire For Potential (Without Disrupting Productivity)

Emphasize Personal Attributes

If you are sacrificing experience for potential, then be sure you aren’t overlooking other aspects of a candidate that could make or break your decision. For example, a candidate may have high potential. But if they lack the personality and morals to fit seamlessly into your work environment, then they won’t be a great hire. So ensure that you evaluate all aspects of a candidate to ensure they have the personal attributes to grow, collaborate, and learn within your organization’s culture.

Evaluate Transferrable Skills

Hiring for potential doesn’t mean you have to start from zero. For a candidate who is changing careers or looking for their first job, you can always identify skills that would make them successful in the role you are hiring for. The transferrable skills you want to identify are ones that either

  1. relate to the necessary skills you’ve put in the job ads OR
  2. are foundational skills that will help candidates build the skills you’ve placed in the job ad

Aside from personal attributes, this is one of the best methods to predict growth potential. The more relevant transferrable skills a candidate has, the easier it will be to train them. Additionally, you may be able to expect higher levels of productivity sooner.

Choose the Right Interview Questions

Yes, you need to ensure the candidate will fit into your organization. However, the most important aspect of hiring for potential is ensuring that the candidate has growth potential. To evaluate growth potential, you have to ask the right interview questions. Your interview questions should give you insight into

  • how the candidate learns and takes feedback
  • what candidates do when they are under pressure
  • how flexible the candidate is
  • what the candidate is willing to do to find a solution

Here are some example interview questions to evaluate growth potential.

Start with a free job post today to get started on finding top-notch candidates in your industry.

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