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Five Strategies For Successfully Hiring Potential

Below I look at five strategies that you can use to hire on potential successfully.

They are not short-term fixes; rather they represent a longer-term change of approach for many organizations. But the results come if you stay with it. I have seen these results in clients who have adopted such approaches…


1. Start building a learning and mentoring culture

There’s little point in hiring potential if you don’t provide it with opportunities to go anywhere!

One of the biggest reasons that employees consistently cite for leaving a job is lack of opportunities. Quite simply, they don’t feel like there’s anywhere to go and fail to see hope for the future within the organization.

The same applies to new people coming in. You need to give them the opportunity to grow and see that there’s a way forward where they can fulfil their potential. Or they will add to the turnover figures after 12 months or so…often a colossal waste of money after on-boarding and getting them up to speed.

Do you have systems in place for your best employees (not just ‘best’ in terms of performance but also in terms of driving the culture you want in your company) to nurture, mentor, and develop those on their teams?

Do you understand WHAT potential stars want to develop and WHERE they want to go? Can you help turn potential into actual leadership quality or will you drive them out the door through lack of development and opportunity?


2. Build a positive social media culture

If you’re hiring on potential, then you’re likely hiring youngsters: graduates, school-leavers, and people born towards the end of the last millennium or later.

This means that they actively use social media, are fully social network savvy and consider the Internet and instant messaging an integral part of their lives.

Unless your organization is up to scratch and embracing this, then there could be a disconnect between the way you are trying to do business and the way your potential star employees like to work.

All you need is an active policy of embracing social media and somebody skilled and ‘with it’ enough to run it. There are plenty of community-building tools that can help your people share ideas and improve information flow. It can also help on-board and mentor newcomers to the organization.

This is the way that youngsters are used to communicating. It can help you build a positive, collaborative culture where people have input into decisions that affect them.

This will help them feel that they are contributing and can motivate performance and buy-in to a culture where they can fulfil their potential.


3. Assess at least four important personal qualities

It’s easy to assess past performance, academic background and skill competency levels: tests, certificates, awards, and references give a well-rounded picture of this.

But this is not a good measure of how good a leader they will make. A better measure is to assess personal qualities – this is a little more challenging, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

During the interview process, it’s important to take the time to assess qualities that reflect what you are looking for in your future leaders.

A good place to start is these four qualities:

Motivation levels – are they self-starters or do they need micro-managing, someone watching over them all the time?

Curiosity – if people are not curious, they will not learn; the potential for development may be non-existent unless they have a healthy, inquiring mind

Insight – do they have deep knowledge of particular subjects? This can show a strong capacity to learn and to drill down into a topic- a potentially useful skill in your business.

Determination – how tenacious are they? Are they put off by a knock back or two, or do they get back up again and continue?


4. Determine values and drivers of passion

It’s important to determine what a person is passionate about and what values drive this passion?

You probably don’t want people only motivated by personal success and ‘winning’ as this may clash with your existing culture and upset those already there. The potential for a toxic culture of competition exists.

Likewise, somebody who merely values ‘experience’ in a role may not be motivated to improve themselves. After all, ten years’ experience can sometime simply be one year’s experience repeated another nine times. What’s the true value in that?

People who are driven by unselfish goals and values, who want to be the best they can be but who are also able to show humility, may work out better as leaders of the future.

5. Look for signs of emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) involves both self-awareness and awareness of others; it’s an important characteristic of most good leaders.

Why? Because the level of emotional intelligence will partially govern the ability of a person to form strong relationships and bond with people, to listen to and empathise with others, to be motivated to develop oneself, and to inspire others.

Many skills can be relatively easily taught; emotional intelligence is much harder to develop, though it can be improved over time.

There are proven assessments of emotional intelligence that can be applied in interview situations – I have clients who use these. It’s one of the best predictors of success that we have – far better than simply assessing experience.

As always, I’d be happy to share more with you about hiring on potential and talent-spotting rather than simply hiring on past performance and achievements.

If you’d like an initial discussion about what you’re trying to achieve with hiring in your organization, please email me: