Why You Should Hire Candidates for Potential

April 10, 2015 at 9:00 AM by Kathleen de Lara


In a world where experience and job titles are one and the same, and the density of a resume can make or break a hire, the idea of hiring someone with less experience can scare some recruiters.

A candidate who looks exceptional on paper may not translate the same in the office. On the other hand, a candidate who has the basic skills needed to get the job done now and the drive to learn skills required for the job later can be just as good a fit as an ideal candidate.

Here’s why.

The ideal candidate you’re looking for is already working for a competitor.

No surprise here. We’ll call them purple squirrels, unicorns, and needles in the hay, and it’s likely these candidates are in hot pursuit or already happily employed. This isn’t to discourage recruiters from making their counter offer, but if time-to-hire is a hiring metric you’re keeping a close eye on, sticking too close to your guns to find the perfect fit can mean the position stays open much longer than expected. Translated: That’s dollars wasted on the time that could be spent on onboarding a new hire, which takes us to our next point.

Sometimes, hiring managers have unrealistic or inaccurate expectations for a qualified candidate.

The grapevine linking recruiters and hiring managers already has a long, tangled history, which is why it’s important for the two to meet to align expectations for a qualified candidate. Seasoned pros may tell you managers’ initial criteria for a candidate spans a list of unrealistic, hyper-specialized experiences and skills.

Get an understanding of what’s considered an acceptable middle ground for candidates who may not completely meet the bar. Are there expendable candidate details you can forego, like having attended a specific university? Does the hiring timeline bode well with factors including industry trends, the team’s budget, and the other open reqs you need to fill?

Work quality over work quantity is a better policy.

One way to shrink the candidate pool is to limit the number of years of experience of candidates you’re recruiting. Length of work experience isn’t a reliable measurement to gauge a candidate’s fit for the role. Take into account several factors, including the sequence of job titles a candidate has during their time at a company, the growth of their skills and how it effects the quality, style, and progress of their work.

Hiring someone who can efficiently learn skills for the job on the job is one way to save the cost of leaving a position unfilled.

Job vacancies come at a few costs for the company, including revenue, branding, retention, and growth. Besides the loss of sales and potential customers from the reduced bandwidth, positions left open for too long can communicate to potential candidates and competitors the company isn’t performing well, and that can precipitate several assumptions about the org, including unhappy employees, high turnover, lack of budget, or an unqualified hiring team. Vacancies in more senior positions can especially cripple a team wanting for training, guidance, and management.

A candidate who has the necessary basic skills and drive, and who’s fit for the team may be better qualified for a more junior-level position now and can be trained to grow into a more senior role later. The team gains horsepower in a new hire, gets a refresher teaching essential skills and tools, and saves itself the cost of an unfilled role.

Equipping employees with resources to learn skills can boost retention and train someone to fill a management position you later will have.

A company that sets aside time and tools to train its team communicates an investment to its people and developing their professional goals. Nurturing an employee’s growth keeps the team happy and more inclined to stick around for the long term. Think people, not commodities. Continually training employees helps keep talent in-house through their growth, which is especially important for hiring from within your internal talent pool.

Sticking too close to your guns to find a cookie cutter candidate won’t help you efficiently fill open reqs and could run the risk of missing out on diversifying the workforce with talent who may have skills in areas outside the job description that could be trained to other people on the team. Finding a suitable person for a job doesn’t always mean checking off everything on the list of required skills and qualifications. Having strict standards is a good way to make strategic hires, but being flexible with candidate expectations can comparably expand your talent funnel and find people to grow the team.

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