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Why You Should Hire for Potential Over Experience

Recruiting new employees is never an easy endeavor. From writing the job description to sourcing talent, you might find yourself focused on a wishlist of experience you want the ideal candidate to have. However, your checklist may actually work against you. A candidate’s experience alone doesn’t tell you the whole story. Nor, does it show you what they will bring to the table. 

Instead, it may be a better approach to focus on the potential a candidate possesses. And what you may find might surprise you—a better employee. The following are seven reasons why hiring for potential over experience can be effective. 

1. Widening a candidate pool

If recruiters have a long list of qualifications that they want in a candidate, they can severely limit the number of applicants they get. And from that pool, they may not find the kind of employee they’re really looking for. For example, if you’re asking that applicants have five years of specific experience, maybe consider looking at candidates who have less since your otherwise perfect hire may only have three years of experience. By loosening some of the requirements, you can open yourself up to otherwise great potential employees that may not have felt comfortable applying for the position because of your experience criteria. 

2. Reducing hiring failures

Although a candidate’s experience may make them sound perfect on paper, they may not perform the way you expect after they’re onboarded. According to a study conducted by Leadership IQ, 46% of new workers fail within 18 months of being hired—and only 11% of those failures are related to technical skills. Instead, 89% of new hire failures are because of the attitudes of the employees. This is a huge indicator that experience alone is not a good predictor of future success in an organization. In fact, 82% of hiring managers that Leadership IQ surveyed admitted that they observed warning signs of future employee failures and hired those workers anyway.

3. Tapping into new ideas and skills

Hiring for potential over experience gives your organization access to candidates who may be fresh out of college, or have recently made a career change. As a result, these candidates may come with a unique set of skills and perspectives. Whether it’s knowing the latest cutting-edge technology or taking skill from a previous role, a unique perspective can always benefit your company. 

4. Taking advantage of adaptability

Workers who have a lot of experience under their belt may also have a lot of baggage. As a result, they may be stuck in their ways of doing things and have strong beliefs about your profession that preclude them from being flexible and able to adapt to your work environment—or even take constructive criticism. On the other hand, less seasoned employees may be able to quickly adapt to your workplace because they don’t have years of bad habits and deeply ingrained opinions to get in the way of being flexible. 

5. Sparking innovation

Workers who have been in the same profession for a long time, especially when they’ve stayed at the same company for a while, can get into a rut of thinking the same way in every situation. This may even cause a team to be rife with groupthink, which can make an organization stagnant. By hiring people with potential rather than experience, you have the opportunity to inject fresh life and innovation into your organization. These workers haven’t had the opportunity to conform to more traditional ways of working in your industry.

6. Increasing retention

When you hire workers for potential, they come into your organization with a sense of enthusiasm and a willingness to learn and grow. If you are able to effectively tap into this excitement by providing professional development opportunities, you will not only help to nurture the next generation of professionals in your field, you will also cultivate loyalty in your workers that will increase retention.

7. Connecting with customers

When you add more diversity into your organization, you have the opportunity to learn about different segments of the population—some of which you may want to connect with to add to your customer base. Hiring workers because of their potential increases the chances of bringing different voices to your organization that are able to speak to the needs of people in untapped communities, so you better understand the customers that you may be targeting.

While organizations can find excellent employees by recruiting based on experience alone, in order to ensure that they find the best for their company, it may be worth thinking outside the resume and also looking at strong potential. By opening up your candidate pool in this way, you can add many great additions to your team that you may not have discovered otherwise.

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