Hiring for Potential: How to See the Bigger Picture When Hiring a New Employee

How do you really assess someone’s holistic fitness for a job?

We’re not talking about work history and skills — that stuff is pretty old hat, and often, it’s cut and dried. Instead, we are suggesting that hiring managers should really look for more than just technical qualifications.

But, potential is pretty hard to pin down. How do you really do this in an interview, and when you have a stack of applications staring you down from your desk?

Go Beyond Just the Basics

One of the first steps is to stop working just off of basic technical indicators. Work history and job skills are good indicators, but they’re not the end-all-be-all of hiring. Look for opportunities to find out other things that will help you to make a decision.

Engage the Candidate’s People Skills

What’s ultimately going to be really important is how your chosen candidate works with other people. Sort this out by asking questions about human relationships, or even introducing the person to other people to see how they do. Use your best judgment, and when you have examined the social skills that someone has, you’ll be better able to predict how they’ll work as part of a team.

Ask for Proofs

Confident people often have their elevator pitches cued up for a job interview. But if you don’t ask, you won’t know. Ask and let them tell you, and you’ll have more actionable information on which to make sound decisions about who should get a particular job.


Another good step is to sit back and evaluate candidates as they speak. Follow the ‘Socratic rule’ of letting the applicant talk 70% of the time, and while they’re doing that, look for confidence. Look for poise. Think about what this person sounds like, and how well they impress you. If they impress you, they’ll probably impress other reasonable people, too. So much of hiring is character judgment — it’s not just a technical skill. There is an art to it — and don’t forget to hone that art and practice it as you go about your day. It will help you to enhance your own career and the careers of other people.

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