How to Recruit for Potential

Qualifications, skills and ability do matter, but they are only part of the picture. An often overlooked but hugely important predictor of candidate success in a role – potential!

New research published last week shows that organisations still favour hiring candidates with “gleaming academic records rather than potential”. According to a Cornerstone OnDemand study, 57% of businesses prefer candidates with the prerequisite skills needed to match the job requirements.

While it seems to make sense to choose candidates that ‘meet the job requirements’, we need to be careful we’re not looking through a narrow lens.

Equating ‘prerequisite skills’ with ‘matching job requirements’ isn’t painting a true picture. Recruiting for skills or academic record ignores a huge factor that is a predictor of success in a role – potential.

Tools that can measure for values, behaviours and potential enable recruiters to avoid the pitfalls of these traditional recruitment standards:

1. Recruiting for academic achievement: In recruitment, education is often a proxy for socio-economic class and so using it as a job requirement can lead to bias against certain demographic groups. By leading with academic achievement as a criterion, organisations risk mirroring and perpetuating socio-economic biases within their business, negatively impacting diversity, and missing out on great candidates.

2. Recruiting for prerequisite skills: In early-career and for frontline employees, it’s likely that candidates will have limited skills and experience so using it as a basis for recruitment won’t yield the candidates with the most potential. It also exposes recruitment to bias. For example, on average, women apply for positions when they meet 100% of the required qualifications on a job advert while men are likely to apply when they meet only 60% of those qualifications.

3. Recruiting for ‘cognitive ability’: The Cornerstone OnDemand study finds that a large portion of employers ask candidates to “highlight social qualifications and cognitive abilities”. This is a challenge for two reasons – it’s hard to highlight them if they’ve not been measured against a role, and, cognitive ability is not an accurate indicator of success.

As a study of 100,000 people, published in The Independent found, “instead of a general measure of intelligence epitomised by the intelligence quotient (IQ), intellectual ability consists of short-term memory, reasoning and verbal agility.” Which exposes organisations to bias and negatively affects diversity and social mobility.

All of these three traditional recruitment criteria lead organisations to miss out on hidden gems and offer little to help hiring managers decide on the best person for the role.

Recruiting for potential

Configuring a recruitment process that takes a broad view of behaviours, values, potential, skills and experience will enable you to measure candidates’ potential for future success in your organisation.

Futurist Thomas Frey’s predictions for 55 Jobs of the Future includes Augmented Reality Architects, Alternative Currency Bankers and 3D Printing Engineers – even if you’re not ready to look that far into the future, the value of recruiting for potential over academic record or skills is clear.

Having acknowledged the drawbacks of the narrow focus on academic record, skills and IQ, how can you broaden your approach to fairly and objectively look at the potential of candidates?

The tools to take a broader view

LaunchPad’s recruitment automation platform means recruiters can configure a fair, consistent and engaging recruitment journey that results in more right-fit hires. Recruiters can combine elements including video assessment, SJTs, behavioural assessments and game-based assessment to measure a candidate’s values and skill set as part of a broader view.

Tools like VERIFY, part of LaunchPad’s platform systematically identify and address bias in hiring processes so hiring managers and recruiters can be sure that hiring is fair and objective. Since moving to the LaunchPad platform, many of our clients are now going CV-free to ensure they measure candidates on only the factors that matter.

Qualifications, skills and ability do matter but they’re only part of the picture. Organisations that actively seek out ‘potential’ are future-proofing their hiring strategy by identifying the true predictors of success.