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Hiring is hard. But hiring the right people for your business is next-level challenging. It can feel like looking into a crystal ball to predict the futurewhich one of these candidates will perform best on the job? Can they learn new things quickly and grow with the company?

The truth is, you don’t need a crystal ball to tell you who’s right for the job. You can use science and research to predict job success. And with a defined and well-structured hiring process, you can double your chances of finding that hidden gem. To do this, you first need to open yourself up to the possibility of hiring for potential. And that starts with understanding what potential is, and how different it is from readiness. 

What is potential?

Potential is defined as a person’s capacity to accomplish something down the road based on the qualities and skills they already own.  It’s about how they handle complicated information, learn new things, and how they think on their feet. In the hiring world, potential is about predicting which candidates will end up succeeding in a given role, based on the data available to you. 

So how to see whether a candidate has potential or not? One of the best ways to measure this is through logical ability assessments and personality assessments (more on this below). 

What factors predict employee performance?

When recruiting, the onus is on you to determine whether a candidate has what it takes to excel in your open position. But when you’re faced with a mountain of CVs and dozens of interviews, it’s easy to feel uncertain what to look for.

Key predictors of job performance differ from position to position. And while every job family will have a unique set of soft skills and hard skills that you’ll need to watch out for, there are stable factors you can employ when predicting employee performance.

The methods that best predict job performance include:

  • Logic reasoning assessment - This type of assessment evaluates a candidate’s logical ability. In other words, how well can the candidate process complex information and draw accurate conclusions from it? Research shows how this type of general mental ability assessment has a high validity rate, and is therefore effective.

  • Personality assessment - This type of assessment looks at how well a person can assimilate, communicate, and deal with different social situations in a work context. One of the most accurate personality assessments is based on the Five Factor Model (agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, emotional stability, and openness to experience), which is widely considered the most valid and evidence-based model of personality.

  • Structured interviews - In structured interviews, candidates get asked the same set of questions consistently, and there is a criteria system to assess how well they respond. Interestingly, research shows that structured interviews can predict an employee’s performance by 26%, and are generally much more effective than unstructured interviews.

  • Case study - A case study is an exercise that tests a candidate’s technical skills and knowledge. These types of evaluations help recruiters understand how candidates will perform in the role, as well as help them measure key skills and traits in scenarios related to the position they’ll be doing.

What doesn’t predict job success?

Just as it’s useful to understand what predicts job success, it’s equally useful to understand what doesn’t.

  • First impressions
  • Hiring with your gut
  • Trick questions
  • Affinity bias
  • Education
  • CV’s

Using candidate assessments to hire the right person

One of the best ways to understand whether a candidate is right for the job is to use a candidate assessment tool

Through logic reasoning and personality assessments you can test a range of factors like logical ability, conscientiousness, extraversion and emotional ability. This enables companies to find candidates that best match their job criteria and shortlist applicants for the interview. 

The case for candidate assessments is clear. When used right, and early in the hiring process, detailed data about candidates can be applied to hiring decisions. Moreover, using a digital tool helps companies speed up their hiring process, which saves administrative time compared to screening applicants manually.

Potential versus readiness: which is more important in hiring?

In a perfect world, finding a candidate who knows their job inside out but still has the motivation to grow and build upon their existing skills is the ultimate dream. But often this is simply not feasible. In these instances, it’s important to understand whether to hire for potential versus readiness. This means deciding what ratio of potential versus readiness you need to look for in your candidate.

When it makes sense to hire for potential
When looking at a candidate’s potential, you have to really do a deep dive into this person and understand how their abilities and skills can be adapted to the role and your company. 

Generally speaking, people who have a fantastic work ethic, positive attitude, are great at communication and stick to deadlines, have the potential to really excel in a position. They are also generally more open to being trained and are likely to become high-performers.   

The reward for hiring for potential and attitude is big! It opens you up to a larger candidate pool, and it allows you to tap into a more diverse and creative talent pool. However, not every company is ready to hire for potential exclusively. Also, it depends on how technical and senior the job isthis is where hiring for readiness comes in handy. 

When it makes sense to hire for readiness
Readiness looks at whether an individual can perform right in the moment when you need them to. Hiring managers look at a candidate’s readiness to hit the ground running, based on their knowledge and past work experience. This is often captured through work sample tests, CVs and work history to different degrees. 

An experienced candidate generally requires less training and hand-holding at the beginning. They’re also more likely to outgrow the position if there’s not a clear path for career advancement. For some positions this is fine, but for others, it can get problematic, particularly if your employee retention rates are already in trouble. 

Hiring for readiness particularly makes sense if your company doesn’t have the time, money, or expertise to offer in-depth training. Also, very technical roles usually require significant experience.

But context also matters. At startups, hiring for potential generally makes more sense, as people are required to wear multiple hats and have a full range of transferable skills to bring to the table. In this setting, a person with fifteen years of experience in a corporate position might struggle to adjust to smaller, more agile and nimble environments, and vice versa.

How automation helps identify a candidate’s potential
Now that you understand the merits of hiring for potential, how to actually streamline your hiring process and find those candidates with the most promise?

This is where automation comes in. Ideally, you should try and automate as much of your hiring processes as possible, including having an ATS or an automated evaluation platform like candidate assessments. This allows you to save precious time on admin tasks and instead invest that time in interviews with shortlisted candidates.

Your hiring process could look like this:

  • Have a system in place for attracting a wide range of candidates quickly - an ATS works wonders for sorting through a large volume of applications at once. 
  • Do assessments as early as possible to shortlist candidates -Candidate assessments are much better at predicting future job performance than CVs and cover letters alone.
  • Run structured interviews - Try and aim for two structured interviews, and have a fixed set of questions and a scoring system in place to evaluate candidates equally.
  • Give work sample tests - These practical tests are invaluable in showcasing whether the candidate can perform on the job or not. These exercises can be adapted and scaled depending on the position. 

Final say

Hiring today is less about finding that one perfect candidate, and more about being honest about what it takes for a candidate to do a particular job. Next, it’s about finding candidates with the right mixture of experience and potential to take on the role head on. And finally, it’s about automating as much of you hiring processes as possible, so that it’s easier than ever to find those hidden gems in your talent pool