Potential pays in modern hiring

6 min read | Harry Gooding | Article | Recruiting | Emerging skillsets

modern hiring

Finding the right fit for your organisation is an increasing challenge. The employment landscape refuses to stand still; ongoing skills shortages, economic uncertainty, disruptive technology, and evolved workplace expectations all paint a complex picture when sourcing talent.

A candidate’s experience may seem the most important consideration, but fierce competition and rapidly evolving ways of working are calling for more strategic hiring approaches. One of which: hiring for potential, rather than existing skillsets.

It’s a candidates’ market, right now, so rather than paying ever higher salaries to access those in-demand, talented candidates, why not invest in lesser-skilled individuals whose attitude for learning is high? Better yet, upskill from within. Your investment in their career growth may even bolster their loyalty to your organisation.

Look for the long-term picture with future candidates

It’s no secret that the current job market is incredibly competitive; 93% of organisations faced skills shortages last year, according to our Salary & Recruiting Trends 2023 guide. In response, almost three-quarters (72%) of the employers we surveyed said they would be willing to hire someone without all the necessary skills.

Organisations are recognising the need to hire more broadly, looking past certain CV shortcomings and hard-skill requirements to secure professionals with other desirable attributes: from problem-solving to adaptability. Moreover, soft skills such as these will only become more valuable as artificial intelligence (AI) shapes the future of work, and more niche skills fluctuate in relevance.

Proven experience can be a comforting safety net, but it doesn’t guarantee that a person will be suitable for a role – either today or in the future. Industry tenure and educational attainment may look impressive on paper, but won’t always align with the specific needs of your organisation, or even the current market you find yourself in. With experience usually demanding higher wages, ignoring potential could be a costly mistake.

Cultivate a diverse workforce

While there’s already a strong business case for assessing a candidate’s potential, the cultural impact could be equally important. Increasingly, employees are looking for organisations that demonstrate a diverse and inclusive culture, with fair recruitment practices playing no small part in this. Our latest salary guide revealed that two-thirds (66%) of employees believe it’s important that an organisation has taken steps to mitigate bias in their recruitment selection process.

While diverse hiring is a multi-faceted effort, giving greater consideration to potential will naturally broaden your candidate pool, potentially unlocking undiscovered talent pools and attracting new voices to your organisation.

How do you hire for potential?

Hiring for potential could be a smart long-term investment, but what does it look like in practice? Here are a few points to consider:

  • Don’t be overly prescriptive in your job ads – an endless ream of requirements, coupled with jargonistic language, could deter promising applicants from wider backgrounds. Understand the role you’re hiring for and what’s truly needed, vs what can be learned on-the-job.
  • Trained assessors can deploy behavioural exercises and aptitude testing when identifying high-potential professionals. This might focus on ‘core’ skills (sometimes known as ‘soft’ skills), with our surveyed employers highlighting the need for communication and interpersonal skills, the ability to adopt change, flexibility and adaptability, and problem-solving.
  • Use technology to finetune the selection process – online assessment tools can help identify talented individuals that may not have typical backgrounds or experience. Advances in AI will allow organisations to augment their recruitment and analyse huge volumes of applicants, but beware of bias creeping into hiring algorithms.
  • Have the right training mechanisms to support less-experienced staff. Employees already have an appetite for self-improvement; embedding a learning culture – and empowering your people with the knowledge they need to stay relevant – will only enhance retention and attract more talent. 

If you’re looking to develop a sustainable and diverse pipeline of talent, we’ll work with you to develop your very own skills academy; a way for you to nurture the exact talent your organisation requires from the ground up.

Finding a balance

In reality, finding the right person for the job is not a binary decision; potential and experience are often inextricably linked, and hiring managers will still need to consider how the two support a candidate’s suitability.

In some cases, experience may even be a necessity. Certain roles require a candidate to hit the ground running with little time for immediate training. Additionally, you may require a professional with the industry tenure and proven experience needed in a leadership role, or one with highly technical responsibilities.

Despite emerging tech’s disruption of the status quo, recruitment today remains a distinctly human process. There may be no such thing as ‘the perfect fit’ for your organisation, but instead people with the desire to learn new skills, and the character to overcome new obstacles. While we may be weathering a skills-short job market, recent years have shown the capacity for individuals, organisations, and communities alike to reinvent themselves in the face of unexpected challenges. Don't disregard that human potential when looking to fill your next vacancy.

If you're interested in unlocking undiscovered talent, and hearing how our academy programmes can benefit your organisation, email us at skills@hays.com today.


About this author

Harry Gooding - Director, Hays Skills & Learning

Harry is part of Hays Skills & Learning, a new business in the Hays portfolio, supporting our customer network to develop skills development programmes that open up employment opportunities to ‘undiscovered talent’ communities. After beginning his career in recruitment, he then worked in VC backed start-ups and scale-ups for six years across two different portfolios before joining Hays.

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