Finding High Potential Employees

Hiring is usually focused on finding high potential employees. Securing such employees gives companies obvious advantages that can transform workplaces, drive increased profits, and make an employer a go-to destination for other talent.

Committing to a hiring system that promotes and encourages selecting new employees with great potential needs to be embedded into business plans. Business leadership needs to champion such initiatives and commit the right resources to ensure success.

What does it take to secure new employees with potential? It comes down to knowing what to look for during the hiring process. Here are a few tips:

  • Well-placed ambition. Employees that make an impact have a drive and ambition for success. However, that success needs to be focused on the success of the company not the individual. Well-placed aspirations provide motivation not only for employees, but also those who work with and for them.
  • Business knowledge. High potential employees are those who have insights, deep knowledge, and mastery of the business. If they are new to the industry their skills should be transferable and translatable to the new profession. Knowledge can come in many forms. For one, it can be technical knowledge, with mastery of a needed and valued skill set. In other cases, knowledge comes from an in-depth understanding of the industry, the work to be done, and achieving the company’s vision.
  • Professional respect. While it may be difficult to gauge, it’s important to determine during an interview process whether a candidate has the respect of peers, supervisors, customers, or board members. Influence and potential often are driven by the perception of others in an employee’s abilities.
  • Collaboration. You want to hire someone who plays nicely with others. Employees in today’s complex business environment need to interact with myriad constituencies. You want someone who has the potential to respect differences, appreciate other viewpoints, and value contributions from all players.
  • Courage. At many points in a worker’s career, he or she will experience situations that require resolve, courage, and grit. Probing about these opportunities, and how candidates have responded to them is vital.

Internal politics can often derail finding and promoting great candidates if they are perceived as threats by a hiring manager.

What gets in the way of finding candidates with potential? A recent Harvard Business Review article noted that often office politics can get in the way. They identify six aspects of corporate culture that can harm selection of great new employees:

  1. Intuition. Intuitive judgments are common in hiring can often derail a search. Companies need to identify objective assessments along with subjective evaluations.
  2. Self-interest. Promoting or hiring talented employees can be perceived as threatening to managers insecure about or lacking confidence in their own talents.
  3. Avoidance. Employees who are averse to conflict often go with the safe choice when making a hiring decision, avoiding conflicts with other employees or hiring committees.
  4. Favoritism. Often there is a bias – either for or against – known candidates. Past performance and impressions can flavor a hiring decision adversely by placing too much stock or not enough in what a candidate has done and could potentially achieve.
  5. Ageism. Companies often are biased towards younger employees and candidates, especially if they perceive potential as a way to develop leadership pipelines to combat anticipated departures via new jobs or retirements.
  6. Gender. Like ageism, gender bias is an unfortunate reality at too many companies today. Bias, especially against women, often derails careers that are perceived as being “distracted” by important choices around raising children.

Avoiding potential pitfalls, developing objective assessments, and cluing in on key attributes are important factors for companies wanting to fill positions with great candidates with lots of potential.

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