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Potential versus Experience – Why Choose Potential?

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When there is an executive search, the organization usually provides a job description with a list of skills, educational background and experience required for the job. Although this is relevant, recruiters tend to stick to the JDs because of the fact that most companies request the search firms to adhere to their specifications.

There is nothing here except for one thing: this could easily weed out potential candidates.

Before we get any further, what do we mean by potential candidates?

Potential candidates are people with an unrealized ability to develop into something great. They could be undergraduates or inexperienced talents with the right qualities to drive the organization forward.

As mentioned earlier, if we are going to follow strict adherence to the client’s specification, they are first to be eliminated due to the lack of experience or educational background required for the position. We just lost a hidden treasure.

For example, the company is looking for Finance and Administration Manager.

We are paper screening and we have 2 CVs on hand.

The first candidate has a major in Finance and Accounting from a reputable business school and worked for a well-known company for, let’s say, 10 years. Then, we have a second candidate who is a lawyer by profession and worked for a private company for a couple of years now.

In this case, we will root for the first candidate. We will send a regret letter to the second one and schedule an interview for the selected candidate.

Here’s the catch. Based on the psychometric assessment and interviews, you found out the first candidate is an authoritarian type which is against the values of the company. The company values teamwork and consensus something that the second candidate has, but the recruiters didn’t know about it because they didn’t dig deeper.

And it is for this reason that we should choose potential over experience. Yes, the second candidate’s background in law is not a fit for the position. Yes, the second candidate is just a newbie in the finance field. But there are available trainings and seminars that he could attend. He or she could have advisors that could guide him or her along the process. As long as they have the potential, the drive and the passion, they should be given consideration because technical skills can be learned. Leadership and people skills are more innate.

Like the saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Sometimes the cover is just too good to be true.

We are already in this new era where executive recruiters are talent spotting. We are not entirely focused on brawn, brains, experience, or competencies, but on potential. The question here is, apart from having the right skills needed for the position, do they have the potential to learn new ones? Are they flexible enough to face new challenges and keep up with the latest trends?

We should also look at the accurate assessment of their motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement and determination. Sometimes, the candidate has it all, but he or she is not motivated enough to take on the role or the motivation is more “personal” than “professional”.

Recruiters, have you been in this kind of situation? Did you choose potential over experience or the other way around? Why? We would love to hear from you.

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