Does past performance indicate future results? Or does future potential outweigh prior success?

No, we’re not talking about the stock market, we’re talking about something much more valuable; your potential new employee.

Human capital media publication, Talent Economy, recommends recruiters consider the whole candidate, everything from past accomplishments and responsibilities to future potential for skill growth and development.

“. . . Hiring for potential vs. past experience exemplifies an approach (some) companies are taking in today’s business environment,” states an article posted on the company’s website, What’s More Important When Hiring: Future Potential or Past Performance?

“. . . It makes sense for some companies to consider looking beyond simply what a candidate has done in past jobs and instead, focusing on their potential to learn and grow in the future.”

A couple key things to consider when reviewing past performance (or lack thereof):

  • Maxed out. Employers obviously need workers who can perform today’s jobs. However, if candidates’ skills and competencies were maxed out – whether it’s due to their inability to learn or lack of motivation – why would any organization invest time or money in such individuals? It would be like trying to fill up a swimming pool with a gaping hole.
  • Stagnation. Companies thrive on engaged employees who continually evolve their skill sets and thinking to develop next generation solutions. By now, everyone knows that engagement boosts productivity, retention and the bottom line. However, engaged employees are generally those who seek career advancement, expand in their field and fill inhouse skill gaps both today and tomorrow.
  • External factors. Don’t let lukewarm performance in one job, company or industry mask the underlying potential. We all know of at least one person that’s been ill suited for a role, a company that has a toxic culture or an industry that could’ve been difficult to comprehend.

So where do you begin to assess someone’s future?

Take a step back. See the big picture. Who are you attracting? Who are you hiring? Do they share your company values, support growth and compete in nontraditional ways? Do you need to re-draft your hiring profile?

Beyond screening for the basic skills necessary to the role, consider questions that revolve around the candidate’s interests, passions and values. In many cases, this offers greater insight since you’ll probably end up training them on how to perform in the role anyway.

The idea is to select individuals who share the same mindset and naturally exhibit similar behaviors as those who are labeled successful at an organization. Although many skills can be learned and developed, training people to change how they think or act is mission impossible.

Take Workday, an enterprise cloud applications company. It identified six attributes that were most common in its successful employees. Then it crafted interview questions based on those attributes. “These questions are designed to see where candidates share attributes with existing employees so the company can identify their potential for success . . .,” states the article’s author and magazine’s associate editor, Lauren Dixon. “Since some workers may currently lack skills needed for new roles, Workday’s selection process rates the capabilities needed and then uses the same scale and structure throughout the talent lifecycle . . .”

So, the next time a job candidate sits across your desk, focus on the past, present and future. No matter how amazing (or not) the person appears on paper, figuring out where they’ve been and where they’re headed can point you in the right direction.