The Sales Development Blog

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The Case for Hiring for Potential: 5 Factors to Consider

The pressure is on: your company is growing, so you’re hot on the recruiting trail looking for the dream inside sales candidate to help propel your organization to the next level. You know, the one with the perfect combination of skills and experience who will step into a position and take off running. Unfortunately, that winning combination is not always out there – or, the right person might not be available at the right time. Before you embark on a costly and time-consuming hunt for perfection, think about hiring for potential. Consider the bigger picture when it comes to talent and recruitment, particularly with regard to aptitude and ability. Set aside past experience and mastery of skills. Look for what may be instead of what is.

A 2012 Stanford University and Harvard Business School study found that participants actually favored candidates with high potential versus those with who have already achieved the exact things that high-potential candidate could only potentially achieve. Fishbowl, an inventory management software company based in Utah, hires strictly based on potential and has achieved record growth of 70 percent over the past three years with a workforce made up of first-timers and great learners. But it’s no secret that hiring for potential can be a risky proposition in the same way that drafting a rookie is a risk—you’re investing in an unproven commodity. The trick is to select the right candidate based on factors like values, work ethic, grit, long-term career goals, and curiosity.

Will hiring for potential work for your organization? Every recruitment situation is different, but here are a few factors to consider when deciding whether hiring for potential might make sense for your company:

  • Tight labor market: The perfect candidate just might not be available at the right time. That means you should consider shifting your focus to the available candidates, specifically the ones with potential to learn fast and go far. Dig deeper than what appears on the resume. When a down economy leads to a surplus of candidates competing for jobs, don’t underestimate the impact that enthusiasm and competition can have as employees work to gain experience and make a positive contribution to the team.
  • Unique culture: Startups and other unconventional companies should seek to curate an out-of-the-box work culture to match. If your company differs from the standard in some way, it’s best to find candidates who will fit in from a personality perspective. From there, you’ll have the ability to teach and train them in the ways of your business. Less experience means you won’t have to fight to undo set habits, and you’ll have an easier time molding these candidates into model employees for your company.
  •  Financial constraints: Not every company can afford the high salaries of best-in-class talent. This is especially true of young companies or organizations in transition. Instead of longing for someone who is out of reach, find the up-and-coming candidates who will thrive in your environment. The right hire is a solid investment for your bottom line.
  • Time constraints: While every position deserves a thorough talent investigation, sometimes a position must be filled immediately. This isn’t a bad thing – with a little planning, you can alter the goals of your search to target a candidate who can grow into the position. To do this, your interview process should focus on potential, not on the past.
  • Highly specialized job/role: When you need to fill a very specialized position, it may not be possible to find someone with the exact set of skills you need. But you can hire for aptitude, knowing that you can train and mold a great candidate into a stellar employee.

There are times when hiring for experience is necessary, but it’s important to recognize the place for potential in your inside sales recruitment strategy. With the proper training and coaching – and a little mentoring along the way – these candidates can become the leaders that propel your company into a successful future.

For more inside sales career advice read more on the memoryBlue blog. Interested in joining the memoryBlue team? Contact us

Since cofounding memoryBlue in 2002, Chris has helped provide inside sales resources to more than 150 high tech companies, and has hired, placed, or evaluated hundreds of high tech sales professionals. Chris spearheads the memoryBlue recruiting service, and is passionate about developing sales talent that generates results.

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