So you’re having trouble finding the perfect candidate? Well, so is everyone else…

It’s no secret that there’s a ‘talent war’ happening right now – especially in the tech industry. Although, today I heard it referred to as ‘an arms race for talent’, so I’m not sure what the correct analogy is, but I think we all get the idea: the biggest hiring problem right now for most organizations is finding good, talented people with the right level of experience, and who also fit the company culture.

But don’t fret, I know the solution to this problem, and it can be summed up in three simple words:


What does this mean?

It means that instead of hiring a candidate because he/she has successfully performed a similar role in the past, you hire a candidate because you believe that he or she has the right attitude, skill set and fundamental understanding of the position to be successful in the future (even if they’ve never actually held the same position before). Now, I know you’re probably thinking: “That’s the solution? That’s not revolutionary at all – it’s simple!” And my answer to you would be, “No, it’s not simple as you may think.”

You see, by moving away from the ‘old school’ hiring philosophy of qualifying top candidates by trying to determine “has this candidate done it before?” towards a new hiring philosophy of determining “does this candidate have the potential to do it?”, you’re essentially changing your hiring culture. And, as most seasoned business people know, changing the culture of any organization is a very challenging task and it takes time, strong leadership, and support from the top. Further, companies will need to commit to investing time and resources to ensure the candidate will have enough training, support and mentorship to be successful in the position.

The next Wayne Gretzky?

I was at lunch today with a fellow industry recruiter and we were discussing the topic of hiring on potential and he came up with the obvious (yet eye opening) comparison to the sports industry. He commented that by hiring on potential, you’re essentially hiring your ‘draft picks’ that have a good chance of becoming your best players in 2 – 3 years’ time. Think about it – this is true for any professional sport and it works! Whether it’s the NHL, NFL, MLB, NBA, rugby, soccer etc., there are many examples in which the draft picks came in with no ‘big league’ experience, yet, have totally transformed entire teams within a few years to win a championship.

New Dog = New Tricks

By hiring on potential, not only will you have more candidates to choose from, but you’ll also have highly motivated employees. Have you ever heard the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. It’s an old expression that applies perfectly to this topic: by hiring on potential, you’re essentially hiring a ‘puppy’ that, with enough training, support, and mentorship, will learn as many tricks as your throw at it. Further, your ‘puppy’ will be more motivated because they will encounter more challenges (which is a natural motivator for most people) and be more eager to impress and prove themselves to others.


Don’t get stuck in the ‘old-school’ philosophy of hiring on experience. Keep an open mind and try looking for someone that doesn’t necessarily have the level of experience you’re looking for, but is talented and fits the company culture. By taking this approach, your talent pool will be much deeper and you might hire the next Wayne Gretsky.

Footnote:  If you’re not Canadian, then you may not know who Wayne Gretzky is. In short, he’s often referred to as “the greatest hockey player ever” and more information about him can be found here.

Leave a comment

View comments