Hiring for potential is the new recruitment hack for 2023

Is hiring for potential the secret to securing candidates?

It’s time to consider hiring people based on potential, not experience.

If you operate a small business, you’ve probably noticed that the labour market is smaller than it used to be. Not only are there fewer people available for open jobs (with “Help Wanted” signs put up all over the country), but the people applying for those jobs tend to not be as qualified as their predecessors.

If you have an open position, and you’re having trouble finding someone you need, now is a great time to rethink the parameters that you use to hire. It is time to think about hiring for *potential* and not only based on experience.

What do businesses usually look for when hiring?

Businesses typically look at three distinct things when trying to figure out who to hire. They look at experience, including how long someone has worked in the field. They look for skills, including whether or not someone knows how to do the tasks the job requires. Then they look at potential – the likelihood the person is going to thrive in the role.

Potential is typically last because of the long-held belief that an applicant’s potential is implied by experience and skills. But, even before the labour market tightened, many savvy organizations realised that the way they viewed applicants may have been wrong. That “potential” may be as important, if not more important, than other hiring factors.

What do we mean by “hiring for potential?”

When we talk about potential, we’re talking about a person’s intangibles, such as:

  • How hard-working a person is.
  • How well they’re going to fit into the business’s values and culture.
  • How personable they are, and how they interact with others.
  • How intelligent they seem, and how well they learn.

These are all factors that affect whether or not someone will do well in the position.

Why is ‘potential’ better than experience or skills?

An applicant’s experience and skills still matter and should remain a part of the conversation when determining who to hire. But many employers have found that those factors are not necessarily more important than potential. That is because:

  • Not all skills are transferable between companies.
  • Not all roles require a specific number of years to be valuable.
  • Not all personalities fit a particular employer.
  • Not all experience is due to a person’s abilities.
  • Not all “skills” are completed with proficiency.

There are many people that only have experience because of luck or privilege. For example, consider a person that gains 5 years of experience because they were hired by a family friend.

On the other hand, there are many people that work with technology that is constantly changing or has countless features, and how they work with programs or tasks at one company may not be the same at another.

There is even an argument to be made that someone with experience may be more rigid in their beliefs, or less able to work with others.

Everyone has to learn, and everyone has to grow

Imagine a person that came from nothing as part of a marginalised group. They had to work as hard as possible to get to where they are today and have succeeded. Because of their background, they may not have as many years of experience because they have not been given as many opportunities. They may not even have all the skills that are needed for the role for the same reason.


  • They are a good cultural fit;
  • Skills can be learned;
  • The person has shown a readiness to work hard; and,
  • They come from different backgrounds, allowing for more diverse viewpoints.

The person may not have as much experience, and may not even have all the skills, but their potential is off the charts. Similarly, you might consider recent graduates, or people seeking to completely change their career after a lifetime in another industry, as candidates with loads of untapped potential.

The onboarding process might be a bit longer, but the payoff would be remarkable.

Is hiring for potential worth the risk?

Choosing to hire for potential can completely transform your existing recruitment process. It opens the door to traditionally overlooked people that may offer even more for your business than the traditional model of skills- or experienced-based recruiting. It’s something many businesses have been forced to do as a result of the tight labour market, but its advantages have always been there for those that take the chance.

But how does a company hire for potential?

  • Consider whether “years of experience” is critical to your job opening – there is little functional difference between 1 year of experience and 10 years of experience for many jobs. Consider accepting applications from anyone with any level of experience.
  • Learn about the person – give the applicant an opportunity to share something about themselves, through a cover letter or by answering questions. Don’t limit your candidates to merely a CV.
  • Focus on cultural fit and intangibles at the interview – the job interview is your chance to learn as much as you can about the candidate. Make sure that you’re asking questions that indicate their potential to grow.

There are many advantages to taking a chance on an applicant based on their potential, not just their CV. It is in the best interests of businesses throughout Australia to consider opening the door for adjusting how they hire new people, in order to spot these potentially better candidates.

For more information on how we find candidates suited for your job, contact Recruit Shop, today.


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