By: Krystal Freeman on September 1st, 2015

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5 Ways to Best Identify High Potential in Candidates

Employee Relations | Talent Acquisition

Recently, I had a hiring manager contact me and ask me my opinion about a candidate she interviewed.  The manager mentioned the candidate was incredibly nervous during the in-person interview. However, during the initial phone screen I had with the candidate, she was well spoken and confidently provided details of her previous work experience. That said because the hiring manager asked for my opinion, this leads me to believe she saw a candidate with growth potential and an eagerness to learn and trusted my judgment as her recruiting consultant. As hiring managers are you able to “spot” a candidate that could be groomed and developed as a star performer? Let’s explore some of the best ways to identify high potential in candidates.

5 Ways to Best Identify High Potential Candidates When Hiring

  • Aced the Phone Screen: You and/or your recruiter initially speak with a candidate over the phone and they are well spoken, articulates their knowledge and previous experience well over the phone. Additionally, the candidate can provide details of their accomplishments, good reasons as to why they left their previous places of employment and has a resume that shows overall progressive experience.
  • Goal-Oriented Candidate: The candidate has a real plan to further develop themselves professionally. Unfortunately, the standard answer to the question, “Where do you see yourself in the next two years?" is typically “I see myself in a management position”. Yes, that is a good answer, but it’s also very standard. If the candidate mentions that they want to be in management, see if they offer suggestions on how they will be a good manager, train future employees, and/or speak towards company growth.
  • Future Employer Research: Now that you know the candidate is goal-oriented, here's the chance they will impress you with the research they've done on your organization. Are they able to speak about the company as well as about the company’s mission, vision, and values? Additionally, they should be familiar with senior leadership and their roles. This will give you great insight into how resourceful and intentional the candidate is, and may also verify their level of interest in your organization.
  • Yes, the Candidate Can Be Taught!: One sure sign that you are speaking with a candidate who has high potential is if they specifically ask about training and development programs. This shows a willingness to learn. However, be sure to evaluate the candidate’s experience level on what they want to be taught on because you may want him/her to come in with some basic job knowledge. Additionally, if the candidate is willing to add his/her knowledge to programs and services that will train other employees that’s an added bonus.
  • Positive References: The reference check is the last step in the process. If the candidate’s previous managers and other professional references are giving positive feedback this is a very good sign. Of course, always remember that candidates typically give references that they believe will say positive things about them. However, if the candidate is listing all previous managers, this is a good sign that the references will be frank with you.

All five points above are great ways to identify high potential in a qualified candidate.  You should also think about if the candidate will be a good fit for your team as well as the culture of your organization. Unfortunately, team and cultural fit can sometimes be overlooked, but they are just as important as evaluating a candidate’s ability to do a job. You do not want to hire your candidate and then he/she be miserable and not enjoy their time with your organization.

Lastly, don’t settle for a candidate that’s saying all the right things. If your “gut” is saying no or if things they are saying raises a red flag, there is probably a reason this has occurred. Take a little time to review the interview process with your recruiter, HR representative, or another person that has conducted interviews with the candidate. Make a list of qualities you liked and did not like. During this process, you will see what may have potentially gone wrong and identify it before you hire a candidate that is not a good fit.

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