The Art and Science of Identifying High Potential Talent

The art and science of identifying high potential talentAs government job reports continue to show more consistency, a clearer picture of our post-recession labor market is emerging.  One critical finding is a shortage of talent to address skilled labor needs at any level, for today and tomorrow.  From degreed, “fresh-out-of college” engineers to seasoned CFOs, high quality talent will become more and more difficult to find.  To win the war for top talent, the hiring process needs to center on pipeline building as well as a laser-like focus on hiring the right talent for your organization.

There has always been an art and a science to talent acquisition.  The science element of recruiting is improving through the use of higher quality assessments, better trained and more skilled corporate recruiting teams, access to a wider candidate base through social media tools, and better metrics and Key Performance Indicators.  Yet, there is often too little attention paid to the art side of the equation.

In recruiting, we have historically viewed previous performance as the best, if not only, way to measure potential.  However, that theory does not explain why after hiring executive after executive, scientist after scientist, or engineer after engineer with “all the boxes checked” on past performance, these individuals still do not meet high potential expectations.  As hiring becomes more difficult, personality and other behavioral data are becoming more critical to the process.

In addition to looking at a candidate’s track record—which is still very important—there are several other characteristics to examine when searching for new talent.  Flexibility and learning ability should be examined throughout the recruiting process by both those around the position (supervisors, team mates, subordinates) as well as outside experts who are not biased by history or relationships.  Having a candidate with a track record of learning ability and success in a variety of organizational environments, industries, and cultures is perhaps more important than a candidate who has all the boxes checked for education, industry, years of experience, and titles. 

Also, keeping a watchful eye on a candidate’s behavior throughout the hiring process can be enlightening.  Is the candidate calm under pressure, resilient, or competitive?  Are they self-aware, do they have a sense of humor, are they engaging, or inspiring? 

It is also a good idea to assess whether your team feels inspired by the candidate and your outside advisors see him or her as a fit, as well as whether the candidate has impressed up and down your organizational chart during the selection process.  Asking these types of questions of your hiring manager and the HR team during the recruiting process, as well as other critical players in your organizational chart and your outside advisors (such as accountants, external search professionals, lawyers, coaches, bankers, customers, and suppliers), will help you pick up on those intangibles that you can’t get from pure “check the box” recruiting. 

If you are persistent with both the science and the art of talent acquisition, you will hire solid talent with great potential.  These high potential employees give you the upper hand in a competitive market to drive your business, your people, and your profits to new heights.

For questions or to discuss this topic in more detail, contact our Human Capital Resources group at 215.441.4600.