top of page

Hiring in Tech: Potential Over Experience

Updated: Nov 27, 2018

Experience or potential, what's more important?! Sometimes, a candidate's potential proves to be more valuable to a company than experience. This article by Forbes breaks down the importance of considering potential when hiring in tech.

By Abdullah Snobar, Forbes

June 15, 2018, 08:00am

The Japanese word "kaizen" translates to “improvement” or “change for the best.” In business, kaizen refers to the long-term approach of achieving incremental changes in processes in order to improve efficiency and quality of all employees. In the fast-pace world of tech, embracing the kaizen mindset could be the missing link when leading and, more importantly, growing a team.

Companies are always looking to hire top talent to help build and scale their businesses. Through their search, which is often time-consuming and expensive, identifying high-performers by looking at the depth of an applicant's experience has always been the go-to strategy.

However, in the tech sector, experience isn’t everything.

Many up-and-coming technology businesses, especially startups, have small teams (meaning employees are often performing multiple roles). Therefore, hiring candidates who can grow and develop into taking on more complex, challenging responsibilities is ideal. This creates a need for tech businesses to think long-term and consider potential when hiring.

Simply put, "potential" is defined as the capacity to develop into something great. And according to Harvard Business Review, five critical traits of high-potential candidates are curiosity, determination, engagement, insight and motivation.

Job interviews can be a challenging format to assess a candidate based on these five hallmarks. However, one way an employer can measure potential is to not solely rely on where a candidate currently is in their career but look at how eager they are to work for your business and how hungry they are to help support your company’s mission.

As the executive director of the DMZ, I’ve experienced the difference in having a team with potential over experience. I’ve found that shifting to a team with potential not only gave employees the chance to prove themselves but also fuelled motivation, which helped the organization soar to new heights.

A candidate’s career accomplishments are important and cannot be disregarded, but potential also falls in line with company culture fit. Tech companies present industries with innovation. Therefore, they need to create a team that doesn’t become intimidated by change or hitting an unbeaten path.

Taking the time to understand the potential of a candidate will help employers overlook a possible character clash. It’s much easier to teach certain technical skills on the job, but the same can’t be said for work ethic.

In fact, a 2015 study released by Leadership IQ, which analyzed the turnover rate of 20,000 new hires, found 46% of them failed within 18 months. What was interesting was that only 11% were fired because they lacked technical skills. The majority of unsuccessful hires were due to a lack of indicators that connect to cultural fit and potential hallmarks such as coachability, motivation and emotional intelligence, to name a few.

Not being able to understand how a candidate's personality fits within the framework of a company culture will have even the most promising tech businesses fall behind due turnover rates, which can subsequently affect a company’s potential.

In order to avoid a mismatch when hiring, many startups, such as Kepler (a DMZ alum), are openly sharing an honest depiction of their office culture, values and what to expect when applying to their companies. Others include Shopify and Hootsuite.

It’s crucial to take the time to get to know a candidate (and vice-versa) during the recruitment process. Experience is important, but it can only go so far. The perfect resume should be a checkmark in a larger list of requirements since potential is the long-term investment needed to grow your team.

That’s why kaizen is so important when recruiting new tech workers. You’re not hiring to just fill a role; you’re hiring to continuously improve efficiency and quality within your company. And the hallmarks of potential -- curiosity, determination, engagement, insight and motivation -- are the pillars to reaching success.


17 views0 comments


bottom of page