Identifying the potential in candidates

When hiring new employees, one of the biggest challenges is identifying their future potential. While someone’s CV and interview can demonstrate their experience, it doesn’t reveal how they will develop in the future. For example, a great salesperson may not be a good sales manager because the skills required are very different. When hiring talent for the long-term it’s important to look at their potential to develop skills for future roles. Innovation and strategic thinking are two skills that are important in the modern world of work, but challenging to identify.


Innovation requires a willingness to learn

Innovation can mean stepping out of your comfort zone to deal with an issue, away from your usual route. 

Innovation can mean many things – from risk taking to reinvention. Within large organisations, innovators are often those who challenge the status quo and strive to find new solutions to age-old problems. They’re willing to step outside their comfort zone and are self-motivated to deal with an issue. To challenge whether someone has the potential to be innovative, ask open ended questions about how they dealt with a situation where they didn’t know the answer to a solution. Their response can be quite revealing.

Someone who demonstrates a natural curiosity to learn, leverages networks to address problems and generates creative ideas to resolve an issue is more likely to have the potential to be innovative. Research has found that broader personality traits like being open to new experiences and being feisty are also often linked to innovative and creative thinking.


Strategic thinking is key to leadership

 Strategic thinking involves creative and innovation thinking, and is an indication of good leadership. 

One of the hallmarks of leadership is the ability to be a strategic thinker. This involves looking beyond the daily routine and seeing how to achieve big picture objectives. Strategic thinking also involves identifying potential problems and trends, and helping the organisation prepare for them.

While most people may say they’re strategic thinkers, the best way to identify whether that’s true is to test them out by giving them a problem to solve. This may be something the organisation has already faced or a hypothetical situation. In just a few minutes a candidate should be able to walk through how they would approach the problem and what key factors they’re looking for. A strategic thinker may list out the potential problems, consider how the problem links to the broader organisational strategy and identify key external factors and stakeholders that need to be involved.

When asking interview questions there are also some words that candidates may use to indicate strategic thinking – although self-identifying as a strategic thinker is not one of them. Words to look for include “cross-functional,” “connecting the dots,” “data-driven decisions” and “root cause analysis.” These can help identify people who may think strategically and potentially take on leadership positions in the organisation in the future. Partnering with the right recruitment partner can also help identify innovative and strategic thinkers for your organisation.