Home Articles Are you recruiting for knowledge or potential? Here’s why it matters

Are you recruiting for knowledge or potential? Here’s why it matters


Predictions about the future of work point to this: companies need clever and adaptable workers. Who you pick on your team shapes your ability to grow and respond to changing market dynamics.

Technology is disrupting business, but the biggest disruption is more subtle—it comes in the form of new paradigms about: what customers want; what constitutes a product and service; how to deliver experiences; and go-to-market models.

Finding people that will allow you to thrive amidst disruption, also means being willing to take a fresh approach to how you hire.

Recognise technical skill may come second

A report on the skills driving innovative Australian companies found their success hinged on employees with both core professional knowledge combined with broader creative, interpersonal and critical thinking skills.

Prepared by the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA), the report reveals that innovative organisations “…spend substantial time and resources finding and developing the right employees.”

And because broader capabilities are so important, innovative companies often make technical skill a secondary consideration during hiring, which is made feasible by an investment in continuous skills development.

Even highly technical roles need to be filled by people that can communicate and apply their knowledge in collaborative and creative ways, to support teammates and build organisational capacity.

With that in mind, shape your recruitment processes to emphasise the qualities you need that can’t be developed or improved through training or education.

Identify people with promise

People capable of agility in delivering sustained growth and innovation do not simply work hard and complete tasks. Productivity is only beneficial if it delivers meaningful progress.

Potential may or may not go hand-in-hand with education or years of experience. So how you identify promising candidates quickly from a pool of similarly qualified people?

Australian company Revelian believes the answer could lie in games. The company’s game-based psychometric assessment to measure innate cognitive skills,’Cognify’, just won the Serious Games Showcase & Challenge (Australasia) 2016.

Revelian’s CEO, Cherie Curtis, says the future workforce needs strong problem-solvers. “This means ‘expertise’ will not be education based but capability based. In this way, psychometric assessment providing insights to a person’s capability is more important than ever to support hiring the right person,” she says.

“Games naturally provide situations where individuals must work through a set of challenges, trouble shoot, or problem solve to obtain a solution.”

Curtis says the way that game-play allows people to express autonomy in reaching a solution provides richer data that can be combined with psychometric insight to infer their likely performance in other contexts, like the workplace.

According to Hudson’s 2015 report on the state of hiring in Australia, more rigorous screening methods are being used to identify talent more likely to stay and perform—with 40% of the professionals surveyed say psychometric testing is becoming more common.

The report also shows many jobseekers would be happy to avoid traditional recruitment methods: one in three people said they’re open to non face-to-face interviews and most younger workers think cover letters aren’t important.

Pay attention to millennials

Weary of hearing about ‘what millennials want’? The focus is warranted: not simply because they’re digital natives and can magically solve your digital skills shortages.

You need to understand the needs of the workforce’s most dominant generation. Millennials in the US workforce already outnumber other generations and a report commissioned by workforce management company Kronos found millennials are expected to make up 75% of the Australian workforce by 2025. You’ll need them to fill your leadership ranks.

Just because they’ve grown up using computers doesn’t mean they’re coders or data scientists. What it does mean is that the prevailing attitudes and preferences of your employees may not reflect your own.

Deloitte’s Millennial Survey 2016 shows this generation are skeptical of the intentions of big business, want their work to have purpose, aren’t afraid of switching jobs and won’t wait around to have their talent recognised or nurtured.

This knowledge should influence your employer brand—focus on how your product or service makes a positive difference and how you prioritise employee wellbeing and growth.

It should also influence your recruitment processes—use technology to streamline and make each step meaningful or risk losing them to a more innovative employer.

Hire for sustained innovation

The kind of potential that matters most to your company will vary, but most people in most roles need to be able to work co-operatively, learn and unlearn behaviours and skills critical to success, generate and evaluate ideas, and move at the speed of change.

Experience and skill do matter, but don’t necessarily outweigh a person’s innate ability to use their minds well, manage their emotions well and direct their energy where it’s needed most to meet your strategic goals.

Attracting employees that will see you through disruption may require disrupting your own internal processes around identifying needs, mapping competencies across teams and evaluating talent. Refocus your efforts on finding people that will thrive in an evolving business environment.

Jody McDonald is a creative communicator who writes about digital disruption and the future of work. Her career has focused on helping organisations find ways to genuinely connect with audiences, build trust and positively influence people to change or take action.

Jody McDonald
Jody McDonald