3 Quick Tips For Improving Your Hiring Decisions

Be leery when someone says "this person is full of potential."
Be leery when someone says "this person is full of potential." (Flickr)

Have you seen this person?

His picture isn't on the side of a milk carton. No amber alert has been issued. No search party has been organized.

But we're all looking for that young star with latent ability ... graduated summa-something, has a brief-case full of recommendations, and was voted most likely to succeed. He was a no-brainer hire. We even paid a little more to make sure he didn't slip away.

Today, we can't find him. That young, sure-to-be-a-star had so much potential. Where is he?

Ah, that word ... potential.

Hiring on potential is about as fruitless as drilling for oil in the Rockies. I cringe at the word potential. I make paper airplanes out of reference letters who describe a candidate as "full of potential."

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A candidate beaming with potential hasn't done anything, yet. I don't hire on "yet." I much prefer to hire on "did."

When we speak of what a candidate might do in the future we must base our conclusions on something more specific than potential. A bright (as measured by inflated GPAs in which 3.0 is simply average) young candidate with a new degree and no relevant leadership experience in school, has only demonstrated an ability to perform as a student. If you are hiring candidates to attend your training program, perhaps we could speak of potential to do well in training.

Effective leaders hire candidates with a track record of success. The best predictor of future success is past performance. Predictions don't always work out, but at least, the probability of success is improved.

For your consideration, I offer three quick tips for improving the early success of your future leaders. I will assume you hire based on a track record of success:

1. If you have a training program, make sure there is immediate accountability. Train for a culture of accountability. Define metrics. Keep score. Hold accountable.

2. Assign a project with a tight deadline. Young talent has been trained to think in semester length deadlines. Wean graduates away from the comfort of a 14-week deadline. Make expectations clear and design the project to be completed by the individual rather than a team. Define metrics. Keep score. Hold accountable.

3. Require your new hire to make a presentation to your senior team. Require a written report to support the presentation. We don't hire young people who have potential to write and speak well someday. Good speaking and writing is THE greatest hall pass. Define metrics. Keep score. Hold accountable.

As I frequently visit hospital nurseries to see the gift of God to church families, I stare through the nursery window and think of the great potential in the room. 

But please don't ask me to hire any of the cute babies.

They haven't done anything yet.

 "But do you want to be shown, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? Do you see how faith worked with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? The Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness," and he was called the friend of God. You see then how by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" (James 2:20-24).

Dr. Steve Greene is the publisher and executive vice president of the media group at Charisma Media and executive producer of the Charisma Podcast Network. His book, Love Leads: The Spiritual Connection Between Your Relationships and Productivity, is now available.

Leaders, Dr. Greene wants to help you understand the spiritual connection between relationships and productivity. Read his new blog, Love Leads.

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Dr. Steve Greene is now sharing stories, teachings, and conversations with guests who lead with love on Love Leads, a new podcast. Listen now.


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