Recruiting For Potential

Posted by Mai Ly

In today’s job market demand for talent is far outstripping supply, and this is no different for us in the grad recruiting world. Despite this, AAGE and Grad Hero Hub both report that only 3% of all applicants are offered a graduate position. If you’re finding yourself falling short of hiring goals or facing reneges it is probably time to reevaluate your hiring criteria and assessment process for that remaining 97% of candidates, asking yourself whether you’re hiring talent, as well as recruiting for potential.  

Take Off the Rose-Tinted Glasses 

It's easy to be charmed by the sweet talkers and dazzled by the accolade-clad resumes, but the reality is that candidates who may not come across as well-spoken or polished may still meet your technical skill and proficiency levels for the role. By disqualifying these candidates too early in the process you’re simply limiting your talent pool.  

Example Scenario 

You are hiring to fill a graduate position for a Financial Analyst for your small-medium sized company. You are deciding between these two final candidates. 

Candidate ACandidate B

Studying: Bachelor of Commerce & Law (Double Degree) at a large, well-known university

  • Very well-spoken and confident in their interview 
  • Multiple academic awards and scholarships 
  • Say that they would be interested and open to pursuing a career in finance and contributing to the company’s future 
  • Engaged in several law-related extracurricular activities in addition to commerce societies 
  • Previously interned at one of the Big 4 firms 

Studying: Bachelor of Commerce at a smaller university

  • Communicated well in their interview but is more reserved 
  • Mentioned a keen interest to learn and develop ones self further 
  • No accolades but good, consistent grades 
  • Interested in pursuing a career in accounting or finance 
  • Engaged in activities with the commerce society 
  • Previously interned at a small independent specialised finance firm 

In this scenario, it may be very tempting to go with Candidate A over B for their accolades and big name background. But reality is that Candidate B is just as good, if not a better choice, because of their highly specialised experience and focus in the field. You should also be looking at who will be the most likely to stay in your company with indications that they are truly motivated and interested to pursue a career path that the role is offering. Meanwhile Candidate A might choose to accept your offer as a safety net, only to pull out later when they get multiple offers from bigger companies for both law and commerce related roles.

Back to the Essentials 

One of the things you can do to help yourself narrow it down is to go back to asking the simple questions: 

  • Are your assessment tools on point?
    • What are you really assessing for? 
    • Will a coding test or technical test too early in the process cause candidates to self-disqualify?  
  • What skills are really required for someone to start at your company?
    • What skills are required for the specific role? Remember that when you are recruiting someone for an entry-level role, no experience should be expected!  

Be Open-Minded 

Finally, it’s important to remain open-minded during the recruitment process and not let factors such as unconscious cultural bias come through: 

  • Don’t be prejudiced between different universities or educational institutions 
  • Be aware of the range in socio-economic backgrounds – not everyone will have the privilege of having a mentor from a professional or corporate environment 
    • Behaviours of a workplace can be learnt on the job with good coaching and setting up expectations 
  • A person who has faced repeated rejection is potentially less likely to renege  
  • Don’t just take a candidate at face value, but consider their future potential  

Reevaluate your hiring criteria and assessment process, remove unconscious bias, and start recruiting for potential. 

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