The Advantage of Hiring For Potential

Most of the searches that we conduct require candidates who have already been successful in the role. They can “hit the ground running.” However, there is evidence that hiring for potential has benefits as well.


An article by Dr. Heidi Grant points out an interesting study revealing that we naturally have an unconscious propensity to prefer someone with potential over someone who has already achieved success.

Healthcare professional reading a document


Hiring a candidate who has a proven track record is a more reliable prediction of success, but it has its challenges. The candidate with a proven track record may have to be open to accepting a lateral move, typically have to relocate, receive little or no salary increase and start over with benefits and vacation accrual.


In this scenario, we have to think about the reasons a candidate would accept a lateral move. What does the company have to offer that would attract a candidate with a proven track record? Often it can be the location or the reputation of the facility. Perhaps there are interesting projects such as building a new facility, starting a new service line, or succession planning.

Concerns Expressed by Executive Candidates

Hiring someone who has potential also has its challenges. While it is an opportunity for someone ready for their next step, there is a level of prediction that comes into play. If their background shows strong evidence of potential, the outcome may be worth the risk. Hiring and mentoring someone has several advantages:

Both methods work. Having the choice between a “Plug and play” candidate and a “potential” candidate can create a level of skepticism from colleagues who may not want to take a chance. However, Leaders who take a chance are confident and willing to be the “hero or the goat” based on the performance of the new hire who had potential.


What has been your experience?