Why Screening Candidates for Growth Potential Will Make You a Better Recruiter

When looking to fill a role, recruiters sometimes screen out candidates based on shorthand they have developed over the years. The trouble is that this shorthand can be wrong.

For example, in a recent post I talked about a recruiter who told me she didn’t want to talk to candidates who didn’t fit in the salary range, saying it was a waste of her time. She didn’t know that the purpose of the call was both a networking call and a recruiting call. Transactional recruiters think filling a job fast based on price and skills is the end game. Solution-based recruiters think the end game is finding a great candidate who sees the job as a career move.

Instead of screening candidates out based on things like salary, my focus has always been on spending more time with fewer people. That’s how I save time. I also contend that the best candidates are either those you know personally or weak connections. These are the connections of the people you know who have been referred to you. They’re the best because they always call you back and they’re always qualified. You wouldn’t call them otherwise.

It takes about 10 minutes to develop a relationship with these weak connections. After developing the relationship – and if the person is qualified – I discuss compensation. If the job truly represents a career opportunity, the compensation is always negotiable. However, if it is beyond a reasonable range I then ask the person who is the best person she/he ever worked with who would see this job as an opportunity. This is not a waste of time. This is what networking is all about and why it represents how the best people get hired.

After sourcing through referrals or connections, the most important criteria or “shorthand” for me is whether or not a candidate has potential to grow in a role and at a company.

How to determine if a candidate has potential to grow

To determine whether a candidate has growth potential, ask them how they’ve gotten better in each of their last few jobs. If they say by being more efficient raise the caution flag. If the person says it’s by improving the process find out how they improved the process. A manufacturing engineer told me how he led the installation of an automated assembly line that had a return on investment of more than 300% and a cost savings that resulted in payback in four years. A controller told me how she implemented a new budgeting system that allowed each department head to predict their operating expenses 3-6 months in advance. As a result the company learned how to control expenses before they were even incurred.

If that same manufacturing engineer told me he was focused totally on making the existing bad process more efficient, I would be concerned about the his upward growth potential. The same is true if the same controller was just getting the outdated budgeting process prepared more efficiently.

I haven’t quite figured out the human learning aspects of all this yet but I suspect personal growth has to do with a person’s ability to see the bigger picture. This is the impact of the person’s work rather than just the work itself. It seems that when this big picture gets a bit fuzzy personal growth begins to slow down. I suspect this slowdown isn’t permanent, though. Mentors, coaches, teachers and managers who have a different perspective on the world can enable these people to clarify their fuzzy thinking and move to a new level of performance.

Here’s a simple test recruiters and hiring managers can do to determine if you’re putting a lid on the quality of the candidates you’re seeing. First, define the job as a series of performance objectives rather than a list of skills. Then post an ad like this one from Veon Telecomm in Amsterdam and see what happens.

Don’t be surprised that within a few days you start seeing stronger candidates. That’s the power of improving the impact of what you’re doing rather than being more efficient doing what you’re doing.