Historically, recruiters have emphasized on-paper experience over raw talent, thinking that hires with proven previous success will take less time to get up to speed. However, as industries across the spectrum struggle with talent shortages today, just about every traditional approach to hiring is being questioned – including the prioritization of experience.

Companies as diverse as Southwest Airlines and Zappos have adopted a credential-agnostic approach that focuses less on the bullet points of a resume and more on a candidate’s attitude and aptitude.

If the big names are testing these nontraditional approaches out, it may be time for the rest of us to follow.

Bet on Potential Instead of Resting on Laurels

It’s a foregone conclusion that someone with impressive experience has a lot of talent, right? What about the talented people who haven’t yet had opportunities to earn the same credentials or work at the same prestigious organizations? They have just as much potential – it’s just less obvious during the recruiting process.

Talent is built-in, while experience is earned. The former is internal, while the latter is external. But the talent is ultimately the origin of the success.

For example, take sales professionals. Their personable, approachable personalities allow them to connect with clients, but their desires to chase and close deals are what produce high sales figures. Experience is the result, but talent is the accelerant.

Good salespeople can be trained to do anything, but if they don’t enjoy being in the business of building relationships, they will lose a lot of leads. This illustrates why talent, more than experience, should be the central focus of the recruiting effort.

Looking for individuals who are passionate about the company and the position can alleviate many talent shortages. At the same time, this strategy helps relieve the headaches of onboarding and retention. The experience a new hire lacks quickly materializes once they’re in a role where they can thrive.

Spotting Talent When You See It

One size doesn’t fit all in recruiting, and because talent comes in many shapes and sizes, finding the right fit requires a slightly different approach for every enterprise. Worse still, the indicators of talent are not immediately apparent on a resume or during an interview.

Hiring on the basis of talent is a leap of faith, but it can pay off by producing loyal, driven new employees. Use these four strategies to find candidates with the right kind of talent:

strum1. Listen for the Right Answers

Professionals understand that potential employers see a lack of experience as a red flag. The most talented professionals, however, will find a way to address the issue openly and resolve it convincingly.

Don’t hesitate to bring up a candidate’s lack of experience explicitly during an interview. Then, evaluate the response they give. Remember that willingness will always drive performance more than confidence.

2. Value Soft Skills

A candidate with lots of appealing soft skills and enough of the required hard skills is a great person to connect with. Offering on-the-job training to talented individuals gives a company the opportunity to train and mold new employees into the types of performers it wants.

Southwest Airlines has taken this concept so far that it now begins the recruitment process with a large group interview. Candidates who prove to be engaging and ingratiating move on to the next round.

3. Evaluate Culture Fit

The best candidates are reflections of the organizations to which they’re applying. They may not have decades of achievements to their credit, but they are personally and professionally aligned with the mission and values of the company. These candidates are naturally loyal and enthusiastic, while candidates who clash with the culture are typically obstructionists.

Taking the interview process out of the office and into a more relaxed, dynamic setting can reveal a lot more about a candidate’s culture fit. Talent doesn’t excel only when the spotlight is pointed at them; talented people make positive, productive impacts in countless settings and in countless ways.

4. Solicit Feedback From Unexpected Sources

For example, in order to get a more holistic impression of a candidate, Zappos asks shuttle drivers and personal assistants to provide feedback about the person’s character and demeanor.

Basing a hiring decision primarily on the connection between a candidate and a hiring manager is shortsighted. You should explore how a candidate connects with a variety of people in a number of situations.

The enterprises that enjoy stable growth will not be the ones with glaring gaps in their workforces. Rather, the companies that succeed going forward will be those that give talented workers the chance to prove they can do it.

Gadiel Morantes is the president of Early Growth Financial Services,which addresses the lack of on-demand financial support available to startups. 

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