PotentialThe skills gap, millennials, ill-preparedness: what other problems are you facing in today’s talent-sourcing landscape? Seventy-five percent of business and HR leaders are struggling to attract and recruit the people they need — but are those leaders overlooking a crucial candidate trait? Have recruiters and hiring managers forgotten about potential?

According to Fast Company, “companies that don’t recognize employee potential can lose out.” For many a job, chances are that employees will learn most of what they need to know in their new office — not their previous office or even the classroom. Hiring a person who can learn and adapt and who possesses the natural instincts required to perform the job will will always end up better than hiring the candidate that has nothing but “past experience.”

ATS, Ye Be Warned

It’s impossible to tackle surges of online resume submissions without the aid of technology. Your ATS can be a lifesaver, in terms of time and energy saved.

Filtering out those who don’t include the right keywords in their resumes can be a fine way to separate the wheat from the chaff, but what about the people who don’t get through the system when they probably should have? At least 85 percent of resumes in an applicant tracking system (ATS) are discarded. Are you overlooking the right candidates because they didn’t list the exact experiences you were looking for? An ATS can scan for words, but it cannot scan for potential.

What to Look For

Skills can be taught and learned on the job, but an employee’s ability to learn those skills cannot be taught, only built upon.

Hiring for a startup? Try looking for an adaptable learner, someone who can roll with the punches and take initiative to learn new program things with limited training resources.

Filling a customer service position? A positive attitude and an extroverted disposition should be your starting points.

The ‘Skills Gap’ and Those Darn Millennials

Bentley University found more than 50 percent of corporate recruiters rated recent college graduates with a grade of C or lower for preparedness. Many recruiters may wrestle with the skills gap these days, but could hiring for potential be the way to close that gap?

Are you looking for the wrong “skills?” Why not look for something else: the entrepreneur-focused Kauffman Foundation reports that 27 percent of millennials are already self-employed. Millennials are adaptable, creative, and willing to learn — just look at the way many of them master new technologies every month. More than any prior generation, millennials have to learn and handle new technologies and innovations at a constant rate of change. This makes them comfortable with a new processes, new people, and new ideas. With hires like these, you can mold them however you want, instead of fighting the uphill battle of changing their ingrained patterns and behaviors.

Take a Note from Southwest Airlines

When hiring flight attendants, the company looks for attitude, passion, and curiosity, among other traits that are innate and almost unteachable. Joe McKendrick of ZDNet paraphrases Ekaterina Walter, author of Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg, as saying that [f]orward-looking employers, such as Southwest, Apple[,] and Facebook, look for traits not seen on resumes, such as intellectual curiosity and desire to succeed in their particular businesses.”

The Capacity Is There

The fact that an applicant has experience in a certain industry or skill set shouldn’t make them your obvious next choice for a role.

“When hiring I tend to look for passion, intelligence, and ambition. After I solve for cultural fit … I then care deeply about competence,” William Tincup, CEO of HR consulting firm Tincup & Co, told Fast Company.

This recruiting cycle, try not to take every resume as the black and white piece of paper it is. Take a look at the gray areas: who has the necessary character traits that you need? A creative fresh face with a willingness to learn? Looks like potential.

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