Can You Really Identify Growth Potential During the Recruiting Process?

Joe Weinlick
Posted by

Each and every new employee is an investment in your company. Like any investment, there's going to be risk involved. Fortunately, there are preliminary risk mitigation techniques you can use during the hiring process to tip the odds in your favor. Not every new employee is going to end up transitioning to a leadership role, but you should look for signs of growth potential in every person you interview.

Conducting a background check is one way to reduce the chances of hiring the wrong person, but a clean record doesn't necessarily mean the person has leadership potential. In order to identify that elusive quality during the hiring process, you need to know what true growth potential looks like. The first impression is certainly a solid starting point.

The hiring process begins the moment the candidate walks into the room. The candidate might feel uncomfortable in a foreign setting under high-pressure circumstances. How candidates act in this setting says a lot about their long-term potential. People who end up assuming leadership roles tend to command a room. They have a certain poise and confidence that comes naturally, even during nerve-racking situations. Many potential hires are fully capable of faking confidence, but true leadership potential looks different. It's not arrogant; it's curious. If the candidate asks in-depth questions about the position and organization, that's a good sign. Boasting about skills and achievements constantly throughout the hiring process is a warning sign. Of course, there's a fine line between bragging and explaining why you're the right person for the job.

Actions speak volumes, but unfortunately, the hiring process doesn't allow enough time for you to become familiar with the intricacies of a person's personality or behavior. In order to break through the surface level, you may need to ask some challenging questions. Instead of asking about the candidate's skills, ask what they want to be remembered for. Instead of asking where they see themselves in five years, ask them how they define success. Anyone can recite a rehearsed line to cliché questions. It takes a leader to respond to outside-the-box questions during a job interview. People with potential for growth tend to have clear goals in mind, and solid answers to unusual questions helps to prove authenticity.

Finally, don't be afraid to get specific during the hiring process. Create a scenario, and ask how the candidate would respond. For example, let's say you have a ring of moisture on your desk from your coffee cup. Someone with leadership qualities wouldn't just wipe it with a napkin. They would place a napkin under the cup to prevent it from happening again. You want employees who can solve problems, but more importantly, you want employees who possess the foresight to stop them from happening in the first place.

You're going to become more adapt at reading interviewees over time. Remember that each interview is an opportunity for you to develop your senses. Pay attention to the subtle characteristics of your current team leaders, and try to find those qualities in potential hires. The hiring process is unique for all hiring managers, but eventually, you should start noticing similarities among successful hires, and you'll start picking up on the intangible qualities that leaders possess.

Photo courtesy of Morton Jorgenson at


Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

Jobs to Watch