How to Hire Employees Based on Potential Over Experience

Published: 28 Jul - 2022 by Ben Rendle

Many business owners are starting to realise the benefits of hiring employees based on their potential, rather than their past experience. This certainly makes sense from a financial point of view, since a starting salary is significantly higher for those with vast experience. Furthermore, newly qualified candidates are often keen to prove themselves and rise up the ranks, so they often prove a wise investment. However it can, of course, be daunting to hire an employee without a proven track record, so how do you go about successfully hiring an employee based on potential rather than experience? It all lies in the interview. Here are the signs to look for.

Keen to Receive Feedback 

You want to hire employees with a growth, rather than a fixed mindset, but how do you assess this in an interview? One of the easiest ways is to look at their willingness to accept feedback. A candidate who is keen to grow and improve will be eager to receive constructive criticism that they can use, whereas someone with a fixed mindset will shy away from it. 

Some useful questions to ask are:

  • What is the best feedback you have ever received and how did you use it to improve?

  • How do you handle negative feedback?

Welcomes Change

In a growing business, change will happen fast and often. It’s important that your employees are able to evolve along with your company and use these changes as a way to bolster their professional development, rather than as an excuse to complain. Ask candidates to describe a time they experienced a major change in work or education and how they responded to it. 

Emotional Intelligence

No amount of past experience can compensate for a lack of emotional intelligence and an inability to work well with others. A big part of a candidate’s potential is their willingness to be part of a team and help others to succeed. Make sure to ask questions around past conflicts and how the candidate handled and resolved them. 

Fits In With Company Culture

If you want an employee to stay with you for a long time then it’s vital that they fit in well with your company culture. In order to identify this in potential employees, it’s important to first gain a clear understanding of your company culture so that you can get an idea of the kind of person who would thrive in such an environment. 

A Problem-Solver

Problems frequently arise in the workplace, especially in a fast-growing business. Therefore, it’s important to look for employees with the ability to solve problems swiftly and creatively. Of course, pretty much every candidate will probably describe themselves as “a problem solver” - it’s practically a buzzword at this point. However, presenting applicants with scenarios to solve is a good way of truly gauging their attitude and ability. 


Let’s face it - motivation comes and goes for all of us. Discipline is what keeps us consistent. Most employees are motivated when they first start out, but what about when they receive a setback, experience personal problems or simply start to feel comfortable in their role? 

One way to identify disciplined candidates is to look at their lives outside of work. You can tell a lot about a person by their hobbies and interests. If a candidate loves marathon running, they’re probably a very disciplined person. In fact, keeping up with any hobby for a sustained amount of time takes discipline. However, if a candidate is vague about their hobbies and can’t talk about them in any great detail, it’s a bit of a red flag.


Hiring employees based on potential is certainly more difficult than doing so based on their resume alone, but if you learn how to spot potential it can really pay off. Not only will you be able to hire keen graduates who are ready to give their all to their new role, you will be able to shape them into the employee that you want them to be and keep them with you for a very long time.


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