Hiring Wisdom: Are You Hiring For Talent, or For Skills and Experience?

Human knowledge is now doubling every 12 months. This means that 50 percent of what you now know will be out of date in a year.

Just to bring it home, let’s imagine you need open heart surgery. How would you like to have it performed by someone who hadn’t learned anything new about the procedure in the past 48 months?

For this very reason, it is no longer about hiring people for their skills and/or experience. Today, it’s all about hiring talent.

Talent vs. Experience

So, what’s the difference?

A skill is the ability to do a particular task, like the ability to drive a truck, design a building, or fly a plane. Talent, on the other hand, is the ability to learn new skills and/or dramatically improve upon an existing skill set.

Because of the many rapid changes in the workplace and technology, hiring a skill today is only going to solve a problem in the short run. When you hire talent, those people will be able to move the organization to the next level because they can quickly learn and apply new knowledge. (While you may want to hire a computer programmer who knows a specific language, you would be better off hiring a programmer who has the ability to learn and apply new languages.)

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Here are a few suggested interview questions that explore an applicant’s talents:

  • What was the last thing you learned and how have you applied that learning?
  • How do you learn best?
  • Give me an example of a situation where you did not know how to handle a particular problem. What action did you take? Why did you take that course of action? What was the result? What did you learn
  • What more would you like to learn about your job or career? Why?
    In your present or last job, how long did it take you to feel like an expert in your position? How much did you have to learn? How did you tackle it? What were the most difficult aspects of the job to master? Who helped you?
  • Let’s assume I hire you and you start in two weeks. During that time, I get called out of the office on urgent business and am not available to support you for the next month. What are you going to do to get yourself up to speed?

When Talent is in the ring versus Experience and/or Skills, my money’s on Talent every time.

This originally appeared in Humetrics April 2016 Hiring Hints newsletter.

Mel Kleiman, CSP, is an internationally-known authority on recruiting, selecting, and hiring hourly employees. He has been the president of Humetrics since 1976 and has over 30 years of practical experience, research, consulting and professional speaking work to his credit. Contact him at mkleiman@humetrics.com.

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