Hiring Wisdom: How to Hire For Talent

Used to be every employer preferred hiring for skills and/or experience; the thinking was one or both of these traits would help the new hire seamlessly fit into the new job. Today, however, in the wake of ceaseless technological change, it’s all about hiring for talent.

So, what is the difference? A skill is the ability to do a particular task, like the ability to drive a truck, design a building, or cut hair. Talent is the ability to learn new skills and/or dramatically improve upon an existing skill set.

Because of all the 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 programmer who knows a specific language, you would be better off hiring one who has the ability to rapidly learn and apply new languages.)

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Here are some interview questions that explore an applicant’s talents:

  1. What was the last thing you learned and how have you applied that learning?
  2. How do you learn best?
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. Let’s assume for a moment 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/skills, my money’s on talent every time.

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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