Recent research shows that when we’re hiring employees we have an innate pull or bias toward the person with potential– potential trumps actual experience. We seem to be fascinated by the promise of success and value it over a history of actual success.

Potential is, of course, potentially valuable, but experience shows that experience is worth paying attention to also. How can we be sure we’re giving experience the attention it deserves? If we have a tendency to think or judge in a certain way, how do we keep that bias in check? One clear technique is to ask questions that force you to pay attention to the bias. Don’t let things that are in the background nudge you unawares.

During an interview you might ask yourself:

  • “Am I overestimating the future value to my practice (company) of this person’s potential?”
  • “Is my impression or their explanation of their potential backed up by any evidence?”
  • “Am I better to invest in immediate value (experience) or in longer-range prospective value (potential)? Can I wait to reap the benefits potential might bring?”
  • “If I pay for experience vs. potential, what results am I likely to see in what timeframe?”

“Looking at our history, are we an organization that knows how to train people or do we tend to do better by starting with experience?”

If we ignore our human and individual biases, we can put our financial and emotional comfort at peril. While reading this you may decide that you will in fact check yourself the next time you’re hiring, but it’s all too easy to go into an interview and fall back on the old conversational gambits you’ve used in the past.

Prepare – go into interviews with a checklist of questions to ask the candidates with experience and those with potential; and create another set of questions to ask the interviewer – you.

Most of what happens in human interactions happens out of sight.

If you hire, manage, train or serve humans, consider how much more effective you might be with coaching to fine tune your skills. Szifra and Jay are trained in human psychology and behavior, have decades of experience and an intense interest in applying the latest research to your specific questions. Give us a call or email.

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