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Hiring Criteria Cause You To Overlook Great Candidates?


by Larry Sternberg, President at Talent Plus, Inc.

Josh Bersin, Principal and Founder, Bersin by Deloitte, recently posted a thought provoking article entitled, Do People Need Higher Education to Succeed? His conclusion is that in the selection process, rather than focusing on traditional college degrees we should emphasize experience, drive, problem solving skills and, most importantly, learning agility, which is defined as the motivation and capability for continuous learning. He concludes with the advice, “… we as employers need to expand our horizons about what a ‘great candidate’ really looks like.”

This is an important insight. Many organizations express a genuine desire for greater diversity in their workforce, but they continue to adhere to traditional criteria, like college degrees, which can cause them to overlook many high-potential candidates who, given the opportunity, will outperform the people with the degrees.

In order to know what a great candidate looks like for a particular job, we need to invest some time to understand what a top performer looks like in that job. Here’s a brief (3-minute) exercise to help you understand Bersin’s point.

Think about the best performer you’ve ever personally worked with.
Make a list of not more than ten things that made that person such an outstanding performer.
Circle the three items that contributed most to their exemplary performance.
Ask a few friends to do this.

How often did, “Has a college degree” or “Earned great grades in college” make the list?  Almost all of the items on the list share some important similarities with Bersin’s brief list. You will almost certainly see, “positive attitude” on your list in some form. You’re also likely to see synonyms for, “caring”, “people skills”, and “great work ethic”.

Another very powerful way to confirm Bersin’s point is to read verbatims from your customers. Whether the verbatim is a compliment or a complaint, it most frequently mentions traits that are not learned in college and are probably not taught in any of your company’s training programs.

Bersin has great insights about what kinds of traits to look for. But he doesn’t say how. I know how, because this is precisely the mission of Talent Plus®, the company I work for. We’re an international human resources consulting firm that designs scientific assessments to help organizations identify candidates who have the traits that give them the capacity for excellent performance.

The use of scientific assessments helps companies expand their horizons as Bersin suggests, to invest in high potential people who do not have the traditional pedigree. Identifying these people and watching them make a huge difference is not only profoundly rewarding personally, but also it’s good business. To learn more about to actualize Bersin’s advice click this link: Talent Plus.

Thanks to my associate Kim Shirk for suggesting this topic.

Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Larry Sternberg

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