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Hiring potential vs. experience

Author: Martin Groschwald
Potential vs. experience

If you are a hiring manager, I am sure you have come across this particular issue. And if you are a candidate you most certainly have faced this. How does the hiring process accommodate the need to assess and hire the potential in people rather than just filling the position/need right now?

This is particularly true when hiring creatives on or into management levels, especially when hiring externally into a Company and its structures. It can become a very difficult and complex endeavour.

If you look a bit deeper into the complex world of hiring creative management, you will quickly realise four main questions:  

  • Do I know where I want this open position to be in the next few years?  
  • Do I know where I want this open position to be in the next few years?  
  • Do I hire a candidate with great management potential or a great creative?  
  • Do I have an internal structure in place where these potentials can be supported and developed?

Of course, all of these questions can be equally adapted for a non-managerial position, but it’s important to understand that we are moving away from a hiring culture that required a lot of input, to an environment where internal creative teams get smaller with a stronger focus on IP and USPs. This is of course partly caused by budget pressure, but also by the fact the design experience plays a more and more important role in the process of mobility design.   

Let’s go further into what these questions mean.  

Do I know where I want this open position to be in the next few years? 

This might sound very simple, but a lot of positions are filled to accommodate the immediate need. We should however ask ourselves what we would like this position to become in the next 2–5 years. If it is just a short-term fix, we have other options.   Instead, we need to make sure our selection process becomes future-orientated which will have a serious impact on how we hire for that position. Don’t get me wrong, experience and past accomplishments are good indicators, but they always look into the past.  

Do I have the right hiring process in place to recruit the candidate with the best potential? 

Hiring for long-term gains means we must look differently at candidates applying for positions. This does however require more information on the candidate than normal, to be able to assess the potential to develop. This can sometimes be the argument a hiring manager may use to hire a candidate they know, but don’t be fooled it also means they know what the applicant cannot do (which can also be very helpful). Is there a further qualification tool that helps the hiring process to determine the best possible fit? A neutral assessment is often the best way forward, which also explains why a lot of positions are still placed with the support of head hunters or intermediaries. 

Do I hire a candidate with great management potential or a great creative? 

On the hiring side, this is probably the toughest thing to admit. How many of you hiring managers have hired or even promoted a highly talented designer into a leadership position knowing they might not have the full potential to lead a team? There is no shame in it, a lot is down to the fact that progression (mostly in salaries) is bound to a management path and not on a skill path. And sometimes the decision may be to promote someone with great talent to a level that might not be a great fit, rather than lose them. What is often the challenge, is to find people that can think both creatively and logically (a 50/50 mix is ideal).  Few people can combine both thought processes and spotting them can sometimes be even harder. But a good manager and leader should be able to make such a decision for the best of the products and company.  

Do I have an internal structure in place where these potentials can be supported and developed?  

Once you have hired your new high potential colleague or promoted an internal candidate, it is not just enough to allow them to grow on their own in their new environment. Are they being given the tools to lead to make the best possible decisions for the product and company? Once you have spotted a leadership talent, it must be nurtured and supported to achieve new heights. This can be done via training, coaching, workshops etc (examples are new management methods, culture input, etc). And it should be a continuous process. Leadership and management are a mix of talent but also training and constantly working on it. The job is to foster creativity and this is not only done with a  sketch.  

Hiring potential requires a shift in mindset to how you approach your hiring process. But the benefits of a strong management team that will lead your business in the future will no doubt outweigh the effort to do this.