Hiring Decisions: Potential vs. Performance?

Recruitment Jun 15, 2021

Traditionally, the success and capabilities of an individual are measured by looking at their accomplishments. While most of us agree that past performance does not guarantee future success, it is still the most common measure used in hiring.

As we dive into this topic, we need to understand the difference between Potential and Performance.

Performance is a measure of current or past performance in a particular job. This is not necessarily an accurate indicator of how a person may perform in a different role or in roles 2 or 3 levels up.

Potential refers to the innate capabilities of an individual — Abilities & Attitude. What it answers is do people have the capacity to perform well in a future role that will require greater responsibilities and more complex thinking.

It includes aspects of motives, soft skills, behavior traits, and cognitive abilities. But, unfortunately, these are not so easy to develop. Research says that once we reach adulthood at around 25, our brain stops naturally forming new neural pathways and our habits, biases, and attitudes become more set in stone and much harder to change.

In contrast, performance indicates a person’s knowledge, experience & job skills. These are aspects that can always be trained/improved using learning interventions and practice.

The Hidden Truth — Potential & Performace — PerspectAI

So definitely reward good performance but don’t make it the sole criterion to hire, promote or move to a different job/role. In such cases, potential will be a better predictor of success.

Reward for performance, hire or promote for potential!

What is critical, though, is to provide the support and appropriate training to ensure the success of those considered high-potential.

Therefore, assessing a candidate requires a slight shift in mindset. Some candidates might not tick every box, so sometimes, it might be necessary to lower your requirements on past performance.

This is not the same as lowering your hiring standards. It just means that you’re prepared to accept candidates with slightly less experience or qualifications. So, stop continuing your search for the mythical purple squirrel!

Look out for the right abilities and attitude, and if you get this right, they’ll scale into that squirrel in no time!

You might make an odd mistake, but seeking out people that have the potential to be “A Players” is the best way to make sure your company keeps moving forward.

Unlock True Potential

Hence, when you assess the capabilities of someone or even yourself, work on understanding and embracing the True Potential because this will help you and your organization scale greater heights.


Great! You've successfully subscribed.
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.