How to spot the highest potential candidates in an interview

One talented new hire can improve a whole team's performance, but identifying these high-potential candidates in an interview can be tricky, write Thomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Seymour Adler, and Robert Kaiser for Harvard Business Review.

Chamorro-Premuzic is the CEO at Hogan Assessments, and Adler is a professor of organizational psychology at Hofstra University, and Kaiser is the president of Kaiser Leadership Solutions.

The stakes are high for hiring high-potential employees. Talented new hires are not only faster and less costly to onboard, but research has found that star employees are also more productive and less stressed out than their peers. Similarly, other studies have shown that talented employees raise the productivity of the people who sit near them by as much as 16%.

In an article for Organizational Psychology, Chamorro-Premuzic, Adler, and Kaiser compared the latest research on career performance predictors to current in-demand skills. From their review, the authors identified three characteristics of high-potential candidates and explain how leaders can spot these individuals in an interview.

1: Ability

To succeed in the changing labor market, candidates must demonstrate the ability to pick up knowledge and skills quickly, Chamorro-Premuzic, Adler, and Kaiser write.

To forecast an individual's ability, observe them perform specific tasks or test how quickly they can learn up new skill, they recommend.

2: Social skills

Many U.S. employers now consider strong interpersonal skills as a key hiring qualification.

According to the three leadership experts, social skills include the ability to manage one's self and relationships. These skills help individuals handle pressure, build cooperative working relationships, and influence a range of stakeholders to drive the organization towards success, they explain.

To test candidates' social skills, measure their emotional intelligence through psychometric tests, the authors suggest.

To retain top talent, managers matter

3: Drive

A strong work ethic and ambition amplify a candidate's potential to contribute to the organization, Chamorro-Premuzic, Adler, and Kaiser write.

To assess a candidate's drive, the authors suggest using a standardized test to measure the person's motivations. You can also examine their behavior to identify a willingness to take on extra responsibility and a commitment to developing experience and skills, they write (Chamorro-Premuzic et al., Harvard Business Review, 10/5).

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