4 November 2019

Hire for potential for long-term success: Robert Walters

When recruiters hire for potential in Southeast Asia, 94% of their hires are retained in their jobs. Yet nearly half (42%) of all hiring managers in the region remain reluctant to evolve their recruitment strategies beyond hiring based solely on experience, despite the resources required to recruit, evaluate and subsequently manage employees who are not a good fit.

These findings are based on Grow your Talent, Hire Based on Potential, a guide released by Robert Walters in October 2019. The guide offers insights on the motivations and results behind hiring for potential as a long-term strategy towards talent growth. Over 3,000 respondents, including hiring managers and professionals from six countries, shared their views.

Across the region, respondents cited a preference for candidates who can pick up work immediately, the technical nature of the role, and the lack of knowhow to evaluate the person’s potential as key reasons for not hiring high-potential professionals. The research has found that a significant number (42%) of hiring managers have never hired a high-potential candidate because they lack the 'right' experience. Further, about one in three (30%) respondents believe that a candidate with the right qualifications and experience will eventually show up.

While relevant experience is perceived to be of top priority during recruitment, the ability to deliver satisfactory work, display a good work attitude, and adapt to company culture are valued more highly in the workplace, according to Robert Walters.

“Vying for top talent will be an everyday occurrence as companies accelerate in their digital transformation journeys. This includes a sustained demand for professionals with skillsets such as in tech-related areas that may not have existed in as little as a decade ago. As companies become more competitive about attract the right talent, they are moving beyond adjusting compensation packages to consider longer term and sustainable strategies,” said Ling Xiang Lee, Manager of Sales and Marketing, Robert Walters.

In Singapore, over 65% of companies took at least two months to fill a position. Yet one in three of those hired did not work out, with 47% taking three months to over a year to reach a mutual decision that the employee was not the right fit. For those who hired high-potential candidates, 96% proved to be quality hires. On the other hand, hiring managers who had not hired a candidate based on potential were mostly unable to find the right opportunity (38%), although nearly one in 10 (8%) were not keen to consider the option at all.

Successful respondents said that top traits that hiring managers look out for are the willingness to learn, the motivation to take up the job and succeed in the role, and engagement (a perceived level of enthusiasm and dedication towards the job).

Faced with a shrinking pool of talent who have in-demand skillsets, hiring managers continue to place having relevant experience (64%) as the most important criteria. This is followed by the candidate’s ability to learn quickly (57%), soft skills exhibited (48%) and if they seemed aligned with the company’s culture (44%).

Having relevant experience, while commonly viewed as important at the recruitment stage, however proved to be less of a deciding factor in measuring the quality of hire. Top reasons cited for determining a bad hire include the failure to deliver satisfactory work (31%), a less-than-desired work attitude (23%), and the inability to adapt to the company’s culture (20%). Only 8% of respondents attributed the lack of relevant skills, knowledge or expertise as a reason for a hire that did not work out.

“Candidates who show strong potential may lack some of the job requirements, skillsets, industry knowledge or experience within a role, but demonstrate a positive learning attitude and aptitude, and fits well with your team. By hiring by potential and providing them with the support and training to grow, businesses will find that in the long run, they gain employees who are not only skilled, but also loyal, resourceful and motivated,” added Ling.

The guide suggests that companies can identify what is crucial or secondary requirements to the role, ensure a realistic job description, look out for signs of opportunities or progress in the candidate’s job experience, and engage the expertise of recruitment consultants, especially in hiring talent with niche skillsets.