Forward thinking for recruitment: talent before skill

The well-known phrase, “hiring for potential, train for skills” has been around for a long time, but its particularly relevant now for small to medium sized companies who, in this tight labour market, find themselves competing for a shrinking number of already skilled and experienced job candidates. With the fight for talent becoming fierce, it has been reported that 33% of UK organisations are willing to drop skills’ requirements, adapting to the tight talent pool and taking on high potential candidates with fewer skills. So how does hiring for talent look different from hiring for specific skills or experience?

Whilst some companies and organisations may find the idea of fewer skills for talent risky, especially if they need candidates who can slot into their role with confidence and experience. Hiring for talent provides an exciting prospect of long-term gains over a short-term fix. When you hire for talent, you’re looking at candidates who have the interest and motivation to do a certain type of work, in the knowledge that they still have to acquire the specific skills they need after they are hired. When you shift the narrative of a recruitment process towards looking out for real potential, someone who might not necessarily have experience, but has the ability to adapt to a new skillset quickly, you then become invested in the individual in the hope that the individual will become invested in your company or organisation.

It is thought likely that someone who must learn quickly and prove themselves within a new role will be more motivated and switched on. Hiring for experience or skills and seeking candidates who already have the knowledge and skills to do the job is likely to mean a smaller recruitment pool. When you widen that talent pool and start looking beyond the “norm”, you might just find the perfect candidate, someone whom you would not have come across by limiting the requirements to a skillset or experience.  Considering bringing in new knowledge and new experiences to strengthen the culture of the company will ultimately enable a stronger business.

At 121 HR Solutions, when we support clients in recruitment, we pride ourselves on focusing on behavioural evidence that highlights future talent.  Find out more by contacting us at

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