“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," the brilliant scientist Carl Sagan once said. And while Sagan wasn’t referring to the recruiting process, the means for analyzing a candidate is similar -- especially when you're looking for specific leadership traits.
If a candidate cannot provide evidence of what he or she has created, changed or initiated, there is hardly a chance that that person will possess dynamic growth potential.
As Vasilios Alexious, co-founder of FirmPay, told me: "There's one thing that stands head and shoulders above the rest: whether a candidate has tangible evidence of having successfully done the work they'll be doing in our company."
Of course this evidence can present itself in a number of ways -- some of them less obvious. Here are three proven identifiers of growth potential to look for during your recruiting process:
1. Focus on presentation and command.
Among the key leadership attributes recruiters should learn to recognize are grit, curiosity and presence.
Grit is a character trait that produces tremendous outcomes. Most often, this qualifier cannot be taught but is a natural instinct that must be honed in on and refined. "I define [grit] as the ability to stick with the project even when things are hard and may look bleak, at first," Jeanne C. Mesiter, co-founder of Future Workplace, recently shared with me.
Curiosity, the second attribute, is also a game changer when it comes to identifying growth potential. A good indicator is that a candidate asks intelligent questions about the position and company. "[Curiosity] is always asking why and not being satisfied with the answer, looking for more content, clarity and more detail," said Mesiter.
Presentation, the third attribute, means making a great first impression. Mesiter explained. "I define [presence] as being able to walk into strange settings and have a command of yourself and what you believe in,” she said.
So, focus on how a candidate exudes "command" during an interview. Does he or she express ideas and beliefs with a fearless sense of passion?
In addition, know that a candidate with optimal growth potential won't dwell on simple concepts like bragging rights. Confident people care what others think; they are quiet and unassuming and tend to ask a lot of open-ended questions.
Dig deeper into the claims they make, even if they have tangible evidence of performance outcomes. Ask for a scenario that shows overachievement invested to meet a goal; and look for proof of further growth potential in how they position their questions and responses.
Discover universal identifiers.
High-performing employees may be very good at what they do, but that does not necessarily mean they are inclined to transition into leadership roles. Evidence of success must be evaluated based on how it translates into the specific role a candidate is interested in.
A big difference between a merely high-performing employee and someone with growth potential is the candidate's ability to be proactive. Instead of putting out fires, these candidates will be constantly looking for ways to streamline workflow and improve outcomes.
It may be more difficult to accurately assess how a candidate will handle a figurative future situation. But the good news is that this form of growth potential can be measured by a few universal identifiers.
"Competencies in managers can vary by industry, but [the universal identifiers are] extensive learning capabilities, flexibility, a positive attitude, a desire to grow, high performance, high emotional intelligence, honesty and a vision for the future," said Jill Chapman, senior performance consultant with Insperity.
So, assess the candidate's visionary traits. Is he or she imaginative, big-picture oriented, focused, open-minded and able to communicate a dream/vision?
Decide what universal identifiers are most important to your organization's immediate needs and use them to specifically craft the job description. Rather than generally list qualifications, describe these traits in the context in which they will be applied to the job responsibilities. For example, if the position requires flexibility, state clearly how this trait impacts the role.
Also, form screening questions for candidates that assess how they visualize successful outcomes and adapt and innovate to reach them.
Look for structural improvements.
Growth-minded candidates leave an imprint long after their departure. Derek Jones, VP of business development at Deputy, suggested "Check[ing] for people who [have] made change or developed programs that will 'outlive' their existence.
"We call these 'structural' improvements -- leaders usually leave massive imprints on anything they touch, even when they leave a company," Jones added. "I look to see if they can talk about the good and bad times candidly," he went on. "I also don't ask specifically about work, life or relationships, but instead let them take the question where they want it."
Recruiters must go beyond basic task-related skills and assess emotional intelligence A candidate’s 'EQ' has a direct correlation with the lasting impact he or she makes on an organization. In order to effectively evaluate this innate trait, use questions that prompt behavioral responses.
For example, delve into how candidates process conflict by presenting situational questions, such as describing a time they were involved with or even contributed to workplace conflict. How did they respond, and what did they learn from the outcome?
Related: The 5 Must-Ask Interview Questions to Determine if Someone's a Fit
The best way to determine how a candidate’s growth potential will affect the current team’s success? Ask, “What will you be remembered for?”.