Training Ground

In a tight labor market, try asking, "Can this applicant learn to do the job?"
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the September 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

In an ideal world, you'd be able to hire people with the exact skills you needed and who could come to work and be productive from Day One. But not only is our world far from ideal, in today's tight labor market, demand for skilled workers far exceeds the supply.

One solution is to focus on the trainability of candidates, rather than their immediate skills, says Stanley I. Simkins, principal of OHRD (Organization & Human Resources Development) LLC, an organization development and human resources consulting firm in Albany, New York. By being willing to hire trainable people who may not have all the skills you need, you'll expand your pool of potential candidates and may well end up with better matches between individuals and jobs. Simkins' tips:

Use personality assessments to figure out whether candidates are matched to the requirements of the jobs in question. Such assessments will also assist you in evaluating how well candidates will fit into your organization.

Look at past performance, particularly as it applies to learning new skills. Has the individual held other jobs where learning was a factor?

Review candidates' academic backgrounds. Consider more than just grades; ask how they felt about school, what they liked most and least, what they did with a subject they had a hard time learning.

Focusing on trainability rather than immediate skills delivers an interesting side benefit: Your new employees don't have to "unlearn" other methods or bad habits before they learn to do things your way. Also, training builds employee loyalty and reduces turnover; when you show a commitment to them, they're more likely to be committed to you.

Jacquelyn Lynn left the corporate world more than 13 years ago and has been writing about business and management from her home office in Winter Park, Florida, ever since.

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