Hire for Potential, Not Experience

hiring for potential

Previous experience is still the most common tool used for screening resumes and hiring new employees, yet past performance doesn’t guarantee solid future performance. Someone could have been in the same role for three years without actively growing or learning, making their experience inconsequential to your company. Alternatively, they might have skills and knowledge that’s beyond the years they’ve worked.

As the Customer Success industry continues to grow, it is becoming increasingly challenging to find Customer Success Manager candidates and hiring an experienced CSM can be expensive. Many human resource representatives and team managers are scrambling to find candidates with the right background and experience to bring in for interviews.

With a limited pool of experienced CSMs to hire from, how do you find your next employee? Simple. Start hiring for potential instead of past experience.

In this article, we’re going to look at:

  • Why experience isn’t necessarily a good indicator of future performance

  • How to look for potential instead of past performance in resumes and interviews

  • Why the right culture fit is more important than previous career accolades

  • Different benefits of hiring from outside the customer success industry

Resumes Don’t Give a Full Picture

The first step in recruiting a new employee is going through resumes to find candidates to bring into the interview process. However, almost all candidates tailor their resume to the type of job they’re applying for and strategically word past roles and experience in their favor. A quick phone call to screen applicants can help you dig past their resume and spot future potential.

Once you have an applicant in for an interview, ask smart questions to assess their skills. Dig in for concrete examples of how they build relationships, think analytically, and multitask. 

A College Degree Isn’t Everything

A majority of job postings will list a degree as a requirement, but automatically skipping resumes without a degree means missing out on many talented, qualified individuals. The requirement for a candidate to hold a bachelor degree is a trap your company should move away from.

Instead, look for other indications that the candidate values learning and expanding on their skill set. For example, maybe they have attained industry certifications or participate in their local Toastmaster chapter to improve their communication skills. 

Past Experience Doesn’t Show Where They Are Going 

Experience is not a good indicator of performance as it’s possible for a candidate to hold a position without excelling at it. You don’t want to hire someone who is going to coast through their career as a Customer Success Manager. You want someone motivated to grow and improve.

For long-term success, a candidate should show a drive to improve themselves and your company throughout their tenure. When assessing a potential employee, find out what their goals are as a CSM and how they plan on reaching those goals. Instead of experience, look for signs of future growth.

Their Potential Should Match Your Company Culture

Career accolades can be beneficial, but not if a candidate is a poor fit in your company culture. When an employee doesn’t fit well within the environment already established in your company, it will negatively affect their drive and potential. 

Look beyond experience and get a sense of their personality. You can teach new Customer Success skills to a good candidate, but it’s difficult to correct poor work ethic or character clashes in the office.

It Can Be Easier to Train Someone New to Customer Success

Hiring someone new to the Customer Success industry comes with benefits. As you train your new CSM, there won’t be any bad habits to ‘un-train.’ They are a blank slate as they learn the systems, strategies, and routines already set within the existing team. Candidates new to the industry will also have an elevated drive to succeed and prove themselves as the right hire. 

On the financial side, hiring someone with no previous Customer Success experience is more affordable for the company. The money saved every year can be invested in more positions or training programs for employees.

Do’s & Don’ts

  • Do look past degrees and accomplishments on a resume. Remember, previous experience doesn’t guarantee the person will be a good culture fit.

  • Don’t focus your interview questions on experience. Instead, ask questions that discover their skills, talent, and potential instead.

  • Do remember that the role of a CSM requires a variety of skills, so previous experience isn’t the only indicator to look for. 

  • Don’t forget the benefits of hiring for potential. You can train new skills, but you can’t correct a lack of drive or a weak personality.

Robyn Petrik

SuccessCOACHING contributor Robyn Petrik is a freelance copywriter originally from Vancouver, Canada, who specializes in blogging, website copy, and social media content. While she happily spends most of her time writing, you’ll also find her reading, hiking, and eating too much peanut butter.