Should You Hire for Talent or Skill?

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Should You Hire for Talent or Skill?

Today’s workforces are focused on talent more than ever before, but is it a good idea? Most modern HR and employee assessment defines skill as hard (learnable) skills and talent as a series of behaviors contributing to the ability to learn those skills. This can make choosing between hiring for talent or skill a difficult thing, simply because there are variables, different needs inside your organization, and where your current teams are in terms of skill, leadership, and competencies.

Reasons to Hire for Skill

Hard skills are undeniably valuable in any organization. People need to be able to handle the software and tasks you hand them as part of their job and you need them to do so in a timely and quality fashion. Hiring for skill means that an individual can simply step into your role and take over, immediately producing quality work. Using hiring assessments can help you to pinpoint skill in individuals, so that you can hire according to needed skills and immediately fill positions.

This is important when you have a high-value project that needs to be productive right away, when you are launching a new team, and when you don’t have enough highly skilled persons on your team. However, you will pay more for hiring a highly skilled person, you will have fewer options, and you will have to make concessions in terms of desired competencies and behaviors.

Reasons to Hire for Talent

Talented people are those who display the behaviors and competencies which contribute to learning skills, to acting in ways that benefit teamwork and productivity, and to continuing to learn. In the short-term, this can mean that your hires don’t have the exact skills to meet your needs. In the long-term, it can mean that they will adapt and learn skills that you need, while remaining adaptable and open to continuing to learn skills. The idea is that this can give you the opportunity to grow your team and individual employees significantly further than hiring for existing skills. Employee assessment and competency testing can help you single out talent in individuals, even if interview assessments aren’t 100% accurate.

At the same time, hiring for talent alone can backfire. If you are in the process of scaling up, need people who are immediately good at their job, or don’t have the resources or structure set up to guide talented people where you need them, you won’t benefit. It’s also important to note that employees shouldn’t rely on talent alone to get a job done well. You should still look for someone with a strong work ethic and who can continuously learn.

Should You Hire for Talent or Skill?

At the end of the day, a very skilled person is likely also a very talented person. They haven’t gotten to the top of their game without a considerable amount of time, dedication, and learning. A young, trainable person with a lot of talent still has more to learn compared to a senior person with a lot of time and education behind them.

However, hiring the person with talent and a behavior profile that meets your company’s needs will allow you to steer the talented person in a way that best benefits your organization, to guide their growth to help them be and do more with what they have, and to expand beyond the boundaries of where simply excelling in the technical application of their field would take them.

At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind you need skilled people and you need them as soon as possible. You can spend years developing a young hire into what you really need, and you may not have that time. Your teams need the structure of experience and skill while they grow. For this reason, you’re often best-off hiring for a mix of talent and skill, hiring talented people with desirable soft skills or competencies for future development.


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