finding high potential candidates

Finding High Potential Candidates

Debra Carney

by Debra Carney

Director of Marketing

The biggest challenge for HR in today's labor market is finding experienced and talented candidates, especially for critical executive roles. Placing the wrong person in one of these positions can be highly costly for any company. But the positions can't remain vacant forever. 

Whether from within the company or fresh recruits, you need to identify individuals capable of successfully overseeing the business's long-term objectives. Most companies are turning to high-potential employees or HIPOs to fill the gap. 

So, who are high potential candidates, and how do you identify one? 

What is a high potential candidate? 

A company needs to recognize, nurture and retain high potential individuals for its future success. But it has to be objective in the process and avoid personal bias and opinions by knowing the key aspects that make a high-potential individual. 

Gartner defines a HIPO as someone with the ability, engagement, and aspiration to rise to and succeed in more senior positions. These candidates are often massive contributors to the business's success, not caring what's in it for them. 

Also, their skills and experience, growth attitude, success drive, and commitment, both emotional and rational, are above everyone else. 

Most companies are reporting that only the top 3-5% of their staff are high potential. These individuals are most likely to rise faster and achieve more in their careers compared to their peers. 

What’s more, they are not satisfied with lower positions and will always plan to get to senior roles as quickly as possible. 

If a business does not recognize this natural talent, they know their worth and move to greener pastures. That said, how do you identify a HIPO? 

Criteria for identifying a high potential candidate 

The criteria for identifying high potential candidates differ from one organization to the other. It is a huge challenge as there is no particular checklist to follow. But they are undoubtedly natural-born leaders.

According to the Harvard Business Review, finding that great high potential candidate will produce the most benefits for your organization and the highest ROI. 

Businesses should not mistake high performance for potential. A high performer can lack the desire and potential to lead. 

How do you then select potential candidates?

The four considerations you need to make include:

  • Performance
  • Contribution
  • Capability to see through the company's needs
  • Potential for growth and advancement 

From there, you set the selection criteria and means of assessing. You can use various assessment reviews to evaluate potential in-house employees. 

At the same time, digital reference checks such as Crosschq 360 and Crosschq Recruit will come in handy when sourcing and evaluating fresh high-potential recruits. 

When developing a model for your company, involve multiple contributors to ensure it is fair and in line with the objectives of the business. 

For instance, if you rely solely on senior leaders, they may choose the talent mirroring them. Developing a uniform model makes your process fair and inclusive and avoids alienating potential candidates.

HIPOs share some characteristics regardless of whichever sector of the economy they are in. 

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Characteristics of high potential candidates 

1. Behavior 

Often, behavior is linked with the person's intellect or emotional intelligence. How well does the candidate handle other people's emotions, especially under pressure in a senior leadership role? 

They are willing to cooperate with the team and entire staff to reach the goals of the company. Managing other people's behaviors is very crucial, more so in charged situations. 

2. Capability 

A person must demonstrate that they can work without supervision and deliver consistent results regularly. 

Also, you will find them outside work participating in committees. They go further and look for solutions to problems without being asked. 

3. Adaptability 

Circumstances in business are dynamic, and whenever they change, the potential candidate must demonstrate the ability to adapt swiftly and with ease. Moreover, they should be able to guide their team through the change calmly. 

4. Aspiration 

They exhibit a desire for growth by taking on additional responsibilities. They are also accountable for their decisions even when they are in the wrong. 

Their drive for growth and excellent results is not limited to the personal level but extends to the team. They have a passion for seeing the business objectives and goals reached. 

5. Leadership 

A display of strategic thinking while leading small teams is a perfect indicator of leadership qualities. You will often find them moving quickly, organizing things, solving disputes, and giving motivation, among others. 

They should understand and respect how vital quality leadership is and aspire to fulfill it. 

6. Social skills 

Interacting with people is crucial to being a good leader. The candidates should adapt to various personalities professionally. 

Often they are extroverts, warm, and very social, though it's not to say other personalities cannot make good leaders. 


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Assessment questions to uncover high potential candidates 

It is a challenge to know someone solely by interviewing and reference checking only. But if you ask the candidates the right questions, you will gain valuable insights that will help you select who to train. 

The following questions are focused on the potential to succeed: 

  1. Compared to what you did six months ago, are you better now? 
  2. What are you currently improving? 
  3. What was the last article/video/podcast that intrigued you?
  4. What problem do people come to you with for help? 
  5. When was the last time you said ‘I don't know?’
  6. How have you made your team better? 

The following questions show where you see yourself in the future: 

  1. Why will you be better at what you are currently doing six months from now? 
  2. What was the last thing you learned about yourself that you didn't know before? 
  3. Is there anything you would have done differently on a recent project? 
  4. What is your trajectory? What was your last course correction and why? 
  5. What are you accomplishing next? 

The following questions are meant to evaluate performance: 

  1. How did you measure success on a project that you owned? 
  2. Describe an unsuccessful project and tell us who is to blame for it? 
  3. Which is more critical, building things right or building the right thing? 
  4. Why are you effective at your job? 
  5. What is the wrong way to implement XYZ? 

Crosschq Can Help You Find High Potential Candidates

Companies need to develop models for evaluating potential candidates within the company and recruits. This way, they can train, nurture and retain the talent to see the business objectives and goals flourish. 

By asking the right questions, you will gain insights into a candidate's capability and potential. Visit our website to schedule a demo and learn more about how our team can help you recruit and check references of high-potential candidates.