Any seasoned recruiter or hiring manager can tell you that you’re not just hiring for the role that’s open today. The most strategic hires take the future into mind: how the person who fills this role will contribute to the company today, tomorrow, and beyond.
This is more than just good advice. As it turns out, few people stay in the first role they were hired for in a company for long. For example, a new Glassdoor study found that employees who held the same job title longer than 15 months were more likely to leave the company; and when Buffer – a highly rated place to work – released their internal statistics on employee turnover, they found the average tenure was 2.4 years.
It’s impossible to guarantee that every person you hire will stay with your company for the long term. Life happens, plans shift, and careers change direction. But there has been a proven financial and performance benefit to companies that manage to maintain a high level of retention and a low level of turnover. It’s worth building a recruiting and hiring process that takes the long-term potential of each candidate into account.
So, what can you do to make sure your new hires will not only thrive in the role you’re filling today but actively grow with your company over the years? Look for these three characteristics:
1. They’ve shown examples of creative problem-solving
No matter how advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technology get, human skills like critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving will always be in demand because they are unique and valuable. And that’s why one of the best ways to future-proof a new hire is to make sure they have demonstrated creative problem-solving in their current field of expertise. That way, no matter how their role expands or how the candidate grows within the company they’re bringing with them the critical skills of identifying a problem, brainstorming a creative solution, and executing it.
For example, the role you’re hiring for today may have a focus on client relationships. While you should look for a candidate with experience in working with clients and building relationships, you should also ask questions about what kind of challenges they’ve faced with clients before, how they’ve overcome them, and what they would do differently in the future. And depending on the seniority of the role, it may be appropriate to ask questions about how they would solve big-picture problems within their field to give you an idea of how they approach long-term creative thinking.
2. They have a passion for learning new things in their field
In today’s modern workplace, what we consider to be everyday technology was a computer scientist’s dream only 10 or 20 years ago, and the rapid rate of development of new products, software, apps, and technology formats means that we’re in for even more change in the future. As new hires come into the workforce, the only thing that will stay the same is their need to continually adapt to new tools to help them do their work, which brings us to the second most important characteristic of a future-proof new hire: a passion or potential for learning new things in their field.
In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Claudio Fernández-Aráoz emphasizes passion and potential over credentials with two examples: the “perfect” CEO asked to leave for poor performance compared to the unlikely and inexperienced executive who proved wildly successful. Fernández-Aráoz identifies this make-or-break characteristic as a person’s potential, or “ability to adapt to and grow into increasingly complex roles and environments,” and he indicates that in a volatile and disruptive marketplace, this ability to adapt and learn is far more valuable than more traditional indicators of success like experience, competencies, or intelligence.
[Related: 3 Keys to Retain Your Gen Z Workers]
3. They know there’s something special about your company
Call it a hunch, but we agree that employee loyalty isn’t dead. Whether you’re an established Fortune 500 company or a twenty-day-old startup, we think that a candidate who has a personal interest in your business and strong desire to see your organization succeed is going to be a “sticky hire” that perseveres through the inevitable ups and downs of employment.
Why? We’ve seen through subjective observation that candidates that care are more likely to disclose tough-but-constructive feedback, weather the storms of layoffs or bad hires, and – most importantly – eagerly find ways to go above and beyond their role for the benefit of the organization (and, of course, their career). They’re simply more invested in the organization and therefore more committed to seeing the working relationship through challenging times.
How can you screen for this kind of interest? Well, it should be obvious from the start. The candidates cover letter will detail a passion for the brand, product, or customer, and the introductory interview will highlight their interest in your company, specifically. The candidate will be eager to talk about how she discovered the company, what excites her most about the role, and why your company is her top pick. From there you can verify her qualifications and aptitude for the role.