How to Hire for “Talent” not Just Skills or Experience

How to Hire for “Talent” not Just Skills or Experience

by Sara Bennett | September 25, 2019

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How to Find and Hire the “Right Talent”! 

If you follow our blogs, you already know our pitch for creating a hiring and recruiting strategy focused as much on talent as it is skills and experience.  There are many reasons for this shift all highlighted in a recent blog.  Bottom line, we believe there are many situations where hiring a candidate based on their  “talent fit” (those personal qualities that makes a person love what they do and be good at it) is even more important than hiring based on work experience (that can be acquired on the job) or skills (that can be learned)

Creating a Hiring Strategy Focused on Talent Isn’t Easy…

….even the words for describing talent are ambiguous.  You can use a handful of key words tat describe specific skills or work experience and the candidates who fit that description are just a click away.   Use a key word like “analytical”  and you will come up with a mish-mash of candidates not anywhere close to being a candidate you can hire.

When it comes to talent, both employers and job candidates use talent words loosely so employers have to be very purposeful in how they bring a talent strategy to life. .

Here’s some things you can do to help you get clear about the talents you need, and identify the candidates with that talent…….

Treat the targeted TALENT as you would a SKILL or EXPERIENCE requirement.

Make sure that everyone involved in identifying the key requirements for any job adds “talent” words to their list in addition to skills and experience. If, for example, you know that the ability to be successful in a customer service role requires someone who is empathetic,  make sure that empathy talent is on your list of key requirements – in fact just as prominently as, for example, would be the requirement for 2 years customer experience.

Mapping out the specific talents important to success (in addition to skills and experience) is a key first step.

Identify the talent you need based on what needs to be done.

Yes, it can be that simple.  Understanding the work and the results that are needed from that work, is always the first step in understanding the role’s talent requirements.  If you need to hire someone who can help you create or improve a work process,  thats a different type of talent than if you need someone to step in and perform an already created process.  If you need someone in HR to help you implement an important shift in your internal culture, that’s a different profile compared to someone you might hire to embrace your current culture. Different mindsets, different personal qualities, different talents.

Understanding the work and what its expected to produce is always the first step in understanding the talent you need to get the performance you expect.

Get Everyone Involved in the Hiring Process to Understand the  “Talent” You are Looking For! 

When we do “talent profiling” we like to talk to the person hiring for the job plus at least one or two people who are either doing the job now or have done the job in the past.

  • What kind of talent do you think is most important to success in this role? What talents have you seen in the people who have done this job well?  What talents were lacking in the people who struggled with this job?

Listen carefully for what talents are talked about most.  Make your list.

Let your team know what is on your list.  Make sure your job postings clearly describe the talent you are looking for.  Broadcast to your referral networks what talents are most important to hiring success.

Pay attention to the “talents” of your top performers – what qualities do they have in common?

In most roles there are typically some personal qualities that top performers have in common that differentiate their performance from employees who have lesser levels of performance.

What are those talents?

Sometimes it is as simple as asking the people doing the job or the people who supervise those who do the job.

Turn your TALENT WORDS Into Descriptions of Behavior. 

If after reviewing the “talents” of your top performers you determine that “empathy” is a key requirement, make sure that everyone knows exactly what that word means by describing the specific behaviors you consider “empathetic” in your work environment.

“When a customer calls in frustrated because they couldn’t use our online portal, our most successful service reps will spend time empathizing with the customer’s frustration rather than getting defensive or launching too quickly into a solution.  We find that our top performers are consistently more empathetic than our average or below average performers”

Use BEHAVIORAL INTERVIEWS to find the candidate who has the talents you need! 

Even the best of resumes almost never reveal talent.

Only a well constructed behavioral interview – questions that require a candidate to describe their own behaviors, the same questions, asked of all candidates – will allow you to compare candidate’s based on their “talent match”.  

“When a customer calls in with a challenge working with your website, describe how you approach them with a solution”

Candidates who frequently use their empathy talent will describe their “empathetic approach”  Candidate’s who lack this talent will not.

Create a Vetting Process that Directly or Indirectly “Tests” for Talent    

If the talent for being curious is an important qualification for the role you are trying to fill, there are a few simple questions you can ask every candidate.

What research did you do on our company before you came in for your interview?

What questions do you want to know about this job that will make you feel comfortable that it is the right one for you? 

If the talent for resilience, the ability to adapt to situations outside their control, is a talent important to performance, pay attention to how they respond if your hiring process is changed or delayed.

If moving quickly is key to success, give candidate’s a pre hire assignment and see how quickly they complete it.   We use a pre hire questionnaire for many of our jobs – and if a candidate takes days, not hours, to complete it, we learn a good deal about their cadence for completing work.  We also learn something about their ability and willingness to follow instructions.  We don’t refer candidates who struggle with our processes to jobs where adhering to established processes is key to their success.

Become a TALENT SCOUT.   

When you see someone behaving in a way that you consider important to success in roles you hire for,  make your pitch.  Compliment what you saw them doing that you liked.  Let them know those are the talents you regularly hire.  Give them your card.

As any “talent spotter” knows, someone you meet in almost any setting, can be your next great hire.

Transitioning to a talent strategy isn’t easy – it requires a keen awareness of the work that needs to be done and insights into the types of talent it will take to do that work well.   


PACE Staffing Network is one of the Puget Sound’s premier staffing /recruiting agencies and has been helping Northwest  employers find and hire the right employees with the right talents for over 40 years.

A  3 time winner of the coveted “Best in Staffing” designation , PACE is ranked in the top 2% of staffing agencies nationwide based on annual surveys of customer satisfaction.

PACE services include temporary and contract staffing, temp to hire auditions, direct hire professional recruiting services, Employer of Record (payroll) services, and a large menu of candidate evaluation and reference check services our clients can purchase a la carte.

To learn more about how partnering with PACE will make a difference to how you find and hire employees,  contact us at 425-637-3312 or e mail our Partner Solutions  team  at partnerservices@pacestaffing.com.


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