Hiring Managers Care A Lot More About Your Potential Than Your Past Achievements

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Don’t worry if you haven’t achieved much in your career — hiring managers are a lot more excited about the rookie who could potentially be great than the ones who are already great. In fact, a new study conducted by researchers at Stanford and Harvard says that hiring managers are actually more willing to hire and offer a higher salary for “could be great” candidates. 

“If your résumé hints more at your potential, rather than your achievement, people are going to think you are a more exciting and more interesting candidate than otherwise,” co-author Michael Norton, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, told Rachel Emma Silverman at The Wall Street Journal

The study says:

[The researchers] found that when the evidence is strong that an individual has high potential, people get more excited about him or her than they would about someone who has already achieved the very things the high-potential individual is only promising to achieve.

In fact, under some conditions, study participants are actually more eager to hire someone with potential than with a proven track record, and more willing to pay them more.

In one of the experiments, the researchers ran a Facebook ad with two different comedians. One ad taglined one of the comics as “the next big thing” and another ad taglined the other comic as “could be the next big thing.” The study found that people were more willing to click on the ad of the potential “next big thing” comedian. 

In another experiment, the researchers had 77 participants evaluate two hypothetical applicants for a management position. One of the applicants scored high on a leadership potential test, but more moderately on his actual achievements. On the other hand, the second applicant rated high on his leadership achievements, but not so much on a test measuring potential. In the end, the participants were more excited about the applicant with the thinner resume who scored higher on his potential leadership test. 

What this means is if you’re starting out in your career, and don’t have as much achievements under your belt, play up your potential during the interview. The uncertainty that you could achieve greatness is all that hiring managers need to give you a chance.

Bring job recommendation letters to show that other people think you’re great, but it’s important to “highlight [your] potential as a means of engaging recruiters,’ employers,’ and university admissions officers’ interest,” the researchers write.

However, if you have no achievements and you can’t show that you’re going to be a great asset to a company, you’re out of luck.

NOW SEE: Former headhunter explains how to answer 11 tough interview questions > 

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