You run a great business and you want to hire the best people. And who can blame you? You have a lot riding on the choices you make. Their performance reflects not only on your success as a manager, but on the fortunes of your business, too. If your new employees perform well, you succeed and your business gets a big boost. But if they don’t, then both you and the company suffer. It’s an important decision. So how do you go about making the best choice?
Talent or Trainability

Very often the decision boils down to what looks like a contest among equals. You have several candidates and all of them have the requisite degrees, certifications, and experience. With a decision as important as this, you certainly don’t want to start rolling dice. So the logical approach, it would seem, is to find the most talented individual among these candidates and then…voila! You have your new hire! Simple, right?

Well…maybe too simple. Everyone wants talented employees because most people assume that talent will naturally translate into strong job performance. But that’s shallow thinking. In reality, talent is not the sole predictor of job performance. In fact, it is not even the best one. There’s another trait that often gets overlooked when job candidates are looked over, and this one might just be the most important characteristic an employer should be seeking in a new hire – trainability.

A new employee might have all the talent in the world, but unless his name is Clark Kent and he can leap tall buildings in a single bound, he is not going to step into his new job on day one and perform as if he had been working at that job for the past 30 years. And even if he did, the ever-changing business environment would eventually bring about changes in that job which would require him to learn how to do it differently. Any way you look at it, that new employee will need to undergo some form of training sooner or later. And it’s a sad but undeniable fact that some very talented people are very resistant to learning new things. To say it another way, some people are just not trainable. Skills can be taught – trainability can’t. When hiring, you may be much better off finding a trainable person than a talented one.

How can you tell whether someone is trainable? There are definitely things to look for when evaluating job candidates, and you should make it a point to know what they are. Here are five pivotal points that managers sometimes overlook when hiring, but that you shouldn’t:

1. Pounce on a positive attitude.

If you want to tell whether a job candidate is trainable, take a good look at his/her demeanor. Does the person have a go-getter attitude? Is he or she enthusiastic about the job and eager to get started? People like that are likely to look forward to being trained, and will savor every aspect of it as if it were the first meal they’ve had in a week. Remember that it’s not only unproductive but it’s also no fun to attempt to train someone with a negative or ho-hum attitude. But a positive and enthusiastic outlook is a great indicator of trainability.

2. A problem-solver is a precious commodity.

Resourcefulness and trainability go hand in hand. A systemic part of any job is dealing with problems and trying to figure out how to overcome them. When you think about it, problem- solving is really the core aspect of learning! If a person is resourceful and likes to tackle tricky problems, then that person will not only embrace the concept of training but will most likely catch on to what he is being taught a lot more quickly than your average Joe. As an added bonus, a problem-solver also makes an ideal employee in other ways because he or she will approach obstacles in a solutions-oriented manner instead of avoiding them, dodging them, or looking for others to blame.

3. Passion is paramount.

If a person is passionate, that means he or she is fully invested in the job. Passionate employees are ones who persevere through rough stretches. They follow through on their commitments, are always prompt, and complete their assignments on time. Simply put, they are dependable. And if you can count on them to do their job well, you can just as reliably count on them to embrace training when needed. A smart hiring manager will never undervalue dependability when making a selection, and neither should you.

4. Curiosity constitutes a cool cat.

By definition, a curious person is eager to learn. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? Yet you’d be surprised how often this trait is dismissed or not considered strongly as a hiring credential. And it’s usually very easy to tell in a job interview whether a candidate is curious by nature. Is the candidate a good listener? Does he or she ask questions? Does the candidate appear very interested and curious about the job and about what you are saying? Did the individual do some research about your business before the interview? These are good clues to look for. And the value-added aspect of hiring employees like this is that they are apt to take advantage of what they learn and apply it most effectively.

5. Adeptness at adapting is adorable.

The most predictable aspect of any job is change. And if you find an employee who is flexible and able to roll with the punches, you have yourself a very trainable person. Team members who can adapt very well won’t complain or get stressed out when the business abruptly changes course or tries something new. They will also have the same positive reaction to any emergent requirement to learn new job skills. In addition, a flexible employee will be likely to consider all points of view and forge smart compromises when the situation calls for it.

You want a talented employee? So do I, but give me the trainable one first. I can teach him the job skills he needs now and also a whole lot more things he will need to learn down the road. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving. If you remember the pivotal points when you hire, you can give that same gift to yourself and to your business.

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