Past performance does not guarantee future success. That is a rule of thumb that most hiring managers should have when interviewing talent. Everyone wants to hire and retain top talent, but how do you determine what top talent is? Most people think this means hiring someone who has already done everything. If you were a tech company you could hire a senior leader from Google or Apple, but they are surrounded by colleagues and infrastructure that is world class. They often fail when leaving such an ecosystem and go to join a smaller firm, as they were successful because of the system they were in, not in spite of it. Instead you should look for talent that has the potential to succeed.
Education means nothing
Show me one large company that would have made a 16-year-old kid named Richard Branson CEO of their business. Richard Branson did not finish high school. In fact, without a high school diploma, he would not have even been invited for an interview at any large organization. It is not just Richard Branson either. Jay-Z also dropped out of high school. Francois Pinault the founder of Kering the group that owns Gucci and among other brands was another high school dropout.
When you extend this to people without college degrees the list is even bigger. Ralph Lauren, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Coco Chanel, James Cameron, Larry Ellison none of them have a college certificate. Ironically, many of those same people would not make it on to their own companies graduate trainee scheme as they would have been considered underqualified at the same point in their career. Academic certificates are not an indicator of ability.
Focus on drive and ambition
Do you know the one thing all high performers have? A motivation to work hard and achieve big scary goals and when they achieve them, set new goals. They are not satisfied with their achievements. When you interview candidates, you should talk about what they want to achieve in their life, not the next 3-5 years as is typical in an interview. Talking to a 22-year-old that tells you that they want to change the world and leave a lasting legacy gives you a much better insight than someone telling you they want to get promoted in 3 years’ time.
In fact, one of my favourite interview questions when assessing for potential is to ask someone what they would do with their life if I gave them $1billion. 98% of people will buy a big house, go on holidays, buy expensive cars and clothes etc. That is not the mentality of a potential superstar. But the other 2% will clearly stand out. In my experience, I have seen two main responses. The first says that they will take care of their family and then dedicate their life to setting up charitable foundations and helping as many people as possible. The second will tell you they will start a business and try and turn it in to $2billion. Both will achieve great things with their life.