Strategically Speaking: Have potential, get hired

Published June 27, 2014

A job candidate who demonstrates potential ranks higher than one with competency and experience, writes author and search firm adviser Claudio Fernandez-Araoz in June's Harvard Business Review. With economies shifting, markets going global and the business environment experiencing constant change, old skills might become dated, and the successful applicant now is the person who exhibits the ability to learn, grow and stay flexible, he explains. • This can be great news for recent college graduates with lots of curiosity and enthusiasm but little actual business experience. It can also be a plus for older workers changing careers. • How do you demonstrate your potential when your resume is thin, you haven't worked in years or you are looking for an encore career in a new field? Here are some tips:


Read the job description carefully. What life stories do you have that prove you fit the qualifications for this job? If they're looking for a strong manager, what can you cite that shows how you've successfully managed a group, even if it wasn't in a business setting? Does the job description call for budgeting skills? Use your experience as the treasurer of a club or organization (be sure to include the amounts of money you handled). If the company is looking for someone who can work under pressure and wear many hats, what stories can you tell about how you overcame time and limited resources to get a project completed?


Can you show that you're flexible, willing to learn and will never give up? Are you upgrading your skills now? Do you have plans to do so in the future? Hiring managers looking for people with potential want employees who can adapt to new demands and are willing to learn.


How have you overcome adversity in your life? Your story might not be tied to a business situation, but you can show how you've met challenges head on and still thrived. Many of us have faced a family, health or economic setback that could have run our life off the rails. If you can show how you worked through the situation and came out on top, you can demonstrate your resourcefulness, determination, ability to think on your feet and hard work. If this sort of thing hasn't happened to you, it probably has happened to a family member. What have you learned from their experience and how would you respond?

Marie Stempinski is president and founder of Strategic Communication in St. Petersburg. She specializes in public relations, marketing, business development and encore career consulting for people over 50. Please reach her at or her website