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Creating Successful Leaders

Just because you might not have a list of awards or credentials under your belt doesn’t make you an unfavorable candidate for the job. In fact, quite the opposite.

A study conducted by Zakary Tormala and Jayson Jia of Stanford and Michael Norton of Harvard Business School reveals that potential has more of an alluring power than achievements do.

Although going for the individual with more achievements is the safer option, Tormala et al. argue that “the uncertainty surrounding individuals with high potential makes them more interesting, which draws people in, increases processing, and can have positive downstream effects on judgment.” High potential gets noticed.

Sure, with an old pro you can feel more confident that they’ll perform up to standard, but pruning a new recruit reflects better on your own resume. But if you think about it, wouldn’t you rather bring on an undeveloped talent and have them flourish under your supervision than recruit an old pro who’s already done it all before?

If you’re just breaking into a new field, don’t be intimidated by a veteran’s long and decorated list of achievements. A common mistake inexperienced applicants make is downplaying or entirely ignoring the fact that they are a new face.

Use your inexperience as a distinguishing advantage. Instead of saying, “I must admit that I haven’t worked in this area before, but…” say, “With me, you’ll get the rare opportunity to train me in ways tailored precisely to this business. No bad habits here!”

Tormala, Zakary, Jia, Jayson, and Michael Norton: “The Preference for Potential.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 103 (2012): 567-583. Accessed June 10, 2013. doi: 10.1037/a0029227.


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