Everyone is looking to hire and retain top talent. In their search, most employers try to identify high-performers by looking at the depth and breadth of applicants' experience.

The problem is that past performance doesn't guarantee future success.

Imagine if the founder of Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson, was judged by experience not potential. It is unlikely he would have been recruited to manage a chain of record shops after dropping out of school at age 16.

The big secret is that you should hire for potential, not for experience.

Potential is generally defined as the capacity to develop into something great based on unrealized ability. Widely recognized by psychologists and scientists alike, potential can be found in one's problem solving ability and level of conscientiousness. In fact, all personality traits factor into someone's potential greatness.

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, but being able to adapt a candidate's individual abilities and work priorities to the needs of the position is the key success factor. Identifying these attributes will identify the raw potential in applicants.

So the next time you hire for potential over experience, remember these five things.

1. Education doesn't make a big difference.
In fact, on the predictors of performance, education came in at 0.09 on a scale of 0 to 1--which is well below an acceptable correlation. Only recruiting from the top universities, compared to a wider selection including lower ranked institutions, will eliminate many high potential applicants.

2. Don't listen to everything you hear.
Rsums are an applicant's marketing pitch and are often embellished. It is nearly impossible to determine potential when everyone only promotes whatever is required by the position. Using pre-employment assessments to find the hidden potential that you can't see in the traditional hiring process is key.

3. Look at the actual value of previous experiences.
Much like the above statistics on education, experience is a poor predictor of performance. Sometimes years of training are required to get the specific skills that are needed for a position, but don't prioritize applicants just because they worked for a Fortune 500 company.

4. Don't ignore cultural fit.
A candidate with early career accomplishments is great, but not at the expense of company culture. Aim to understand how his or her personality will fit within the framework of your company culture, as it will affect potential.

5. Don't ignore the hidden benefits of hiring for potential
Giving a candidate with less experience a chance to prove him or herself will drive employee loyalty, and the shorter career history means it won't be as full of inherited bad habits. Also, there is a greater supply of potential versus experience, which reduces costs and allows you to bring in more of the talent you need to support accelerated growth.

In the past, traditional hiring has gravitated toward subjective measures and has made it difficult to reveal a candidate's true potential. Today, modern hiring tools are creating opportunities to harness untapped talent, while giving the underdogs a chance to really prove their value.

Christine Bird is a Plum co-founder and chief solutions officer. Christine has been the company's evangelist, as it's her story that forms the basis of why we started Plum. Christine leads Plum's sales and partnerships, as well as social marketing. She is passionate about building relationships, developing the marketing strategies and vision for job seekers as well as employers. Before Plum, Christine was executive vice president at GoQ, which specialized in educational writing software.

Plum makes choosing the right candidate easy, using its science of selection. Plum gives you invaluable insight into applicants before a resume is even read. Visit www.plum.io for more details and follow-us on Twitter @Plum_io.

Published on: Dec 12, 2014