Decoding Potential and Performance for Internal Communications Hiring


I had blogged previously on ‘the internal communications career’,  ‘going prepared for an internal communication interview’ and ‘interviewing for an internal communication job’. However when I look back what I covered probably didn’t include the guidelines for internal communication managers to distinguish between a candidate’s ‘potential’ and the expected ‘performance’ so as to avoid a mismatch.

While many organizations prefer taking the ‘contractor’ route to play safe with candidates whom they want to gauge before taking on board it is important to consider factors that drive potential internal communicators whom you plan to hire full-time.

Lately I have mulled over what makes some candidates translate their potential into performance while others fail. What are the possible causes for your prospective hire’s inability to get into the groove?

Potential is defined as ‘capable of being or becoming’ and ‘a latent excellence or ability that may or may not be developed.’ For example, you may plan to open an internal job posting and hire someone who hasn’t played the role but has the passion for the assignment. He or she may have demonstrated this passion by partnering on campaigns or taking on ‘stretch’ assignments for your team. If you are hiring from outside your organization you look for tangible ways in which the individual has maximized potential for the benefit of the team and organization. You seek references to verify if the individual has what it takes to deliver on the job.

Performance on the other hand is the consistent manner in which the individual accomplishes tasks over a period of time accurately and completely – and can measure the impact and outcomes.

When you are looking at hiring an internal communicator, in a contractual or a full-time role, you are hoping that the individual (if experienced) will be able to join, leverage his or her expertise, get started from the word go and improve on what is already established.

Based on what I have observed, the following themes are critical to understand the individual’s potential vs performance:

–       Attitude: how positively inclined is the individual to contribute to the role and the organization

–       Motivation: how committed is the individual to draw from experience and work with resources available to be successful

–       Perseverance: how driven is the individual to stay focused and make an impact

While the organization does have a part to play in integrating and connecting the hire there could be a multitude of factors that prevents a prospect from taking performing to the best of their abilities – including unstated expectations from the organization, lack of self-motivation, disinterest in reskilling as per the need of the role, infrastructure drawbacks, personal problems overlapping with professional commitments, inability to navigate the culture, ulterior personal interests and uncertainty about career growth.

 My take is that apart from probing more about the individual’s skills, experience, knowledge and expertise the interviewer also needs to surface the candidate’s motivation for taking the job.

Here are some questions that can possibly trigger insights from your interviewee:

  1. Can you share your experience in conducting a recent and successful internal communications campaign where you took steps to overcome challenges of time, resources and/or outcomes?
  2. If you were to change one element in how the campaign was conducted what would that be?
  3. If you realize that there is a mismatch between the expectations of the assignment you play and your career aspirations, what will you do?
  4. You have many ideas on how the role needs to be played but you are finding that your colleagues aren’t open to them? What steps will you take to get your team aligned?
  5. Share an example of an internal communications assignment that you conceptualized and conducted independently?
  6. State a case where your colleagues or your supervisor provided feedback on your abilities or performance and what you did about it?
  7. Are there any personal factors that may prevent you from delivering to your best on the job?
  8. How open will you be to reskill to be more productive in this role?
  9. Suppose the infrastructure provided isn’t on par with what you got in your earlier assignments and prevents you from doing a great job, what will you do?
  10. Do you know the growth opportunities the role provides?
  11. What is your motivation to take on this specific role?
  12. If you don’t get this job what will your next course of action?

Have other ways to gauging an individual’s potential vs performance in internal communication hiring? Share them here.