How to Identify High Potential Talent

High potential talent are people who have the aptitude and attitude required to excel in their positions and provide value beyond their job description. These are the people who raise the bar for their colleagues, innovate within their positions, can adapt to change, and even increase your company’s standing in your industry.

You hire people because you believe in their potential, but it isn’t until after they begin their work that this potential becomes realized and their further progression becomes possible.  

Identifying high potential talent is the first step toward nurturing these future leaders into their full abilities, but to get to this point, your company needs to emphasize skill development and career progression.

How to Identify Talented Employees

By identifying high potential talent in your employees, you can ensure that your best and brightest are given everything they need to be successful.

Here’s how it’s done.  

Define High Potential Talent for Your Organization

Every company has different needs for employees at all levels depending on the requirements of the role. However, one constant is employers want talent that will stick around, perform at a high level, and be open to new roles as the company and market landscape change.  

It’s important to differentiate between various high potential traits, including , competencies, skills, and aptitudes. For example, the skills required to be an effective manager are quite different from those required to be a senior executive or a high-level specialist. The skills needed for a software developer are different than those needed for a project manager. It’s critical to discern what is most important for each particular role.

It’s also important to locate indicators of high potential that have actually correlated with employees realizing this potential in your particular company and culture. This requires that your talent identification function be highly systematic both in terms of cataloging early signs of potential and documenting how these indicators translate to on-the-job success and career advancement.

These questions will help you identify high potential talent in employees:

  • What career paths exist for each job and level in your company?

  • What managerial and senior roles exist within your company and what are the critical competencies required for success in these roles?

  • Who are the best examples of employees who have exhibited high levels of potential for each of these senior roles and then realized their potential?

  • What competencies and characteristics did these high potential employees exhibit when they were first hired? What competencies and characteristics did they exhibit year 1 and beyond?

  • What have been the common fail points for hires in particular job roles?

  • What competencies and skills are critical for success beyond the core domain skills of a particular role?

  • What characteristics separate high potential employees who advance far in your organization from employees who do not realize their full potential?

  • Based on your deep dive into the success of high potential employees, what are the most important high potential employees criteria that you have discovered?

The more specifically you can pinpoint indicators of high potential for various senior positions in your company, the better you can identify rising stars to nurture into greater levels of success and responsibility.

Use Performance-Based Skills Assessments to Identify Leadership Potential

Leadership potential assessment tools uncover high potential talent throughout your organization reliably and systematically.

Effective leadership potential assessment tools identify high potential talent by cross referencing the inputs of employees against datasets used for identifying leadership potential, making these assessments consistent and scalable throughout your company.

Authess uses authentic, real-world scenarios to measure how potential employees solve problems and approach challenges they will face in their future roles, giving you meaningful insight into their potential.

Performance-based, critical thinking assessments, such as SkillMetric, reveal whether a candidate has skills that are predictive of potential and future performance,  Authess machine learning analyzes how your candidates and employees think through solving a problem and can compare performance to exemplar benchmarks.

While other skill-based assessment tools show you if a candidate knows the right answer to a question, SkillMetric and Authess-powered assessments reveal how your candidates and high potential employees think through tasks they will face when they take on more senior roles.


Tested in this way, high potential talent are given practice navigating authentic scenarios they will likely be exposed to on the job, and you are given insight into the potential of employees.

Here are some guidelines for the kind of skill-based assessment tools you should use to identify high potential talent in your company:

  • Use tools that place employees in scenarios that are relevant to the challenges they’ll face in leadership and other senior roles at your company.

  • Use tools that measure what the individual can do, not just what they know.

  • Use tools that are scalable across your organization to uncover talent where it may be hiding.

  • Use tools that are easy for your employees to use effectively and that challenge their skills.

  • Use tools that evaluate your employees against datasets proven to accurately identify skills andpotential.

Make Identifying High Potential Talent a Priority For Managers

Knowing how to identify top talent in your organization will help find great talent, but you need support from your managers to ensure your high potential employees reach this potential.

Your managers provide the mentorship and guidance that high potential employees need to succeed, and can also be some of your best talent detectors, but they can also be a hindrance to your talent identifying and nurturing efforts.

Some managers can feel threatened by a high potential reporting employee, and their relationship may become adversarial, causing churn amongst your high potential employees.

To avoid this, tell your managers that identifying and nurturing employees who surpass them will be rewarded with enhanced productivity in the short term and with their own advancement in the long term. They are an integral part of your talent identification and development initiative and, as long as they know how important their role is and are rewarded, they will support your talent management priorities.  

Provide Ample Growth Opportunities and Learning Resources for Employees

To ensure that your high potential employees achieve new heights of success at your company, you need to provide ample growth opportunities and learning resources.

Without these opportunities and resources, high potential talent is being wasted and will grow more impatient by the day.

Here are the opportunities and resources you should offer to employees, to ensure that high potential talent is developed and your brightest employees can advance in your organization:

  • Learning programs and tools for the major skill sets used by your employees.

  • Education perks like student loan assistance and schedule flexibility for student employees.

  • Effective long-term mentorship programs.

  • Effective career path planning resources to ensure that high potential employees know how to reach the leadership roles they are eyeing.

  • Assessment/learning tools that engage  high potential talent with real-world scenarios they will face in more senior roles, and deliver actionable reports and learning paths for skill development..

  • Opportunities for employees to work independently on passion projects while at work.

  • Opportunities for employees to take on new types of work or work that is above their supposed experience level.

By using your internal data, skill-based assessment tools and your managers to identify high potential talent, you can develop your next generation of leaders to exceed the performance of their predecessors. Research shows skill-based assessments are a better predictor of future performance than typical hiring and workplace assessments.

Whether it’s SkillMetric or assessments powered by the Authess platform specifically for your company’s needs, Authess helps you identify high potential talent outside and within your organization by showing you how individuals reason through real-world scenarios instead of just showing how they test. Fully scalable and backed by machine learning, Authess uncovers potential and reveals what you can expect when they reach the next level.

To see how Authess will identify your company’s high potential talent, schedule a demo here.