The Wall Street Journal:
It’s not what you have achieved, but what you might achieve.
A new study by scholars at Stanford and Harvard found that in a wide variety of settings people get more excited about individuals with potential and promise than those with actual, proven performance — and are more willing to hire and pay more for these high-potential candidates. (We’ve noted here that many companies prefer to hire– and even pay a premium for– snazzy outsiders, rather than promote tried-and-true insiders, even though the latter often perform better.
“If your résumé hints more at your potential, rather than your achievement, people are going to think you are a more exciting and more interesting candidate than otherwise,” says co-author Michael Norton, an associate professor at Harvard Business School.
However, he adds, you need to have actual accomplishments to back up the claims of potential. “If you have no achievements that could be a problem,” he says.
The researchers used eight experiments to come to their conclusion that potential (e.g., “this person could win an award for his work”) is more powerful than performance (e.g. “this person has won an award for his work”).
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