What have they done vs. what will they do?

If you run a counseling office or a business of any kind, at some point you might be in the position of needing to hire someone. Most recruiters start that process by composing a list of desired education, experience, or skills, then running a help wanted ad and waiting for people to apply.

The problem with that approach is that it often focuses entirely on what those candidates have done as opposed to what they’ll need to do to be successful in this new role.

For example, we have a lot of counselors at Collegewise who worked as colleges admissions officers. It’s clear that their experience reading, evaluating, and debating those applications brings value to our customers and our company. But that experience alone doesn’t make someone an appealing applicant for a counseling role here.

Helping someone apply to college is entirely different from evaluating that person’s application on the other side. A college admissions officer doesn’t share responsibility for a student’s college admissions outcomes the way our counselors do. They don’t explain the best approaches for one particular student to take in the application and the essays, which might be very different for the next student in line for an appointment that day. They don’t regularly have difficult conversations with families about why some schools may be out of reach, suggest schools that might be a good fit, or help each individual student make the best decisions for them about everything from classes to standardized tests to colleges.

What our counselors need to do is win trust easily. They need to be astute so they can accurately read people and situations. They need to be intellectually curious to learn and retain all the information we train—and that will always be left to know—about college admissions. They need to project confidence so families know they’re in good hands. They need to get kids to like them and parents to trust them.

Just because someone worked at Princeton or Duke or MIT doesn’t necessarily mean they can do all or any of those things. The experience of what they’ve done becomes valuable when paired with the innate talents to thrive in what they’ll be doing.

We went through a similar process when I wrote the help wanted ad for our first inside salesperson. Sure, experience and demonstrated success in sales is a great starting point—this isn’t a good gig for someone who hasn’t already proven they can sell. And we needed people who would be comfortable when held accountable for results.

But even more importantly, they needed to be teachers at heart who were as excited about helping a family make the best decision for them as they were about making a sale. They needed to be thoughtful, clear communicators on the phone and in writing. We needed people we could trust to make our first impression for us. So that’s exactly who we looked for, and thankfully, who we eventually found.

So before you run the same old help wanted ad asking for credentials and experience and references, spend some time thinking about the true answer to the question, “What will it take to be successful in this role?” Those items on the resume might still have a lot of value. But what applicants have done won’t be as important as what they’ll do once they’re in the job.