Selecting the Right Candidate - High Potential or High Performer

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2010

14 Pages, Grade: 1,7



1 Applied Terminology

2 IT Consulting
2.1 History and Vision
2.2 Job Description
2.3 Job Challenges

3 High Performance IT Consultant
3.1 Facing Challenges
3.2 Knowledge and Communication Skills

4 High Potential IT Consultant
4.1 Facing Challenges
4.2 Knowledge and Communication Skills

5 Reasoning
5.1 Delimitation
5.2 Return on Investment
5.3 Compensation
5.4 Conclusion


Information technology (IT) has impacted management consulting tremendously. Today IT consultants have to cover a wide range of different technologies and areas. IT consulting covers aspects of management consulting, scenario analysis, strategic planning, architecture infrastructure, customer data-mining, supply chain management and IT operations. Additionally knowledge transfer is a very important function of today's IT consultancy squad. Planning and managing projects for customers is actually slightly decreasing but still a key task in IT consulting.

IT consultants are facing a wide range of challenges in their daily work life. The basic challenges will be described within this assignment. Facing these some of the consultants perform better against given measures whilst others demonstrate higher future potential. This assignment will spot on the challenges and tasks of an IT consultant and use this role to show, what candidate should be selected: Either the high performing candidate or the candidate who shows the most potential.

III. Executive Summary

Selecting the right candidate when comparing high performers and high potentials is difficult and very dependent on the job, the candidate holds. In this assignment the role “IT consultant” is being used as an example job role to show, which candidate shows better return on investment and which has better future opportunities.

A high performance IT consultant produces faster monetary payoff but has limited development capabilities and will more likely run into mental illness like burnout. A high potential It consultant will not necessarily deliver short term monetary payoff, but because of his future capabilities and better alignment to the customers business, the high potential consultant most likely will generate more profit in future.

High performance consultants are the better choice when planning short term engagements whilst high potentials should be preferred in long term engagements.

IV. Abbreviations

1 IT – Information Technology

2 CEO – Chief Executive Officer

3 ITIL – IT Infrastructure Library

1 Applied Terminology

- Talent: Talent consists of those individuals who can make a difference to organization performance either through their immediate contribution or in the longer term, by demonstrating the highest levels of potential. 1 Talent is the sum of a person’s abilities, intrinsic gifts, skills, knowledge, experience, intelligence, judgment, attitude, character and drive. 2
- Talent Management: a collection of innovative actions and solutions that allows an organization to maximize the effectiveness of the talent it employs; 3
- Information Technology: a firm’s total investment in computing and telecommunications technology; 4
- Consultant: Consultants are people who operate in any organization by planning, recommending, assisting or advertising on many different areas such as financial services, human resources, organizational effectiveness etc. They can influence but do not direct control. They should transfer knowledge. 5
- High Potential: an candidate who could be effective in senior management roles independent of the individual’s current role or level; 6
- High Performer: a candidate who consistently outperforms colleagues and competitors over time and in a variety of situations, plus achieves at a level of performance even when the systems, processes, procedures, leaders, and the competitive environment change; 7

2 IT Consulting

2.1 History and Vision

In today’s firm the information technology tries to support more and more business fields whilst eagerly working on cutting costs. The information technology is not only about setting up computers for every candidate and providing an email system. It is increasingly growing into various business fields of the company. This is one of the reasons, why already George Colony, CEO of Forrester Research proposed to change the term “Information Technology” to the term “business technology”.8 But this discussing is still unanswered.

Another challenge is the continual improvement of the current infrastructure. The Gartner institute implemented the so-called maturity model9 which provides a framework to measure and improve a firms IT. In the Gartner model, the so-called application organization gets assessed and then sorted into one of five maturity levels which is a very general approach. The second famous approach is the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) which provides very well documented figures on about how IT processes and chains should look like.10 Being not within the scope of this assignment, these models will not be described further.

2.2 Job Description

The today’s IT consultant has various tasks. In an IT environment the most important functions of a consultant are project management, project planning and knowledge transfer. The most common sort of projects are implementations of new systems or migrations of current. Knowledge transfer is conducted by delivering workshops or assisting the customer on solving technical issues.

The work of a consultant is normally not billed on the quality of his work, but on the number of hours he invested. That means a consultant will reach higher results by working longer. However, if he lacks quality future bookings might be cancelled.

Although the job description is roughly the same on different companies, the job titles can vary. IT consultants are normally not labeled as being IT consultants. The following list will show some job titles IT consultant’s get at the different companies:

- T-Systems uses the job title Senior Consultant
- T-online uses the job title Junior Manager
- IBM uses the job title System-Analyst
- Accenture uses the job title Business-Analyst
- Microsoft uses the job title Premier Field Engineer
- Allianz uses the job title Project Manager
- EDS uses the job title Service Center Analyst

This information was provided from the personal experience of the author.

Key competency of an IT consultant is IT knowledge. Having the tasks knowledge transfer and technical advice, it is crucial that the IT consultant has profound vital information technology skills. Furthermore it is important to be knowledgeable about business and processes. As stated in chapter 2.1 consultants increasingly get the task of bridging the gap between information technology and business technology. Current business processes should be supported and leveraged by the firms IT. More and more firms try to align IT processes to their existing business processes in order to get a benefit out of the cost center IT. The consultant thus should be able to deliver business process knowledge.

An IT consultant needs the ability to communicate on technical level. Complex technological themes have to be conducted in an easy and understandable manner. And, as stated before, business processes get more and more important. Additionally, whenever talking of new projects and large IT architectures or architecture designs, the senior management of a firm gets involved. In order to align technical IT limitations with the management’s requirements, excellent communications skills are required.

2.3 Job Challenges

The biggest challenge is to be capable of adopting new technology quickly. Since the IT environment is changing quickly, it is hard to keep pace. Additionally, customers expect from their consultants to get the newest cutting edge information and knowledge. This imposes additional pressure.

As IT consultant often working onsite at the customer, he has to do a lot of business travel. Alexander-Stamatios G. Antoniou, Cary L. Cooper elaborate in their book “Research companion to organizational health psychology” the psychological impact of short range business travel: The period leading up to departure is a time of stress for the traveler and the family, as both parties anticipate the upcoming separation. Chronic travel separation brings out deeply help feelings of loneliness. Re-entry is triggered by the stresses of coming home, a point at which the implications of having been absent become clear.11

IT consultants need to stand hard time pressure on customer site. Being a cost center, information technology departments often do not have large project budgets. IT projects are planned often in a too small timeframe. A recent study performed by KPMG Information Technology, a Toronto-based professional services company, showed that of the projects that failed, 86-92% went over schedule.12 The reasons are various and not within scope of this assignment. What this number shows it that IT consultants have to stand enormous time pressure.


1 Lance A. Berger, Dorothy Berger (2008) The Compensation Handbook (p.560)

2 Andrew Munro (2005) Practical succession management: how to future-proof your organization (p.173)

3 Thomas B. Bechet (2008) Strategic Staffing: A Comprehensive System for Effective Workforce Planning (p.261)

4 Peter Weill, Marianne Broadbent (1998) Leveraging the new infrastructure (p.6)

5 Henry Hornstein (no date) Consulting Skills (p.2)

6 Rob Silzer, Ben E. Dowell (2009) Strategy-Driven Talent Management: A Leadership Imperative (p.222)

7 Richard F. Gerson (2006) Achieving High Performance: A Research-based Practical Approach (p.12)

8 Rachael King (September 28, 2009) Accessed: 1/25/2010

9 Maturity Model Overview: Application Organizations (2009) Accessed: 2/2/2009

10 The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) (2007) Accessed: 2/2/2009

11 Alexander-Stamatios G. Antoniou, Cary L. Cooper (2005) Research companion to organizational health psychology (p.479)

12 David L. Hamil (no date)

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Selecting the Right Candidate - High Potential or High Performer
The FOM University of Applied Sciences, Hamburg
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Dominik Heinz (Author), 2010, Selecting the Right Candidate - High Potential or High Performer, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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