Everybody Wants the Top Performers
It is often said that top performers produce as much as 10 times more than the average worker. In specific fields that put a very high premium on excellence, like professional sports, popular music, investment banking or literature, the gap may be even higher.
In business, Jim Collins showed that companies making the leap from good to great build their success on talent : first they recruit outstanding people, then they define a strategy.
So, obviously, everybody wants to recruit exceptional talent. The Rare Find is not a book about recruitment in general. It focuses on how to source and select top performers.
Being a journalist, George Anders interviewed hundreds of successful recruitment professionals. He asked them how they proceed to find exceptional talent. His sources include army officers, basketball scouts, venture capitalists, surgeons, academics, country music producers, CEO recruiters and even a Facebook "Puzzle Master".
Compromise On Experience; Never Compromise On Character
Anders' inspiring recommendations include the following:
- A wide view of talent: the best assessors don't stick to classic measures of experience. They don't look for people that are immediately ready for the job, but for candidates that might reach excellence in a few years, based on specific traits. In other words, these recruiters can compromise on experience, but not on character. (Other authors have the opposite opinion: they think that, when selecting leaders, we tend to focus too much on the candidates' potential, as opposed to craftsmanship. This view is expressed, for example, in “Corporate Reputations, Branding and People Management”, by Martin and Hetrick).
- Reading résumés upside down. This means that you focus first on a candidate's biographical details, which give you a sense of his personality. Then, you can check the classic markers of competence, like education and professional experience.
- Aggressive listening: great talent scouts are great listeners. Intensely interested and focused, they ask a lot of follow-up questions in order to zero in on the issues that relate to candidates' core character. That's a very good point, that was also made a few months ago by HR blogger Tim Sackett, in a brilliant post called “The Only Interview Questions You’ll Ever Need ».
- Picking one trait that matters more than anything. For many jobs, resilience might be what distinguishes high achievers from other good candidates.
- Announcing tough challenges as a way to attract the best candidates. If the position you offer involves high demands, you should not formulate them as liabilities. High achievers might view them as opportunities to learn and grow.
- Seeing what could go right. Most assessors use interviews to detect each candidate's flaws. When searching for exceptional talent, a better way could be to start by looking for what can go right. Does the candidate have a hidden potential? Under the right conditions, could he become a great performer in a specific field?
And these are just examples, as the book provides many other useful ideas and advice.
If your job involves recruiting highly talented people, you should definitely read it. In these times of “war for talent” the Rare Find supplies heavy weaponry for HR snipers!
- The Rare Find - Spotting Exceptional Talent Before Everyone else
- By George Anders
- Penguin Business
- 247 pages
- Available at Amazon.com: The Rare Find: Spotting Exceptional Talent Before Everyone Else