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Despite high unemployment numbers, many companies still find themselves lacking the right candidates for their openings.With hundreds of applications and resumes for each position, how can you tell an extraordinary candidate from an ordinary one?
Regardless of major advances in technology, recruiters still struggle with the same basic challenge of finding the rare gem among the duds.
George Anders, author of The Rare Find: Spotting Exceptional Talent Before Everyone Else, offers the following tips for finding rare talent:
Compromise on experience; don’t compromise on character. We’re in the midst of an enormous economic and technological upheaval that’s redefining what it means to be great at your job. Long track records may be irrelevant or impossible to find in some fast-changing fields.
organisations do best if they know the precise values that lead to success in their field. They may want strivers … or tinkerers … or quiet professionals. The more you know about your core values, the easier it will be to shrug off flaws that don’t really matter, and to make the most of strengths that your competitors don’t understand.
On the fringes of talent, ask: “What can go right?” Conventional assessment is all about finding people’s flaws. That’s important at later stages of hiring. But if you’re going to spot promising long shots, you need different methods. The great unexpected discoveries happen only if assessors are willing to suspend their scepticism at first, so that underdogs get a chance to show their promise.
Take tiny chances — so that you can take lots of them. In some of the most speculative areas of talent hunting (art, popular music, book publishing, etc.) no one know for sure which unlikely prospects will succeed. All you can do is assemble a portfolio of long shots. If you want to explore the long tail of talent, figure out ways to minimize the costs, distractions and emotional fatigue associated with frequent mismatches. That way you can take your boldest risks with your smallest dollars.
Be willing to use your own career as a template. We’ve become carried away with the image of the impassive, neutral assessor, to the point that we’re shortchanging talent hunters’ abilities to draw lessons from their own lives. Sometimes you will want people who share your strengths. Other times, you may seek out people with abilities that you never possessed – but often admired. Making room for your own judgment helps avoid a civil-service mentality where jobs are filled by formula.
Rely on auditions to see how and why people achieve the results that they do. Pay attention to more than the absolute calibre of the performance. Concentrate hardest on what you can learn about the candidate’s character. Look for intensity of effort, teamwork and resilience. Conversely, watch out for people who cut corners, don’t care or turn brittle under pressure.
Master the art of aggressive listening. Pose tests. Interject questions. Press on with follow-up questions until you know not just what is being said, but how and why it’s being said, too. Don’t settle for well-rehearsed stories. Look for ways to pull back the curtain on candidates’ aspirations, frustrations and lifelong habits.
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