More on freeing the talent hunt from traditional HR blinders, a recurring topic on this blog (see Talent category). This is important from both an individual company and entire business/society ecosystem levels, and it spans much farther than just technical jobs. Both article excerpts below relate to the recently released book, The Rare Find, by George Anders:
A BusinessWeek article (excerpting the book):
Before long, Wong and D’Angelo [of Facebook] realized that their whimsy might serve a bigger purpose, too. “We developed this theory that occasionally there were these brilliant people out there who hadn’t found their way to Silicon Valley,” Wong recalled. “They might be languishing in ordinary tech jobs. We needed a way to surface them.” Goofy puzzles—some involved dinosaurs or gamblers—looked like the perfect bait.
What Google learned was that it had been looking at résumés far too narrowly. The company had started out by focusing inordinately on candidates’ education, grade-point averages, and even SAT scores. The thinking was that high-IQ people would do best at Google, and that the best way of gauging brainpower was to look at classroom records. Google ended up with lots of PhD holders from Stanford, MIT, Caltech, and top Ivy League schools. But by the time Carlisle got to work, Google was finding that some of these geniuses weren’t quite as effective as it had hoped. Even more important, company insiders worried that they might be turning away a lot of talented people whose true abilities surpassed their academic credentials.
“Take the wide view” became the overriding lesson of Carlisle’s experiment. There was room at Google for people whose grades had faltered because they were working 30 hours a week to pay for college. There was room for highly competitive people who had chased an athletic dream when they were younger—and now were applying that same relentless energy to professional goals. There was room, especially in nonengineering fields, for people who weren’t great students but had been running businesses, tutoring, volunteering, and otherwise being civic leaders from their teenage days onward.
Such candidates would stay invisible if Google rigidly scanned résumés the traditional way, from top to bottom; as many as 75,000 a week streamed into Google’s offices. So many candidates chased so few openings that if reviewers didn’t see some “Wow!” factor right away, they hit the “Reject” button. The best hope of spotting these hidden winners, Carlisle came to believe, was to steal a quick peek at the bottom of the résumé. He became known as the man who analyzed them “upside down.” Now, when Carlisle pulls one up on his laptop—which happens dozens of times a day—he begins by tapping the “Page Down” key a couple times until he reaches the final entries.
Then he scrutinizes the loose ends of candidates’ bios. “I want to know their stories,” Carlisle explained one morning. “I want to know what these people are all about.” In a moment, he might start hunting for the classic markers of competence: work history, education, credentials, and the like. But first he wants to see if some special, rare attribute could point the way to greatness.
A WSJ article:
Finding exceptional talent, Mr. Anders contends, is now more important than ever: In our hyper-competitive global economy, business urgently needs “game-changers,” “impact players,” men and women who are “five times better” than everyone else. The problem, he astutely observes, is that most organizations rely on a fairly conservative selection process that focuses on narrow abilities and gives short shrift to broader or unusual potential, excluding some of the most promising candidates.
The real challenge may not be so much identifying talent as getting serious about seeking it. Most employers worry far more about the devastating effects of making a bad hire than about selecting someone who is competent but not exceptional—good, not great. Add to this the tendency (well-documented by Mr. Anders) to overvalue discrete competencies—facility with spreadsheets, say—and to discount the importance of less quantifiable traits such as temperament and persistence. Little wonder that human-resources departments extol off-the-chart talent yet often seem uneasy when it comes knocking. In many cases, it’s precisely the potential of exceptionally talented applicants to disrupt an organization that prevents their hiring—even when such disruption is precisely what a company might need.