Casting a Wider Net – Finding Exceptional Talent

Casting a Wider Net – Finding Exceptional Talent

As executive search professionals, we have been entrusted by our clients to find the best available talent. Scouring thousands of resumes, interviewing hundreds of candidates on our clients’ behalf, it’s clear that finding great talent is about blending the traditional with the unorthodox.

Many recruiters and search professionals have become lazy and formulaic in how they find and assess talent. Do they come from the right university? They better not have any gaps in their work history! Do they show a progression from junior to senior? Do they have 5 to 7 years experience in a related field? Did they pass the personality test? And quite frankly, some clients have also adopted a “good enough” mentality towards talent acquisition.

At Four Corners Group, we’ve always believed that exceptional talent doesn’t take a predefined form. While education, work experience, problem solving, time management, and so on, are all important criteria in assessing talent, there are many “off-resume” criteria that can make the difference between good and exceptional.

In my many years of executive search, here are a few tips and techniques that I’ve employed to find the best talent for my clients:

Look outside the boundaries – Talented people come from all walks of life. It’s easy to look at the basics – job history, credentials, etc. – and certain roles demand specific technical expertise or experience. We try to adopt a wider view of talent that considers how applicable a candidate’s experience and skillset can be, not necessarily how applicable they are today.

Resumes don’t tell the whole story – Sometimes resumes are as much a curse as they are helpful. They are a necessity, but they can also be very limiting. When you review thousands of resumes per year, how do you differentiate? In his book, The Rare Find, author George Anders introduces the concept of the jagged resume. A resume that vacillates between incredible accomplishments and embarrassing gaps, failures or pitfalls. These resumes don’t fit in either the Yes or No piles. Anders says, “The best assessors thrive on analyzing the middle of the pile. Even if there’s just one overlooked winner in each stack of maybe’s, they find him or her.”

Auditions and interviews – In a hyper-competitive job market, most serious candidates come well prepared. They’ve memorized their story, they’ve considered the questions and rehearsed the answers, they know how to position every weakness and accentuate every strength. How do you sift through the truth and the hyperbole?

We have had a lot of success using simulations, sometimes called case studies, or even auditions. You want to assess a developer? Have them write real code. You want to evaluate someone’s marketing skills, have him or her develop a marketing campaign. Simulations seek to put the candidate in near-job like conditions and see how they perform, how they handle pressure, and how they solve problems.

Intangibles complete the story – We’ve often said that credentials and experience may get you in the door, but character seals the deal and often is the primary indicator of long-term success. One of the things that Four Corners Group is very good at is understanding the values of our clients and then matching candidates to that value set. How do candidates solve problems? How do they deal with pressure and stress? How do they treat colleagues? How do they behave when they are not in a work environment? How do they motivate themselves?

Do they give up after a failure or do they keep going? These are all critical questions that need to be answered.
Finding exceptional talent takes effort and perseverance. It also involves taking risk. As talent assessors, we put a lot of stake into the science of finding worthy candidates – grades, scores, results, strengths, weaknesses, experience. In order to discover the rare find, you need to look beyond the confines of the resume. Let the conversation evolve to the next level. Most importantly, trust yourself to evaluate those elements that aren’t necessarily visible on the surface.