George Anders: The Rare Find

The Rare Find by Anders George
You can see this one coming from a mile away.

This weekend, I read George Anders new book, The Rare Find: Spotting Exceptional Talent Before Everyone Else. The book is a tour of exceptional hiring practice by Anders, a Pulitzer Prize winning author. He chronicles the stories, successes and failures of people who are in the business of finding exceptional talent.

The book is a powerful view that is going to be a part of the conversation in the HR and Recruiting world for the next couple of years.

The ideas in Anders’ book are a stark contrast with much of what has come to be understood as good recruiting practice. Here’s the money quote:

“Consider this admonition from a popular primer on hiring: Lou Adler’s Hire with Your Head. The author’s number one precept is “Remain objective throughout the interviewing process, fighting the impact of first impressions, biases, intuitions, prejudices and preconceived notions of success. This way, all information collected during the interview is both relevant and unbiased.”

That’s a fine way to pick out a lawn mower. It’s not a great way to choose people.”

The book is an homage to the power of individual insight in personnel selection. From Special Forces to Sports recruiting with key stops at Google and Facebook, Anders showcases the way that powerful companies find and harvest the people who give their organizations a real edge. It’s a powerful sock in the nose to recruiting by competency or the kind of matching systems that try to fit candidates to job descriptions.

In the settings that Anders describes, transformative talent falls into one of three categories

  • The Jagged ResumeThese are people who don’t make the final cut when 100% of all criteria are applied. They have resumes that sort of meet the requirements. Anders tells great stories about reading the bottom of the resume first as a way to discover these people. They are often the real prizes in the organizations they inhabit.
  • Talent that WhispersThese are the players who don’t get discovered during the hiring equivalent of the draft in pro sports.
    They have the ‘stuff’ but its not apparent in the midst of a sea of flash. Like Mike Piazza, destined for the Baseball Hall of Fame, the don’t get picked in the early rush.
  • Talent that ShoutsThese are people who turbo charge results by their presence.

Throughout the book, Anders returns to the idea of resilience, the ability to bounce back from adversity and failure. Many superior performers are people who have learned key lessons the hard way.

I’ll have more to say about this important work in an upcoming article.

What I wanted to notice today is that Anders advocates an approach to hiring that is almost the precise opposite of what technology companies are delivering today. Discovery and matching are often seen as precise disciplines that can have precise outcomes. The truth is that great personnel selection is a discovery process. The more time invested in that discovery, the better the answer.

Faster decisions are not always better. Anders argues against an overflow of objectivity and for the use of personal experience and selection bias.

Get it and read it.

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