Diamonds in the Rough – How to Find Undervalued Talent

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Diamonds in the Rough – How to Find Undervalued Talent

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By Yvonne Manzi
Social Media Officer, Profiles Asia Pacific

More or less all of us can spot talent when it’s clearly exceptional from the start. But this is not all there is to talent search – you don’t need to just snatch the obvious diamonds, you also need to find the rough but equally precious diamonds and help them refine. Unfortunately this is difficult to achieve, and most of the time we look for the wrong signs, or we simply overlook people who aren’t already shining. “At most companies” says Richard Fairbank, CEO of Capital One, “people spend 2% of their time recruiting, and 75% of their time managing their recruiting mistakes.”

Danish Talent and Performance Development Coach Rasmus Ankersen spoke at a TED event where he talked about his research and findings, which he published in The Goldmine Effect. During the talk, he explains the best ways of finding undervalued talent. “Mastering the art of talent identification is an extremely tough discipline” he says, but “by understanding three simple lessons, everyone can dramatically improve.”

There are actually quite a few people in various fields who were once overlooked and then turned out to be superstars. Asafa Powell, an unknown Jamaican sprinter, smashed the world record. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team when he was 16, but he turned out to be the most famous basketball player of his time. Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin group, was categorized as a low performer because of his dyslexia, and he dropped out of school. Paul McCartney’s musical talent was never noticed by anyone throughout his education, and yet he was part of one of the most famous bands of all time. There could be many more similar stories to list here, but the common denominator in all of them is that someone failed to see their potential.

Ankersen says that the first step to understanding this phenomenon is to separate performance from potential. Some people have high performance and high potential, and these are the people he calls “shouting talents”, while others, such as Asafa Powell, or Paul McCartney, have high potential but low initial performance – these he calls “whispering talents”.

The pressing question is: how do we learn to see potential in something that looks ordinary?

The key is in the three lessons outlined by Ankersen.

Great talent is not necessarily right talent
If you’re not clear on the critical competencies that drive success in the jobs you’re looking to fill, you will be employing the wrong talent and missing out on the people with real potential. So, are you testing the right characteristics?

What you see is not necessarily what you get
Lower performers may have greater potential. Oftentimes obviously high performers are professionally trained, while average performers have been left to themselves. Raw lower performance might be better than a trained higher performance. This means that you shouldn’t just judge by the numbers because there are external factors that can affect results – luck, market conditions, good vs. bad bosses, even pure randomness.

Never overrate certificates, never underrate character
Sure, being trained in a top-class environment is a valuable addition, but character should always be taken into account. Individuals who haven’t had the opportunity to reach those stellar training environments could still be very much worth your time. In fact, they could be even better, because rougher beginnings can often lead to stronger characters. Regardless of certificates, it is worth looking at the right motivators for both types of individuals. Ankersen mentions factors such as “why are you here?” and “what drives you?” and “how much do you really care?” because the most important thing an individual has to tell you is what he or she isn’t telling you.

In conclusion, companies need to make sure they’re not missing out on all these diamonds in the rough. That college graduate that isn’t so great at communicating his or her skills at first impact might actually have a sea of potential ready to grow. By keeping Rasmussen’s research in mind, you can learn to identify these diamonds in the rough, and then help them channel their talent to straight to superstardom.

For some diverse tips on how to attract young talent, have a look at this article by our affiliate company–Profiles International.


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