Finding Hidden Gems and Assessing Their Fit

In part 1 of this article, we looked at the concept of passive candidates, as well as some broad approaches to finding great talent. Today we’ll look at how to find quality candidates and see if they will complement your organization.

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Brilliant people aren’t hard to find. You can search a database and find someone who has 5 years’ experience in coding, or 10 years in neuroscience research, or 20 years climbing phenomenal brands like Google, Coca-Cola, or Pfizer. Yet, despite his or her credentials and achievements, that transformational talent on paper could still sink your goals and investment if misaligned with your culture or desired leadership style.

Can these candidates influence people? Do they have the agility to enter different environments and succeed? How do they learn and communicate? Are they autocrats who declare how people should work and what they should work on, or are they collaborators who build on ideas? Do they act like owners, making decisions with entrepreneurial fluidity, or do they need political finesse to navigate bureaucracy effectively?

More than technical know-how, traits like these are often the difference between an exceptional or disastrous hire. Discerning the difference hinges on your ability to assess “fit” traits that override technical aptitude.

Beyond the Résumé: Early Red Flags and Success Indicators

Traits vary depending on the job and the goals of your organization, of course. As a starting point, you’ll find sample attributes below that are valuable for assessing candidates. (We’ll focus on leadership and cultural fit, although you’ll also want to define metrics for the candidate’s technical execution of the job.)

  • Strategic thinking: knowledge of the market, ability to translate vision into execution, good judgment, political courage to provide opposing viewpoints in more structured environments, or the ability to act like an owner in more entrepreneurial environments
  • Learning agility: adaptability, desire to understand and learn, and pursuit of best practices
  • Management of today while enabling innovation for tomorrow: prioritization of the urgent and necessary while considering essentials for the future
  • Communication as a leader: ability to write, speak, and present in a compelling manner to internal and external audiences
  • Leadership through influence: viewed as a trusted mentor, humble, and skilled in healthy confrontations
  • Cultural alignment: the practice of servant leadership, passion about the mission, and ability to influence the organizational culture
  • Long-term capacity: self-awareness, willingness to stretch, and hunger for growth

We also recommend assessing candidates’ hireability: their likelihood to accept your offer. Will relocation be necessary, for instance? Is the compensation in line with the market? Are there time restrictions due to loved ones that you should consider? Do they view the position as a step up, a lateral move, or an opportunity to try something new? What drives them?

Taking the time to think through these factors can help you sway that one-in-a-million talent you really want or save you both from wasting time on insurmountable obstacles.

Discerning Your Next Steps

By now, you should be mindful that securing game-changing talent requires a lot more than posting jobs, flipping through résumés, and dipping into your most convenient talent pool.

You may decide it’s important to chase after passives but not something you can or wish to do on your own. That decision isn’t difficult to make, but identifying the right recruiting partner who can shoulder that responsibility is. If that’s the route you choose, we advise asking potential talent consultants to detail their process—particularly, how they find and assess candidates, how they evaluate your business needs against market dynamics, past experience in your industry, and post-hire support. And the acid test: Would past clients use them again?

At a minimum, begin asking deeper questions, both of candidates and of those tasked with recruiting them. Keep in mind that top performers are in control of their careers and won’t tolerate inefficient hiring processes or communications.

Chasing after passives is harder than sitting back and evaluating active applicants alone, sure. But it’s also hiring insurance. Take the time to get it right and reap the rewards for years to come.

Tom Bratton is the CEO and Managing Partner of Medallion Partners. Medallion’s mission is to serve people in business and career with Organizational Strategy and Design, Executive Search, and Career Development. Bratton began his career in Marketing, Sales, and Operations for global organizations such as Gillette, Clorox, Technicolor, and Jordan Industries before founding Medallion in 2006.