Finding the Talent that Whispers: (Book Review)
I’ve recently been reading a book called The Rare Find: How Great Talent Stands Out by George Anders. The book is seven years old, but it still offers a lot of valuable recruiting strategies that many teams don’t know. The author presents countless examples that follow a simple premise - companies that find rare and amazing hires have a leg up against the competition. The overwhelming majority of companies hire the same way, by posting to job boards and waiting for the right people to fall in their laps. Anders offers a radically different way that can pay off big time.
One of the chapters in the book focuses on what Anders calls “Talent That Whispers.” This is often passive talent that you can’t engage with typical recruiting practices. Nonetheless, they are often the exceptional talent you seek.
Have you ever been hiring for a role and wondered, “the perfect candidate must be out there, but why am I not seeing them?” It's frustrating. It gets even more frustrating when you’ve hired a recruiter to find a perfect match, but the pool of talent you’re offered is missing something important. Or worse, you post a job and only see a handful of qualified applicants, none of which get you jumping out of your seat.
I find this paradox quite interesting. Working so closely with recruiters and companies over the past few years, I’ve noticed a broad mismatch and inefficiency between the candidates' companies find and the ones they really want. The exact person you wish to hire is most likely never going to come across your desk, but not because he or she doesn’t exist.
But what can you do about it? Even the best recruiters cannot guarantee they will find you that “whispering talent,” although the right recruiter can definitely earn his or her value in getting you closer to them.
Puzzles instead of job postings
The book goes in depth on the early days of Facebook as an example. During its infancy, Facebook knew it would be nearly impossible to compete with the big players - Microsoft, Google, Apple - on the recruiting game. After all, Facebook was still a relatively unknown entity (can you believe it?). It would take some extraordinary luck to attract the best engineers to apply.
So, Facebook developed a set of complex puzzles that were published online, but without a clear link to any open job. The young team was able to use these puzzles to lure in that “talent that whispers” - not people who were necessarily going to apply to a job (especially with an early stage start-up competition with tech giants), but people who were passionate about solving some complex coding puzzle for fun. Facebook then reached out to these puzzlers and were able to bring on the developers and engineers that made the company the success it is today. What started as a scrappy idea for recruiting top developers eventually became an institutionalized practice at Facebook.
This is an idea that can work on many levels. Facebook was able to connect with some of the smartest, most advanced tech minds. They could only recruit them by thinking outside the box.
You can apply some of this same thinking to your approach to hiring. Whether it’s an engineer or a marketer, what roles do you struggle to fill with incredible talent? How might you go beyond the typical recruiting process to draw those people toward you?
Perhaps you could utilize content - such as podcasts or video streams - to build up an audience and start a dialogue with potential hires.
Perhaps you could create events or conferences that draw in crowds around a common purpose or shared interest, thereby fostering a community with these people.
Whatever the tactic and/or strategy, remember that finding the hidden talent won’t be easy. But if you find the right puzzle, you will almost certainly see great results. Plus, it will even make your recruiting process a little more fun and interesting.
Try something new, and don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work right away. . Also, consider picking up a copy of the book for yourself to glean some more helpful tidbits as you go.