Whether you work for a record label, a startup, a hospital, or a Hollywood studio, we’re all trying to spot the best performers but often times we don’t get it quite right. 

(via @swifttogomez)

“One of the nation’s biggest music labels briefly signed Taylor Swift to a contract but let her go because she didn’t seem worth more than $15,000 a year.”

The gap between the performance of good employees and great employees is huge (about 1 to 5). So if you want to create a great company you need to aim higher when it comes to hiring people. You need to find the people with break through potential, paying attention to not only what they can do today, but what they can learn tomorrow. Surely you’re on board with hiring great people, though “great” is vague and doesn’t really leave a clear path for discovery.

That’s where The Rare Find by George Anders comes in. George sought out the world’s savviest talent judges, ranging from Fortune 500 CEOs to Special Forces leaders to elite basketball scouts, to see what they do differently from the rest of us. Here’s what he reveals in his book:

  1. Don’t ignore “the jagged resume”- people whose background appears to teeter on the edge between success and failure. If their strengths seem like they could play out well in your setting, and match the skills and qualities for the position, it’s generally worth the risk. Basically widen your view of talent.
  2. Look extra hard for “talent that whispers”- the obscure, out-of-the-way candidates who most scouting systems overlook. Find inspirations that are hidden in plain sight by paying attention to the details near the bottom of resumes that may relate well to the job, or show grit. Exceptional talent doesn’t always look to be quite so exceptional, until you look much closer.
  3. Be careful with “talent that shouts”- the spectacular but brash candidates who might have trouble with team spirit and loyalty. Don’t get star struck.

For example Facebook was able to higher awesome programmers using a creative method:

Faced with the need to rapidly scale up their company while competing for talent with larger companies with bigger budgets and HR departments, Facebook created programming challenges (“puzzles”) that it posted on its website. These puzzles took hours of creative, innovative programming, and that’s exactly what they were looking for in their programmers. Unsurprisingly, they found a number of overlooked people in unexpected places, like Portland, Maine.
Basically it’s important to focus on what matters most to the position and to not be afraid to take different approach to find it.