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Hire well? Hire someone who’s had to fight for it

A couple of years ago, we wrote a blog on Regina Hartley’s seminal TED Talk “Why the best hire might not have the perfect resume”.

As both a recruiter and hiring manager, her concept of ‘scrappers’ and ‘silver spoons’ has always struck a cord with me. When really digging into the concept of that tricky balance between a great resume vs. hire performance, it’s always struck me that the seemingly ‘best’ talent on the market, often turns out not to be in reality. Not all the time of course, but it’s certainly not the case that a great CV means a great hire.

Scrappers vs. silver spoons

To refresh you on the content of that talk, she argues that ‘scrappers’, or the person you might not instinctively hire because they don’t have the credentials of a ‘silver spoon’, are often characterised by a difference in fundamental beliefs. Hartley argues that the ‘scrapper’, or the person who has experienced early hardship or difficulty that may be reflected in lower educational results or inconsistencies in career history, is often propelled by the belief that they own their own destiny. Scrappers ask “what can I do differently” and are more inclined to take tasks that are ‘beneath them’ or challenging in their stride.

Look at your own hiring biases, especially in regard to academics

In financial recruitment, it’s usually the case of ‘the more academics the better’. First class honours degree, and first time FAEs? Yes, please! And it’s easy to see why. If you’re a Finance Director, you want the cream of the crop, and in the main, good academics indicates not only a level of intelligence but also tenacity, perseverance and work ethic. But does that mean you disregard the person whose academics aren’t so shiny and bright? If we’re honest, probably. We’ve all done it. Whether it’s personal bias or just a way of screening, we all fall into the trap of hiring ‘silver spoons’.

Non-conventional careers often produce the biggest successes

I could name tens of names here, but the point is, a lot of the corporate world’s top CEOs have non-conventional backgrounds. Typical profiles coming through the sales route to executive leadership often lack what we might consider ‘basic’ Bachelor Degrees. CIOs, CTOs, even some CFOs aren’t sometimes ‘formally’ qualified. Qualified by experience, certainly, but maybe not by an institution. And often, like Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Bill Gates and other game-changing Executives, they actually have a career that’s typified by multiple early career failures. Think if you got an early resume of Henry Ford – not one, but several company failures before he founded the company we know as Ford today. What would you think?

Now look around: what emerging talent could you empower?

I am not for one second suggesting to disregard people for being studious! The suggestion here is to become more conscious of your thought process around hiring – to ensure that whilst screening people for technical competencies, and academic capability, you also properly hire for attitude, raw drive and that you evaluate their fundamental beliefs. Highly educated people create strong first impressions, but ensure you dig deep into character drivers. And then…look around. Instead of hiring in qualifications, consider your emerging accounts assistant talent for what you would normally table as ‘newly qualified’ roles.

Also, consider the fact that people who demonstrate consistent high performance and track records have rarely failed, which can mean their tolerance for challenge and bounce back from disappointment is lower and harder. Even more worryingly, their natural inclination may be to only take on projects they know they can succeed at, never tackling the ones that require real grit of character.

Your ‘scrapper’ on the other hand, might just be the one who makes the biggest impact.

We have done a blog on this concept ourselves, which you can read here.
Watch: http://www.ted.com/talks/regina_hartley_why_the_best_hire_might_not_have_the_perfect_resume

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