Are You Looking at People With Jagged Resumes?January 24, 2013
In his book The Rare Find, George Anders provides a captivating look at how companies can spot exceptional talent. These are game-changing hires that breathe new life into their companies with well-rounded thinking and new perspectives — then execute like crazy! They have so much fire in their belly, they will either crash miserably or succeed magnificently.
The book uses a term that I really like to describe the career histories of potential game-changers. Mr. Anders refers to these people as having “jagged resumes.” These are resumes that don’t fit your perfect candidate profile but you should be looking at. The person may not have a 3.9 GPA from an elite school; they may not have 10 years in your industry; and their career may not show a series of steady achievements. They’ve zigzagged around at the extremes, doing some amazing work (maybe as a Marine, an athlete, a blogger, a school fundraiser, etc), but they also have puzzling missteps along the way as they bounced around jobs while trying to change the world. Mr. Anders says these are people that “don’t need anyone’s permission to try something bold.” They just might be the new hire you’re looking for, in other words.
The recruiters I’ve met always say they are on the hunt for game-changers, but are they really? Game-changers fail often, fail fast, learn quickly from their mistakes, and try new things. Does your applicant screening process have a way to evaluate this? Probably not.
Most corporate recruiters play it too safe, looking for the candidate that no one will ever fire them for hiring instead of doing the hard work of job analysis to know the 2-3 traits and/or competencies a candidate must have to be potentially great. Traits such as curiosity, self-reliance, global perspective, hustle, and passion (your next star salesperson might be organizing fundraising campaigns for underprivileged youth in Africa – a job that I assume would require all of these!).
Thomas Edison was reportedly a master at failure. He considered failure an important part of the invention process, saying:
- “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
- “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
This is so true! We may not always experience epic failures, but mediocrity and standing still breed failure too. It’s today’s misstep that gives us the relentless drive to succeed next time! So embrace failure for what it is: life’s supreme teacher. Only someone free to fail has opened their mind wide (and long) enough to invent a new product or see a better way. As you hunt for great talent, don’t look over the applicant with a jagged resume. They just might be ready to hit a peak.
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