Fine-tuning Your Talent Radar

In Touch - Newsletter - #44

Welcome to the forty-forth edition of "In-Touch". As always, I would love to continue the conversation so please hit "reply" and let me know what you think.

Story of the Week: Fine-tuning Your Talent Radar

One day in 1996, a London publisher received a copy of the manuscript for a book about an orphan who had been selected to attend a school for wizards. The publisher viewed the story as being slow to start, considered its opening sentence as not gripping enough, and the characters ‘largely unlikeable’. Like 11 other publishers before him, he contacted the author and said that he could not consider it for publication.

Some months later, Nigel Newton, the Chairman of Bloomsbury Publishing, received the same manuscript. After reading it with his eight-year-old daughter, who loved the story, the ‘lucky 13th’ publisher noticed the humour behind the ‘unlikeable’ characters and viewed both the ‘slow start’ and the opening sentence as setting up something potentially epic. He decided to take a chance on the unknown author. The book was, of course, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”. 

The first twelve publishers failed to see the potential of J.K. Rowling as an author because they did not spend time analyzing the talent behind the raw material of her debut novel. Such an attitude is not restricted to the publishing world. How many young experienced and inexperienced people have been rejected by more than one organisation and gone on to become CEO of another? One example is David Cote who, at 33, was a mid-level corporate financial planner at General Electric. He was voted down by his team for the top job but went on to become CEO of Honeywell (2002-2017). It takes an aware leader to spot potential and a brave leader to invest in it.

Here are two tips for fine-tuning your talent radar:


  1. Challenge your internal bias: Shift Management suggests that our human tendency to be drawn to others similar to ourselves may result in leaders hiring people who are essentially the same as they are. To combat this, consider screening candidates by using psychometric tests; if a candidate is too similar to many members of your team, perhaps you should consider looking elsewhere. Remember, a job vacancy is a person vacancy too. Google combats selection bias by having a committee, rather than a single person, hire new employees. If possible, you should have someone else in the room during interviews to balance your judgement. After all, if it hadn’t been for Nigel Newton’s young daughter, Harry Potter may never have existed beyond J.K. Rowling’s imagination.
  2. Don’t just check boxes, check integrity: Warren Buffett describes integrity as the most important employee trait, beating intelligence and initiative, and the key to maintaining brand reputation and success. Since integrity is a subtle trait, as a manager you need to keep your talent radar finely tuned, otherwise you may close the door on a candidate who could have become an excellent employee. You can do this during an interview by posing a real-time example and asking, “What would you have done in that situation?” Then take the time to make an in-depth analysis of their responses. Also, take notice of behaviour that indicates respect (e.g. did the candidate turn up on time?) and maturity (e.g. did the candidate stick to their values, regardless of them being contrary to yours?).


Talent often shines through but you need to fine-tune your radar to ensure that the best candidates don’t get away and end up helping one of your competitors succeed.

Words of Wisdom

You have vast potential

“You carry the potential to have a mighty influence in the world. The seeds of that potential already live within you and around you.” 

Jim Cathcart, The Acorn Principle

A Question to Ponder, dear friend.

“Am I guilty of hiring people who are just like me?”

Hit reply and let me know.



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