Posting in Education
Your next superstar may not have stellar credentials -- at least not in the traditional sense.
Most companies have fairly rigid standards for seeking out the best talent, which usually includes educational level achieved, the institution at which it was achieved, grade point averages, and past work history.
Throw all that stiff, conventional thinking out and make a game of recruiting, says George Anders, author of The Rare Find: Spotting Exceptional Talent Before Anyone Else, a newly published book that looks at the recruiting techniques of such fast-forward companies as Google and Facebook. (Excerpt published here in BusinessWeek.)
Anders relates the experience of Facebook, which, starting in its early days in 2006, published "gnarly programming challenges and invite engineers anywhere to solve them, involving "multi-hour tests of coding prowess." As Facebook engineer Yishan Wong put it: "We developed this theory that occasionally there were these brilliant people out there who hadn’t found their way to Silicon Valley. They might be languishing in ordinary tech jobs. We needed a way to surface them."
Google, for its part, initially sought out the best and the brightest from top Ivy-league and technology schools. However, the company found that "some of these geniuses weren’t quite as effective as it had hoped," and worried that it was missing out on true talent. The company's HR team began making a point of looking at the bottom of candidates' resumes, where some hidden nuggets of interesting life experiences may pop out.
Now, a range of organizations are turning to non-traditional, or seemingly off-the-wall techniques to attract the talent that best fits their needs, Anders relates:
"A new era of talent hunting has begun. It’s happening not only at high-tech companies such as Facebook, but also at Army bases, ad agencies, investment banks, Hollywood studies, corporate boardrooms, college admissions offices, and even at nanny agencies. In all these fields, experts don’t just sort résumés. They pick people and build teams in a profoundly different way. Traditional measures of past achievement, such as test scores and academic degrees, are losing power, and companies are getting better at looking for those future superstars who deliver many times the value of someone who is merely good."
Ironically, over the past decade, resume scanning systems have become the norm, and as a result, jobhunters are learning to do a form of "search engine optimization" to get key words up front in all the right places. This mechanized approach may be causing potentially great talent to slip between the cracks. At a time of heightened global competition, the companies that adopt the more innovative approaches to identifying and attracting talent will gain the edge.
Facebook's problem-solving puzzles are one such off-the-wall approach. Anders reports that by 2010 about 118 of Facebook's engineers -- 20% of its technical workforce -- came on board as a result of their ability to solve the company's online puzzles. It became an "easy, fast, and cheap to evaluate entries automatically."
(Photo: National Science Foundation.)
Oct 27, 2011
Thanks a lot! Very actual theme for me. As additional, read interesting articles about problems solving - http://manprogress.com/en/methods/solve-problems.html
"Facebooks problem-solving puzzles are one such off-the-wall approach." Well I can agree with that statement - way off the wall. It's also only an extremely generalized employment filter and provides zero information regarding the basis to evaluate previous technical experience and more importantly - success in given highly technical areas of problem solution. As a technical consultant, I have a close association with several IT based companies and 5 state colleges. The common thread of inadequacy that ties them all together, is the general lack of technical competence of their higher management/administration and especially their HR departments in determining the competency of perspective technical employee applicants' real experience and ability at solving the complex problems their positions will actually entail. Why? Because the top management nor the HR people have sufficient technical training to understand the requirements of highly complex/technical job descriptions. Consequently, they are both clueless and totally acceptable to technical BS from charismatic, but incompetent candidates. This problem is epidemic in the technical workplace and is limiting the success of many companies and institutions - and of course the technically insufficient/incompetent management - responsible source of this problem can only wonder why? Because they can't perceive that it could be them. The FaceBook game solution is just the kind of generalized and inapplicable solution technically incompetent management would chose to continue to fill their technical positions with unqualified technicians.
Yes, the main problem most companies have, even 'tech' ones, is that both higher management (ie, above IT managers, which is usually a financial chief, gods knows why), and HR are clueless as to the technical side of anything past how to turn on their computers, use the internet and Microsoft Office. This is one of the main problems of why most IT people get frustrated when job hunting. I can attest to this one personally. However, you are also wrong, in terms of the reason for the article, (and calling resumes a problem-solving issue). It states in the article, that there are Ivy League'ers were not what they had hoped. Book-learning is not the be-all/end-all of IT, as much as some seem to think. Book-learning will rarely help anyone think outside-the-box. That comes from the person themselves. The problem-solving games are how they find those people who can handle the actual, and current, problems they are dealing with in some way within the company to move the next step forward. They are not just taking some random kid off Facebook who did well. They're mixing the games WITH the resume as it were, instead of letting some poor excuse of a resume-screening program tell them that X candidate is better than Y candidate.